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What To Watch For: USF vs. SMU

Sunday will be senior day at the Sun Dome when South Florida hosts SMU at 2 p.m. in its final men’s basketball game of the regular season. Payton Banks, Stephan Jiggetts, Terrence Samuel and Isaiah Manderson will be recognized before the game then try to get the Bulls to ten regular season wins for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Team manager Joseph Ungos will also be honored during Senior Day.

USF is coming off a wire-to-wire 75-51 rout in Memphis Thursday night.

This is the Bulls second matchup with SMU this season. The Mustangs won the first fame in Dallas on January 31, a 79-39 drubbing of the Bulls. SMU last played on Wednesday night, a 69-56 loss to No. 25 Houston on SMU’s senior night. It was the Mustangs’ eighth loss in ten games.

SMU guard Jahmal McMurray (0) shoots against Houston Cougars guard Corey Davis Jr. (5) during the second half at Moody Coliseum.
SMU guard Jahmal McMurray (0) shoots against Houston Cougars guard Corey Davis Jr. (5) during the second half at Moody Coliseum. (Photo by: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) has your quick facts and what to watch for against SMU.

Quick Facts

Matchup: SMU (16-14, 6-11 AAC) at USF (9-21, 2-15 AAC)

Date: Sunday, Mar. 4

Time: 2 p.m. EST

Location: Tampa, Fla. | USF Sun Dome

Watch: ESPNews

Radio: AM 820 | USF Bulls Unlimited (Jim Lighthall, Joey Johnston)

History: This will be the 13th meeting between USF and SMU and the second this season. Officially, SMU leads the series 8-3 (one SMU win from the 2013-14 season was later vacated). In actual games played the Bulls have lost six straight to SMU.

The Opponent: The Mustangs that come to Tampa are a shell of the team that beat USF on the final day of 2017. Junior forward Jarrey Foster (partially-torn ACL) and reserve forward Everett Ray (broken foot) are out for the rest of the season. Junior guard Shake Milton is still recovering from a third-metacarpal, non-displaced right hand fracture. Milton has missed eight games. SMU is 1-7 during that stretch. Two-time freshman of the week, Ethan Chargois, is playing on an injured ankle.

How big are these injuries? HUGE. Ray provided depth while averaging 2.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Foster was a key player who started SMU’s first 19 games and averaged 13.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Milton, a projected first round NBA Draft pick, was SMU’s leading scorer and was averaging 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 22 games this season. These injuries leave SMU with seven healthy scholarship players.

Over the last eight games, without Milton, Jahmal McMurray is leading SMU in scoring (20.9) and three-point percentage (.450). Jimmy Whitt, who had 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals against USF in January, is leading the team in rebounds (6.9), assists (3.6), and steals (1.9) while scoring 11.3 points per game. Akoy Agau is averaging 6.3 rebounds and 6.6 points.

The lack of depth has forced SMU to play much more zone than earlier in the season. SMU is in zone 36.3 percent of all defensive possessions now compared to just 7.3 percent at the time of the teams’ first meeting. SMU makes you work on offense to kill time, trying to shorten the game some.

When in man they switch on ball screens. The Mustangs seldom uses full court pressure, but when they do it is out of a timeout, or a made free throw and it is a 1-2-2 press.

On offense SMU uses lots of ball screens, but the offense is a shell of what the Bulls saw on New Year’s Eve. Back then the Mustangs were averaging 18 assists per game. That number is down to 11 per game due to isolation, a lower shooting percentage and losing your top two scorers. The Mustangs have the slowest tempo in the AAC. They seldom take a quick shot, preferring to work the ball and looking to score with less than 12 seconds on the shot clock.

Outlook: To win this game the Bulls will need to match or out rebound SMU. Run McMurray off the arc and cut off SMU’s dribble drive. More frequently the Mustangs are driving the lane to score and/or get to the free throw line. USF needs good ball movement in this game. Quick accurate passes to move the zone and create openings to score.

Prediction: USF 68 SMU 65