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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


February 26, 2008

A pretty interesting game down in South Florida pits the Bulls of USF against the Seton Hall Pirates. The Bulls have been playing better of late, but only have one win to show for it in their last three games. The Pirates finally broke a 5-game losing streak with a two-point home win over DePaul on Saturday night.

Here are the local media game stories and previews on the game:

Hall Getting Back its Pillar (Star-Ledger)
Seton Hall-South Florida Scouting Report (Courier News)

In their last three games, South Florida beat Syracuse by double digits at home, had the lead until the last second against UConn in an overtime loss and had three shots at the basket in the final seconds to win at Cincinnati, only to come up short.

For a team that had lost their previous 10 games, with none closer than 8 points, that is progress. The Bulls were so close to ending their road futility record in Big East games at Cincinnati last week, but they couldn't make the big shot at the end. With Kentrell Gransberry struggling offensively (7 pts), Jesus Verdejo (19 pts) and Dominique Jones (16) picked up the slack, but turnovers and lack of scoring options outside their main three did them in.

We were beginning to worry about Seton Hall and where they were headed. While their five-game losing streak was not a total surprise based on their schedule, the way they lost to Notre Dame and Marquette on their own floor and how they were thumped by West Virginia was. The five-game losing streak immediately followed a five-game winning streak where the buzz on the Pirates picked up.

SHU got back into the win column Saturday night with a 73-71 win over DePaul at the Prudential Center. Seniors Brian Laing and Jamar Nutter combined for 37 points and all the key baskets (it seemed) down the stretch to hold off the Blue Demons and earn the win. With a favorable schedule down the stretch, the Pirates will try to make a run at .500, or better, in the conference.

These two teams met back in January with Seton Hall emerging victorious with a 74-64 win at the Prudential Center. Jeremy Hazell scored 22 points and John Garcia posted a double-double for SHU with 10 pts and 13 rebounds. Kentrell Gransberry had 21 pts and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, but he was just 5-12 from the foul line in the contest. Gransberry is likely to find success again inside tonight against the Pirates, but with bodies like Garcia, Mike Davis and Augustine Okosun, SHU can definitely use 15 fouls against him to not allow anything easy for him.

The key to the Bulls is finding help for Gransberry. Dominique Jones has averaged 20 PPG and Jesus Verdejo 18 PPG in their last three outings, providing support for Gransberry in the middle. This also allows Chris Howard to run the show and not have to worry about manufacturing his own scoring opportunities. If this three are able to stay on the floor and in the offense, the Bulls stand an excellent chance.

For the Pirates, they will look to pressure USF into mistakes with their guards and turn those opportunities into quick points. Brian Laing has a great match-up inside as the Bulls lack muscle at the forward position to slow him down. If Nutter and Hazell are hitting their shots from deep, that will open up the lanes for Laing to attack the basket. The senior is leading the way for the Pirates. Point guard Eugene Harvey is coming off a terrific floor game where he had 9 assists and just one turnover in the win over DePaul, if he is in that frame of mind, the Pirates offense runs much smoother.

This really is a tough game to get a feel for. The Bulls have been made a 3.5-pt favorite. I think Gransberry will cause SHU too many problems and the added threat of Verdejo on the offensive end will be just enough to get USF over the hump in this one.

NBE Blogger Prediction: South Florida 74 Seton Hall 71



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