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TAMPA --The USF Bulls start Big East conference play as they host the 7th ranked Syracuse Orange at Noon from the Sun Dome.
The Bulls come into the game with a record of 9-3 and are riding a four game winning streak after a 65-56 victory over UCF.
On the other side, the Orange enters the contest at 13-1. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim further cemented himself as one of the greatest coaches of all time when he passed Bob Knight for 2nd on the list for all time wins for Division 1 head coaches when the Orange defeated Rutgers 78-53 on Wednesday.
Syracuse is led by arguably one of the best guard combinations in the nation in Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams.
Triche is the leading scorer for the Orange, averaging almost 15 points a game. He is coming off of a season high 25 points on 8 of 11 shooting vs. Rutgers.
Carter-Williams, the team's point guard, leads the nation in assists per game with 10.1.
For USF, the Bulls too, have a playmaker at point guard in sophomore Anthony Collins.
Collins has not played at 100% this entire season, as he has been nursing a calf injury, and then most recently a sprained neck. Despite the injuries, Collins is leading the team in assists and assists per game at 7.8 per game. This puts him in the top ten in that category in the NCAA.
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick comes into the game averaging 11.7 points a game, however he has had some cold shooting nights recently after starting the season off strong.
Victor Rudd on the other hand has picked up the slack after a very slow start. Not only does Rudd lead the team in rebounding, but he has scored in double figures three of the last four games.
What to watch for
The matchup to watch in this game is between to star sophomore point guards, Collins vs. Carter-Williams. These two players are amongst the top 10 in the nation in assists per game.
However, it will be interesting to see how the 6'1 Collins matches up on defense with the 6'6 Carter-Williams. While Carter-Williams does have the height advantage, Collins is very quick with his feet and moves very well laterally.
For the Bulls to come out on top in this game, it's simple. USF has to find a way to outrebound the Orange.
When the Bulls outrebound their opponent, they're 6-0, however when they don't, they are winless at 0-3. The big men, or lack there of, for the Bulls were tested for the first time against a legitimate post player earlier this season against Oklahoma State. That didn't go too well, as Phillip Jurick pulled down 14 rebounds, including six offensive boards. Rudd, Kore White, Fitzpatrick, and maybe even Jordan Omogbehin will all have their hands full trying to win the battle on the glass against the bigs of Syracuse.
In the first game of the season against UCF, the Bulls struggled against the Knights' 2-3 zone. USF coach Stan Heath made the proper adjustments for the Bulls in the 2nd meeting of the year and the Bulls were able to work their way around the tricky defense. Syracuse, who holds opponents to 58 points a game, runs a similar 2-3 zone, so it will be interesting to see how USF approaches it.
It seems as if USF is starting to find their identity once again as a defensive minded team, allowing 60.3 points per game. Syracuse is in the top ten in scoring per game at almost 82 points per game. If USF wants to come out on top in this one, they have to hold the Orange to well under that average.
What we know for sure is, the Bulls will have their hands full in what should be a great opener to their 2012-2013 Big East campaign in front of a packed house at the Sun Dome.