USF men still trending upward in Year 2 of Brian Gregory era

The Bulls can clinch their first 7-2 start since 2013 on Saturday against Appalachian State.
USF sophomore David Collins ranks seventh in the American Athletic Conference with 16.8 points per game. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
USF sophomore David Collins ranks seventh in the American Athletic Conference with 16.8 points per game. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Published Dec. 14, 2018

When your program's making the arduous climb from the cellar, every conquered rung is to be recognized.

USF men's coach Brian Gregory is doing just that.

In his second year of what projects as a tedious reclamation of Bulls hoops, Gregory has made a point to not allow any marker of improvement go unnoticed.

"We are making progress in some tangible things that we need to celebrate every day with our guys," Gregory said, "so they understand that not only is our program based on being successful as a unit, but also improving and developing individually as well."

The most noticeable indicator of progress, naturally, has been the Bulls' record.

When it hosts Appalachian State on Saturday at 1 p.m. (in the opener of a men's and women's doubleheader at the Yuengling Center), USF will try to improve to 7-2 for the first time since 2013. Tack on the final three games of the 2017-18 season, and the program has won eight of its last 11.

This season, the Bulls already have won three games against teams ranked 158 or better in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, the new barometer for the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Additionally, they took Georgetown — currently ranked 64th — to overtime on a neutral court in Jamaica before losing by three.

Individually, sophomore F Alexis Yetna leads the American Athletic Conference in rebounding (9.1 per game), while classmate David Collins leads the league in steals (2.7) and ranks seventh in scoring (16.8). Redshirt junior PG Laquincy Rideau ranks second in assists (6.0) and steals (2.5).

Less conspicuous — but hardly less significant — is USF's 231 total free-throw attempts, tied for 57th nationally. Through eight games last season, the Bulls had attempted only 152.

"So that shows one of the mile markers is for us to become a much more aggressive, physical team," Gregory said. "We're getting there, because we're getting to the line a lot more."

Be they baby steps or baby strides, all are signs of forward progress.

When your program spent the previous half-decade backsliding, you note 'em all.