When college basketball teams play each other twice in ten days, there's usually not a lot of mystery the second game. But there will be some today.
Central Florida's big man Justin McBride only played three minutes against USF. He wasn't even medically cleared to play until early January (after knee surgery). But in the two games since then, he's been a revelation. Inserted into a blowout at the hands of UConn, he was comically unstoppable, scoring 13 points in 13 minutes as part of a run that actually got UCF back into the game. UConn had no one who could defend the huge man. Shabazz Napier called it "kind of entertaining."
Against Memphis, McBride saw 16 minutes of action, where he picked up 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 fouls.
McBride is 6-foot-10 and has an announced weight of 310 pounds. Here he is wrecking a backboard in what looks like a middle school game:
UCF will certainly try to deploy McBride today. USF dominated the Knights down low the last time out, to the tune of 54 points in the paint (the Bulls' highest number since 2010). The massive presence of McBride will make that more difficult. Will USF turn up the tempo? Try to get him in foul trouble? Put 7-foot-3 Jordan Omogbehin on him? Deny the interior pass? All of the above? How Stan Heath deals with McBride will be a storyline in today's game.
Here's the Four Factors breakdown, because we like statistics:
I maintain my earlier contention that USF's success or failure is largely in its own hands. When the team has played to its potential, it's been very good. When it's played poorly, it's capable of the worst performances in school history, at a school that sets a challenging standard for "worst ever."
The coaches and players have said all the right things about the UConn debacle. Victor Rudd was so disgusted with the game he couldn't sleep afterwards. Heath stressed staying the course, and said the team would respond. If they do, they should be able to handle a team that has little beyond the talented Isaiah Sykes. If they don't -- and take another bad home loss, against a hated opponent -- the grumbling will get a lot louder.