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Friends with bennies: A Q&A with USF blogger Voodoo 5

In advance of today's important UConn-USF game (2:00, SNY/MyTV9/ESPN360), we decided to get some input from the one Big East school that isn't a miserable freezing hellhole four to six months of the year.

So we were enlisted by the mysterious "Voodoo 5" of the USF blog of the same name. The name, explained below, comes from an unsuccessful play call in the waning moments of the 2005 nationally televised UConn-USF game, which the Huskies won.

Good. More teams should have blogs dedicated to UConn's absolute dominance in football, in advance of our upcoming 2010 Big East title and Orange Bowl forfeit victory (which will come after UConn leads Virginia Tech by 70 points after six minutes of game time.)

I should note that "Voodoo 5" is not the name of the gentlemen who answered my questions. He prefers to stay anonymous, although thanks to the miracle of Gmail listing your actual name, I was able to easily pinpoint his identity.

Finally, I will end this over-long introduction by noting that Voodoo 5 will soon be among the latest Big East blogs to sell out to SBNation, so congratulations to them. Beware the SBNation curse, gentlemen. It will cause your team to get off to a great start, only to completely crap out the second half of the season. And you thought Jim Leavitt was gone.

 

Enough dilly-dallying. You can check out my answers to his questions right here. On with the Q&A:

TUB: Dominique Jones has put up gaudy numbers in his first two seasons in Tampa, but I feel like he didn't really enter the popular conscience until that ridiculous 46-point game against Providence in January. What makes him so effing good? Does he need to score for USF to win?


V5: That was impressive and it looked good on SportsCenter, but I thought he played even better when he dropped 37 on Pittsburgh, which is more than the rest of the team had combined. He carried them to that win.

Anyway, Jones is the complete offensive package. He can get to the rim and is willing to take contact and go to the foul line. (God help the opposing team if he's getting calls.) If Jones doesn't make it all the way to the basket, he can hit a variety of floaters, teardrops, and bank shots. He makes his free throws. He's an OK outside shooter. He finds other ways to contribute if his shot isn't falling. And he has confidence in himself. Even after shooting 3-for-17 against DePaul and missing a lot of shots he normally makes, he had no problem taking - and making - the go-ahead 3 at the end.

If you take Jones away, then you let Mike Mercer and Chris Howard and Gus Gilchrist pick up the slack for him. It does become harder for USF to win, but certainly not impossible.



TUB: Besides Jones, which players should UConn fans look out for? What kind of mad skillz will the Bulls be dropping this week? What are USF's strengths and weaknesses on offense and defense?


V5: USF thrives on dribble penetration. They often play with three or four guards - Jones, Howard, Mercer, and sometimes Anthony Crater as well - and try and get to the rim to set up the offense. Mercer is probably the second-best finisher on the team behind Jones. They also like to try and break out on missed shots. Occasionally they will dump it into the post for Gilchrist or Jarrid Famous, but no one on the Bulls has a fully developed post game right now. Gilchrist has three-point range and is more comfortable facing up his man, or shooting off cuts and the pick and pop. Famous is a garbageman on the boards. He gets most of his points off putbacks and loose balls.

But they're a poor outside shooting team, so everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) sets up a zone against them. The Bulls showed some flashes of a zone offense in the last couple of games, but executing against DePaul and Providence is a little different than doing it against UConn. If you throw a zone at them and they start tossing the ball around the perimeter and settling for bad shots, then things aren't going well.

Defensively the Bulls play mostly man-to-man. Anthony Crater is the speedy shutdown defender and he will likely be matched up against Jerome Dyson. USF plays good perimeter defense and helps out well when they have time to set up. Gilchrist, Famous, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, and Alex Rivas all do a decent job defending post players and collecting rebounds. Jones also sneaks down to get rebounds to try and fire up the transition game. But they are vulnerable in the paint if you beat them off the dribble. (Ed. note: Yay!) And quick ball movement will get you plenty of open shots. (Ed. note: Crap.) Basically just watch the Providence games, they carved us up.



TUB: The Bulls had that nice four-game win streak at the end of January, and appeared in good shape for an NCAA berth. What happened over the last couple weeks to stop that momentum and, in your opinion, can USF still grab an at-large bid?

V5: Anytime you come up with a new wrinkle it's usually good for 3-4 games. Then the video gets out and people start adjusting. Basically that's what happened - we're a lousy outside shooting team, so teams started playing zone and collapsing in the paint. We can't shoot our way out of zones most nights, so that slowed down our momentum.

There's still a chance for USF to reach the tournament. Obviously they have to beat UConn, and then win the 8/9 game on Wednesday. That puts them at either 20-11 or 21-11, depending on whether or not they get a bye on Tuesday. Assuming a loss against Syracuse, 20-12/21-12 could be enough to get in, but it would be really close. Of course, if they pull the shocker and beat Syracuse then I think they're good.

Even if USF comes up short I think we're all satisfied with how this season is turning out. Getting to any postseason play is a big step forward. If we come up short on the NCAAs, we'll get a high NIT seed and some more home games, and that's not bad.



TUB: How's the Big East treating USF? More fun now that the basketball team is competing and winning a bit more? Do USF fans worship at the altar of Mike Tranghese for picking them in 2005?

V5: This is a topic I'm going to fully explore during the offseason. There's an article in the Tampa Tribune today about the 1990 Bulls earning USF's first trip to the NCAAs by winning the Sun Belt tournament. Incredibly, we've been in four different conferences since then. We are the social climbers of the NCAA, and unfortunately it means we are short on rivalries and grudge matches. (Important note: Like most USF fans with any intelligence, I do not consider UCF a rival no matter how loudly they claim they are.) So I hope we stick around awhile and finally build up some legitimate hatred. Now that our basketball team doesn't suck, it should make things easier. As far as potential rivals, UConn is pretty high up on my list since you've put more brutal losses on USF than anyone else in the Big East so far. In fact, we got the name of our blog from a disastrous play call during a football loss to you all back in 2005.

I could explain how much better the Big East is, but this picture says it all:

c_titanic_2.jpg



TUB: What's your score prediction?

V5: Knowing that the Huskies are struggling on offense and that USF can't handle a decent zone, I am predicting a rock fight of a game where neither team can score very much. Give me USF 58-56 with lots of complaining about the officials.



TUB: If UConn were to win this game, would you be willing to consent to at least 12 hours' worth of "JUST LIKE FOOTBALL" heckling on Twitter?

V5: Only if we completely hose the clock in the last minute of the game and give you enough time to beat us, just like football. If they'd said that was the reason Leavitt got fired, I might have approved. It was an atrocity.



TUB: Wasn't that time y'all almost beat us in basketball totally awesome? I think so.

V5: YOU SON OF A BITCH, I HAD ALMOST COMPLETELY REPRESSED THAT. I watched the end of that game in an airport in Houston. My wife and I were heading out for our honeymoon, from Dallas to Houston to Paris. The weather was so bad that we got to Houston hours ahead of time - local flights get canceled all the time but international flights never do, and we did not want to miss that plane. I watched Austrie go coast to coast in some crappy gift shop. Then I had to sit around and stew for another four hours before we got out of there. Bad times.

 

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Tee. And hee. Anyway, thanks to the mysterious Voodoo 5 for helping us out, and look for them on SBNation in the coming weeks or months. Given how long it took for us to transition over here, you might be seeing them just in time for next year's NCAA Tournament.