Ken over at Astros Bulls Blog inquired about a Q&A for the game on Sunday and helped put this one together fairly quickly - thanks to him for the invite. His answers to my questions are below - be sure to check out his site for my take on his questions.
1. South Florida has already won more games this year (13) than they have in any of the past seven. They've not been able to beat the upper-tier teams yet, but they're now starting to win some conference games. The team has taken a step up and is starting to compete a little. What's the next step you'd like to see the team take?
Depth. It's been frustrating the last few years to see us play teams like Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Syracuse tough for 30 minutes, and then fall apart in the last 10 minutes due to us being tired. Coach Heath has had to go the JUCO and transfer route to try to help out, but every season it seems that one or two guys transfer out as well. This year it was Ron Anderson Jr. coming into the program from Kansas State, but we also had Jordan Dumars leave for Michigan, and Justin Leemow heading home.
2. I watched a bit of the USF / Seton Hall game and noticed there were a lot of empty lower-level seats. Having won those three out of their last four Big East games, what kind of buzz is around the area?
Unfortunately, there really hasn't been much of a buzz around Tampa about this team. You can see some of the football season ticket holders start to go to some games, but unfortunately a lot of the season tickets holders in the first level hardly go to any games. I really think the last decade of futility, along with football's meteoric rise, led to basketball being an afterthought in the area. As people say, winning cures all, but in a football mad state like Florida, it will take some time before the Sun Dome get to where it used to be in the early 90s.
3. USF has one of the top scoring duos in the country in Dominique Jones and Augustus Gilchrist (averaging a combined 40+ ppg) - at least before Gilchrist's injury. How highly rated were these guys as recruits? Any thought that either or both of these guys are NBA prospects?
Gus Gilchrist was the 8th rated center out of high school. He signed with Virginia Tech, but after the shootings he wanted out of his LOI. He then went to Maryland, but found out that he would have to sit out two years before he could play. After realizing this after the fact, he finally made his way to Tampa and did pretty well last season. His conditioning was called into question by some fans last year, but during the offseason the S&C staff found out he was anemic. An iron supplement later, and Gus is living up to his potential. I would consider him a pro prospect, but I think his game is better suited for Europe. Either way, he will be making a name for himself once he leaves.
Jones wasn't widely regarded as a prospect at all. He didn't have an AAU team, and Polk County, Florida isn't a hotbed for basketball. Once he did make it on campus, he has been an incredible steal for us. I really don't know where USF would be right now if Jones wasn't here. There are some draft sites that have Dominique going anywhere from the late first round to the early second round. There are some rumors that he might leave for the draft after this season, but I think he will be back for his senior year.
4. The road ahead for USF features a lot of tough opponents (Pitt, Georgetown, UCONN, and Nova, to name a few). An NCAA tournament bid isn't likely without some major upsets. But are there hopes for the NIT? Would that make for a successful season?
We haven't been to any type of tournament since the early 2000s when we had a couple of NIT bids, so ANYTHING would be a huge accomplishment to Heath and Co. All I have asked from this team is 16 wins, and barring a huge collapse, we should be able to reach that mark. You will see me doing backflips if for some reason we make it to the NCAAs, but I would love to see an NIT berth as well.
5. I'll sneak in one football question since the Jim Leavitt thing kind of took off and was a nationwide story. What are your thoughts? Were the majority of fans seemingly for him or against him?
I think most fans were for Jim Leavitt. The last couple of October collapses irked some people, but this was the father of USF Football, and most acknowledged that he would leave on his own terms. I really didn't think Leavitt did it until the report came out, and even then, it still leaves some doubt in your mind. The thing that killed Leavitt was the fact that tried to cover up the whole thing, asking players what they told the investigators and not cooperating at all. With everyone retaining lawyers, I don't think this is over with in the least. I know Leavitt will want to get paid for what he claims is wrongful termination, and if he does get a settlement from the university, the Miller family will most likely sue Coach Leavitt. Just a huge trainwreck on all accounts.