Well, it's the last game of the regular season and it's also a HUGE game for both teams' NCAA tournament chances. Huggs says he thinks WVU is in the tournament regardless of the outcome of this game. USF just beat Louisville at the Yum! Center to potentially seal its bid, but the bottom line is you can never win too many games. As such, USF is touting tomorrow's noon tip-off as its biggest home game in 20 years, selling tickets for $10 and giving away free t-shirts. So expect a fairly hostile atmosphere from the Bulls---can the Mountaineers pull out a key win on the road? We sat down with Ken DeCelles over at Voodoo Five to discuss the matchup.
Country Roads: Congrats on the big win over Louisville! That's a huge win on the road over a ranked team---just the kind of win that the NCAA selection committee looks favorably on. At this point, do you think USF has done enough to get in? Obviously you'd like to beat WVU and win a game or two in the Big East Tournament, but pretend that doesn't happen. Does USF still make the dance?
Voodoo Five: Thanks! The win at Louisville is amazing and the selection committee will definitely take notice, but I think it will take at least one more win for USF to feel safe heading into Selection Sunday. Even though we only lost one non-conference game with a full squad (Southern Miss by two), those losses to Auburn, Old Dominion, and Penn State are going to be tough to overlook.
CR: How are fans reacting to this run? It seems like a really fun season to be a Bulls fan, with the team playing surprisingly well down the stretch and yet still on the bubble. Are more people paying attention such that USF is in danger of turning into a basketball school (you are, after all, stuck in the Big East, so it's only natural to assimilate to your environment)?
V5: For long suffering USF fans like the rest of the V5 staff, this has been a a surreal experience. Its been two decades since USF went dancing, and most of those years have been pretty hard to watch. Right now we are all just enjoying the moment and hoping it lasts for a few more weeks.
And there is no way that USF becomes a basketball school. As much fun as this year has been for basketball, football is the most important sport in Tampa and will always be. Hopefully USF can assert themselves with what looks to be a pretty weak East Division when the Big East does go to 12 teams.
CR: At various times, it looks like Gus Gilchrist (what is he, a 7th year senior by now?) and Anthony Collins are both capable of carrying the team. If you had to pick one, which one is more important? Who do you think will have more success against WVU?
V5: Anthony Collins on both occasions. Collins has been a revelation at the point this year following the Anthony Crater era last season. Collins is extremely quick, has excellent court vision, plays lights out defense, and is starting to assert himself on the offensive end. His runner is starting to reach Dominique Jones levels of effectiveness.
Gilchrist will have his moments and has improved immensely in the post, but he still likes to stray away from the post and shoot up contested 20 footers. Collins knows his role and how to optimize his skill set right now. That's the big difference between the two
CR: I haven't watched a ton of USF hoops this year, but from what I have seen (against Louisville and Syracuse), the Bulls remind me a lot of WVU: pack it in, play tough defense, give effort, and win ugly. And that's what scares me the most about this game. How do you feel about the matchup? Do you see either team gaining an edge in one aspect or another?
We have a saying. "Ugly Basketball Is Winning Basketball." This is the best way to describe USF this year. The defense has been off the charts good, we rarely go over 60 possessions a game, and we don't mind going 34 seconds if it means finding a quality look. With the exception of Anthony Collins at 6'1, the rest of the starting five are all 6'6 or taller. That's a lot of length to deal with, especially in the post.
Its going to be a defensive battle no matter what, but I like the wing battle for USF. The Bulls should be able to contain Truck Bryant with Hugh Robertson on him, and I like Collins vs. Hinds. Its going to be tough to guard Kevin Jones, but he can't do it all by himself.
CR: You're at home, on senior day, needing to keep winning to help your tournament chances against a WVU also in need of some wins to lock up an NCAA bid. The atmosphere should be electric in Tampa. Who ya got?
V5: Going to ride the hot hand and go with USF. The Bulls are playing their best basketball of the season, and there should be a great crowd in the cavernous Tampa Bay Times Forum. With an NCAA bid this close, the players will be even more amped than usual. Hopefully that translates on the scoreboard.
Thanks to Ken DeCelles for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Voodoo Five to see my answers to his questions and for all your information on the USF Bulls. Also, follow Ken on Twitter at @SBNVoodooFive.