One hole on USF's team this season is obvious -- the lack of size and rebounding -- and it's been discussed ad nauseum. Saturday's game presented another big hole, one that hasn't come into play as much but is just as damaging as the inability to get rebounds.
When Blake Nash decided to transfer after the 2012 season, it left USF with no backup point guard on scholarship. Maybe Stan Heath hoped that Martino Brock or Musa Abdul-Aleem could pick up a few minutes at a time to buy Anthony Collins some rest. But Brock isn't really a ball-handler, and Abdul-Aleem started the year injured and never found a spot in the rotation. (For all we know, he's been shut down for the year with all the DNPs he's racked up.)
So when Collins was out injured in November, USF had to scuff up a game against Stetson and only escaped with victory in the last couple of minutes. When Collins crashed into a defender in the lane against George Mason and knocked himself out, the offense ground to a halt and the Bulls barely held on for the win, even though they had a comfortable lead when Collins went out. Lately Heath has resorted to using MCCLOSKEY! as a last-ditch attempt to get AC some rest, or he just plays Collins the entire game.
He didn't have that luxury on Saturday. Collins picked up his fourth foul with 4:12 to play and USF up 45-37. With how many fouls the referees were calling off the ball, maybe Stan was afraid Collins would foul out on a cheap call when he wasn't really involved in the play. Plus there was a media timeout coming up soon. So Heath took Collins out to get him some rest without much time coming off the clock. Right after that, though, Cincinnati hit a three, USF botched an inbounds pass, and then the Bearcats scored again. Heath had to call timeout himself and put Collins back in, but the damage was done. The Cincinnati team and crowd were both re-energized and a game that was close to locked away was suddenly up for grabs.
The cheap call Heath feared finally came in the last minute of regulation. Collins was knocked down or pushed while trying to get through a screen, and on his way to the floor he brushed up against Cashmere Wright as Wright drove to the basket. Foul on Collins. A horrible call, and one that fouled him out of the game. It also put an expiration date on USF's chances to win. Even though Wright missed one of his free throws and the game remained tied, there was no way the Bulls would make it through a five-minute overtime without their only ball-handler. Lo and behold, Victor Rudd got the ball on USF's last chance to win in regulation, did his patented "I'm putting my head down and driving to the basket come hell or high water" move, and dribbled the ball off his foot out of bounds. They might as well have ended the game right there. The USF offense completely bogged down in the extra session, and the Bearcats won 61-53. From the moment Collins got his fourth foul to the final buzzer, a total of 9:12 in game time, USF was outscored 24-8.
Everyone knows that there will be pressure on the big men in USF's recruiting class to contribute as soon as they can, especially John Egbunu and Chris Perry. But one of the Bulls' incoming point guards has to be able to pick up a few minutes from Collins without unraveling the entire offense. It doesn't matter if it's Drew Davis or Josh Heath, but someone has to be able to handle the ball or any time without Collins on the floor is going to be a struggle.