USF will need to slow down Bryce Cotton, the Big East's leading scorer. - USA TODAY Sports
The Bulls are back home to face a frisky Providence team. This may have been an easy win in some past years, but not this time, and not just because USF is struggling.
In past years, when the South Florida Bulls have had a rough basketball season, we fans would scan the schedule for the game(s) against the Providence Friars. And we'd say to ourselves, "Ah, Providence! We should win that one!"
Well... that isn't the case this year. The Friars have been a tough out in Big East play, and even though their record doesn't really show it, they are a competitive, improving team that has something to look forward to in whatever league they're playing in a couple of years from now.
Let's look at tonight's matchup.
Clearly slowing down Bryce Cotton is a priority. He leads the Big East in scoring and is 10th overall nationally at 20.9 points per game. Really the Friars have three main scoring threats -- Cotton, Kadeem Batts down low, and LaDontae Henton, who went off for 33 points in the first meeting between USF and Providence last year, on the wing. Vincent Council's scoring average is significantly down this year, but he distributes well and can still shoulder some of the scoring load if they need it.
The Friars share some similarities with Villanova, USF's last opponent. They're fairly small, they drive and get to the free throw line, they're surprisingly good on the boards, and they'll run up and down the floor if you want to. (They're also phenomenal defending the three-point line, but that won't matter since USF is a horrible three-point shooting team.) The Bulls and Friars played some wild, high-scoring games when Keno Davis was coaching at Providence, and in that first meeting in 2012, Providence scored more points against USF than any other team all season (and still lost the game). Don't expect another track meet tonight, although with how miserable USF has been in the half court, at some point you may see Stan Heath decide to throw caution to the wind and crank up the tempo.