Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
An offense that struggles to score points against a defense that rarely gives up a lot of points. Uh-oh.
Last Wednesday, as the South Florida Bulls were busy turning in yet another sub-20-point first half, I started using the hashtag #36Watch on Twitter to warn people that USF's all-time basketball futility record might be in play. This was quickly amended to #TreeWatch, calling to mind the infamous game against Marquette in 1997 where that record was set. It wasn't the first time we had issued something like this, either, since the Bulls have put up totals of 38, 40, 41, and 44 points in conference play this year.
Fortunately the Bulls got on a bit of a shooting tear in the second half and made it to 54 points against St. John's. Not nearly enough to win, but enough to protect the record. Tonight, though, it could be a different story against the always tenacious Pittsburgh Panthers. Let's take a look.
If there was ever an ideal combination of factors that could lead to the USF futility record being broken tonight, this might be it. Pittsburgh's tempo is incredibly low (336th out of 345 in Division I). Their offense is crisp (12th in offensive efficiency) and their defense is stifling (8th in defensive efficiency, 31st in effective FG allowed, at 44.4%). They rebound the ball extremely well (4th in offensive rebound efficiency). They force turnovers (38th in opponent turnover rate) while not committing their own (35th lowest rate). Their biggest strengths almost perfectly line up with USF's biggest weaknesses.
I can't imagine a way in the world that USF wins this game unless they have some kind of out-of-body experience on the boards and in the paint. Talib Zanna and Steven Adams are both monster rebounders, and they score pretty well from close range. The Bulls will also have to make some contested threes to stay in this one. (Teams only shoot 29.8% against the Panthers from behind the arc.)
All in all, there's a good reason Pittsburgh is favored by 17 points. It's going to be brutal. Consider this post your #TreeWatch Watch.