TAMPA ― Shortly before the USF men’s first practice of the preseason Tuesday, Brian Gregory was asked about the lofty expectations surrounding his 2019-20 team.
"You've got to embrace that, it's part of the process," the Bulls' third-year coach said. "It's a lot better than having people think you stink."
Indeed, that lingering stench has been supplanted by seasoning. Only 2 1/2 years after inheriting a laughingstock program with an emaciated roster, Gregory possesses one of the nation’s most experienced teams.
USF returns all five starters from last season’s 24-14 club that won the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The 178 combined starts it returns from last season are the most of any American Athletic Conference team.
“Heading into this point last year, we weren’t sure exactly where we’d be,” Gregory said. “We knew we were gonna compete, we knew we were gonna play really hard, we knew we’d be a physical team, but we were not sure where that would take us. Now we kind of have an idea.”
The Bulls retained 92.4 percent of their scoring, and 94.6 percent of their rebounding and assists, from the 2018-19 club. In terms of returning production, USF is fourth nationally in all three categories, according to data provided by the school.
In the de facto free-agency era of college hoops, all are staggering figures. Whether they translate to the program’s fourth NCAA Tournament berth remains to be seen. But as Gregory indicated, it beats the alternative.
“We have experience in terms of how we want to do things, how we want to practice,” he said.
“And then as we raise the standards, guys have to understand the daily price that they have to pay is raised as well. There’s no discounts in where we want to get to, you’ve got to pay the full price.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.