For USF Basketball This Season, It's Anthony Collins Against The World

Anthony Collins with four hands in his face, which happens about 10 times a game. - USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to believe with how much trouble USF is having scoring points in Big East play, but Anthony Collins is not far from the level he played at last season when the Bulls reached the NCAA Tournament. But he needs help. A lot of help.

Consider a typical offensive possession for the South Florida Bulls. Anthony Collins gets the ball in the half court. He swings it around to Victor Rudd, or Javontae Hawkins, or Martino Brock, or Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. Unless they're open right then and there, they give the ball back to him. Rinse, spin, repeat. Now the shot clock is running down. Collins starts dribbling around, trying to create an opening for someone, or for himself. The defense doesn't bite because they don't respect any of his other options. He has to take a last-ditch floater, or he gives it up to someone else for a low-percentage shot from outside.

Earlier in the season, after the Oklahoma State game, I explained how the absence of a post presence affects USF's bigs on defense -- primarily Fitzpatrick, Rudd, and Kore White. But it hurts them on offense, too, because it takes away so much of Collins's own game. You might see the Bulls' dismal scoring averages or their terrible shooting and think Collins is slipping. That's not really the case, though. Some of AC's key advanced stats are about the same or better than they were last year. Here are a few of the KenPom numbers:

  • ORating (kind of a catch-all measure of offensive impact): 97.6 in 2013, 98.6 in 2012.
  • Assist Rate (the rate at which you assist on your teammates' made baskets while you're on the floor): 42.9 in 2013, good for 7th in the country. 36.6 in 2012, which was 21st
  • Turnover Rate (the rate of possessions that end with you turning over the ball): 24.2 in 2013, 32.4 in 2012.
  • Free Throw Rate (a rating of your ability to get to the free throw line based on how much you try to score): 42.9 in 2013, 43.1 in 2012.

Collins is shooting slightly worse at the free throw line this year, but still good (78.6%). He's a better three-point shooter, although the sample sizes are small. Where he's really hurting, though, is on two-point shots. Last year Collins shot 53.8% on two-point field goal attempts. In 2013, that percentage is down to 39.8%. This is where his being required to do it all for the USF offense is really hurting Collins' game. Defenders don't have to worry about him handing the ball off to a center or power forward for a layup, or kicking it out to a sharpshooter for three. They're free to run up and challenge him when he drives the lane, and he has to shoot before he's ready, and from spots on the floor he isn't used to. Some of his shooting decline may be luck or bad bounces, but I don't think that comes close to explaining a 14% drop in shooting percentage. He just has nothing dependable around him and defenses are free to focus on him.

(I also wonder if it would be worth trying to change the mechanics of his jump shot so he doesn't need as much space to shoot it. Collins doesn't shoot many jumpers to begin with, so there's relatively little risk and plenty of reward. Maybe he'd be more willing to take three-pointers if he could get the shot off in a smaller area. But that's a very long process, and it may be a terrible idea. I really don't know.)

Anthony Collins is like USF's version of Larry Fitzgerald. He's already proven to be a very good player, but he can't do everything himself, and as a result his performance suffers along with the rest of the team. So what does Collins need next year to get back to an All-Big East level performance? I don't think this is like two years ago, where simply swapping out Anthony Crater for Anthony Collins turned things around. This requires several players, which may already be on the way.

  • A post presence. That's painfully obvious. Whether it's someone who's already on the roster, or John Egbunu or Chris Perry or even Dre Klayton, Collins has to have someone who defenders are afraid to leave alone around the basket. (He could also use another guy who can collect offensive rebounds.) Clearly he doesn't have that now.
  • A spot-up shooter or two. He already has one of these in Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. The problem is he has to play around the basket more often than I think anyone would like, because there isn't anyone else they can put down there. Either way, Fitzy is a senior and won't be around next year. Victor Rudd doesn't shoot well enough to fill this role. Musa Abdul-Aleem has been injured and ineffective, and Martino Brock has struggled shooting the ball. Having Shaun Noriega back for another year would be helpful. But it may take another year to fix this problem.
  • Someone who can score off the dribble. There's no one on this team for Collins to give the ball to and let them create offense. Javontae Hawkins has the most potential here (he's already shooting over 50% on two-pointers). It will be interesting to see if Byron Zeigler can also fit either this role, or the spot shooter role.

Anthony Collins is the meal ticket as long as he's in a USF uniform. We don't have to worry about his level of play, but the Bulls will succeed or fail in future years based on how well they surround him with the right pieces.

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