PREVIEW: FGCU Set to Run with the Bulls – (12/2/20)

In a year where the schedule will likely remain fluid, FGCU was on pace to play their 1st and 2nd games 11 days apart. Coach Fly has stated that the team is looking to add games as 2 have been lost due to logistical concerns related to Covid. On Monday, it was announced over social media that a game against USF had been secured for Wednesday, 12/2/20. Below, we will go over the game and break down the opponent.

USF

Despite only a 2 hour drive separating them, this will only be the second time the Eagles clash with the Bulls. The first time occurred in controversial fashion back in 2013. FGCU ended up losing that game 68-66 in double overtime. The controversy came in the game’s final 0.3 seconds as Jamail Jones heaved a full court, hail mary inbound pass to Chase Fieler who tipped it in. The refs decided that there simply wasn’t enough time for Fieler to have caught and released the ball in the way that he had done so. Below is a video of what happened.

It has been about 7 years since that game and since these teams have squared off. Both Head coaches have moved on and both current coaches are working to build sustainable products and contenders. USF currently plays in the American Athletic Conference and is led by Coach Brian Gregory. Gregory’s previous stops have included head coaching duties at Georgia Tech and Dayton, as well as assistant coaching experience under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. This past season, Gregory led the Bulls to a 14-17 record (10-7 at home). So far this season the Bulls are off to a 1-2 start. They have lost 2 straight games by large margins to solid Rhode Island and Virginia Tech teams. Their only win came on opening day versus NAIA school, Florida College, where they escaped with a 10 point victory (94-84). This 2020-21 Bulls squad has only 2 seniors on the team but still possesses a fair number of upperclassmen with 7 juniors. Below are some names to watch in this game for USF.

Players to Watch

David Collins

Collins is an extremely experienced and talented guard for this USF team. The 6’4″/220 lb senior brings tremendous size, strength, and versatility to the table. As a starter for most of his career, Collins has averaged nearly 14 points per game over 3+ seasons. He has also established himself as a reliable shooter over the years as he holds a 42% shooting percentage from the floor. In 3 games this season, Collins is averaging 14 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game while shooting 48% from the floor and 43% from deep. Look for him to be a main player and leader of the Bulls’ charge against the Eagles.

Michael Durr

Durr is a hulking individual at 7’0″ / 250 lbs. The junior center has started 67/68 games played over his now 2+ seasons. He currently holds a career average of 6 points and 6 rebounds per game. However, over his career he has shot 49%, which is fairly low for a man of his stature. So far this year, Durr is averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds. His size in an obvious obstacle and something to pay attention to as FGCU really doesn’t have a player on their roster who is comparable to him physically.

Caleb Murphy

As a freshman guard, Murphy has been quick to impress. He was rated as the #72 player in the nation coming out of high school per ESPN 100. So far this season, Murphy has made himself into the starting lineup 2 out of their 3 games. Through those games he is averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. His best game to date came against Rhode Island, when he scored 15 points and hauled in 5 rebounds. FGCU will have to rely on their seniority and experience (finally!) in the backcourt to try and force Murphy into making mistakes as he is also averaging 3 turnovers per game.

Alexis Yetna

Lastly, Yetna provides a ton of talent down low for USF. As a freshman he was forced to sit out the season due to an NCAA ruling. The following season, as a redshirt freshman, he exploded on the scene, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds a game. Entering his redshirt sophomore year, Yetna was faced with injury and had to miss the entire season. Now as a redshirt junior, the 6’8″/234 lb forward is looking to get back in the grove again. Thus far, he has started 2 out of their 3 games and is averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds. Yetna is also versatile enough to hit from the perimeter as he is currently shooting an unsustainably high 63% from downtown on 5-8 shooting. Yetna’s skillset is similar to the type of big FGCU typically has but his added size makes him a potential difference maker.

Matchups to Watch

Guards

With Caleb Catto and Jalen Warren leading the show, the Eagles may actually possess the advantage in the backcourt, despite USF having a player like David Collins. The Bulls are still in the process of figuring out who their main contributors will be at these positions, whileFGCU has at least 2 of these positions figured out. In addition, Franco Miller Jr., Cyrus Largie, Sam Gagliardi, Dom London, and Luis Rolon all found their own ways to contribute in the first game of the season. Still, USF has talent here, they just simply haven’t put the pieces in the right spots thus far.

Forwards

Based on size alone, USF clearly has the advantage here. They possess two 7’0″/250+ individuals in Michael Durr and Russel Tchewa, in addition to Alexis Yetna and Prince Oduro, who are 6’8″/234 and 6’8″/255, respectively. Obviously FGCU does not have the height or size to match up with this. There may be some moments where is looks like USF’s height is too much to overcome, but there are other ways to get a rebound besides being the tallest player on the floor. FGCU has a tremendous rebounder in Eli Abaev, who will only get more comfortable as the season goes on. In addition, the strength of Justus Rainwater in the post is something that opposing forwards have to deal with, regardless of height. USF is used to playing bigger teams and the Eagles’ quicker, more athletic style could contrast in a way that is positive for FGCU.

Projected Starters

FGCUUSF
#5 Jalen Warren#23 Caleb Murphy
#3 Franco Miller Jr.#0 David Collins
#2 Caleb Catto#13 Justin Brown
#14 Eli Abaev#10 Alexis Yetna
#32 Justus Rainwater#4 Michael Durr

Outlook

USF is a team that has struggled to a 1-2 record so far this season. Of course, their 2 losses were at the hands of quality opponents. Still, this USF team is technically in a “better” conference with presumably “better” players. The Eagles, on the other hand, are flying high after their season opening win that left plenty to be encouraged about. This is a winnable game for both teams and it should be competitive. Just how competitive this game ends up being could be a strong indicator of how this early part of the season could go for FGCU.

Game Predictions

Russell Kelly (1-0)

“This should be a competitive game. Either team has a real chance to win. There is plenty to be excited about after FGCU’s win over FAMU and a strong game against this USF team would give the Eagles a ton of confidence going forward. I think the Bulls’ size will be something for the Eagles to overcome, but that could actually work out in FGCU’s favor if they find a way to do it. Still, for the sake of not getting my hopes up, USF wins a close one.”

74-66 – USF

Elliott Kresse (1-0)

“It’s still early in this strange season and it’s tough to predict how these teams will play. USF struggled against an NAIA opponent (Florida College) so I feel there’s definitely a good opportunity for FGCU if they can limit turnovers and keep up the good defense. I think the offense will take care of itself. It’s the tale of the first half for USF, as that’s when they’ve struggled the most. If FGCU can take a lead into the half, they have a good chancing of pulling this one off.”

72-69 – FGCU

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