GazetteXtra Print Article Logo URL: http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bulls/2017/11/09/four-questions-for-bulls-mens-hoops-as-season-begins/


Four questions for Bulls men’s hoops as season begins

By Joey Knight
Graduate transfer Payton Banks (4) and the rest of the USF men's basketball team opens its season Friday at home against FAU. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)

The 47th season of USF men's basketball commences Friday with arguably more uncertainty than fervor. With seven eligible newcomers and a first-year staff, we could fill cyberspace with the questions surrounding this refurbished club, but for now we'll limit our list to four.

1. Who will provide the outside shooting threat?
This question has lingered since Reggie Kohn departed more than 15 years ago. Veteran Troy Holston Jr. — who hit a team-best 54 treys last season — would've helped, but he's sidelined indefinitely following knee surgery. Penn State graduate transfer Payton Banks went 6-for-7 from 3-point range in last Friday's exhibition romp of Flagler, but the rest of the team went a combined 4-of-16. If there's any consolation for Bulls fans, the shooting can't get terribly worse. USF ranked 194th in Division I-A last year in 3-point efficiency (34.6 percent).

2. Any sign of depth at point guard?
Actually, yes. Graduate transfer Stephan Jiggetts, a starter the last two years at Fairleigh Dickinson, will be complemented by Penn State graduate transfer Terrence Samuel (who appeared in 30 games for UConn's 2014 national title team). The Bulls even ran some two-point-guard sets against Flagler, which would've been impossible in conference play last year, when lean freshman Michael Bibby was the only remaining point guard on the roster.

3. Will we finally have an Isaiah Manderson sighting this season?
All preseason signs say yes, and not a moment too soon for this team. A 6-foot-10 Texas Tech transfer (with a surprisingly silky outside shot), Manderson became eligible after the 2016 fall semester, but was suspended roughly a month for an unspecified infraction. In five appearances last season, he totaled four points. New coach Brian Gregory, however, has mostly lauded Manderson's effort in preseason practice, and the senior had a double-double (11 points, 12 boards) against Flagler. "I'm gonna take all the responsibility on (last year)," Manderson said. "A lot of things played a factor, but I'll take full responsibility on those problems."

4. What's a realistic expectation for this team?
A very mild non-conference schedule (aside from a Nov. 19 trip to Indiana), will provide the chance for early wins and confidence, starting with Friday's game against FAU. But that possible momentum could hit a wall once American Athletic Conference play commences. We see the Bulls posting their first season of double-digit wins since 2014. If they win more than 12, someone should erect a statue of Gregory outside the Sun Dome.