Saturday, January 26, 2002

Hungry Bulls eye UC

South Florida targets tourney, upsetting Cats

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        TAMPA, Fla. — Seth Greenberg believes the South Florida basketball program is on solid ground. There will be no more eight-win seasons, the sixth-year Bulls coach said. There is stability.

        Now it's time, he added, for the next level. That would mean the school's first NCAA Tournament berth since 1992.

        Fourth-ranked Cincinnati, which plays at South Florida today, Marquette and Memphis are considered the Conference USA leaders for NCAA invites. Charlotte and South Florida have six weeks to build a case.

        The Bulls (13-5) could use a quality victory over a team like, say, the Bearcats, to add to their resume.

        “My greatest sense of urgency is really that we just play good basketball,” Greenberg said. “If we play good basketball, all the other stuff, I believe, will take care of itself. If you're caught up in the NCAAs, you waste so much energy on things you can't control. If we play good basketball, we have as good a shot as anyone to get to the tournament.”

        This should be a year South Florida makes a run at the NCAA. It has two of the top three scorers in C-USA history. By the end of the season, seniors Altron Jackson and B.B. Waldon might rank Nos.1 and 2 on the league's all-time list.

        Jackson, who averages 19.3 ppg, needs just 16 points to pass DeMarco Johnson (Charlotte, 1996-98) and take over the top spot.

        “The first time I saw him, I knew he was the type of athlete and the type of slasher that I've had success coaching,” Greenberg said. “I like guys who are longer than they are tall, and guys who have a quickness about their game.

        “He's really turned into a terrific defender. He might be the best on-the-ball defender in the league. His game's gotten better and better every year. He's got a pretty full package.”

        The 6-foot-6 guard also averages 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Jackson plays at the top of USF's 1-3-1 zone defense.

        Waldon was a third-team Parade All-American whose signing with South Florida enhanced the credibility of the program at the time. His career has been marked by inconsistency and “issues” — he was suspended by Greenberg for four games last season — but he has emerged as a solid leader this season on a team with five freshmen.

        The 6-8 forward averages 13.7 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds.

        “His greatest asset is his feel for the game,” Greenberg said. “He's a terrific passer. He's got a Rodman- esque-type of ability to rebound the basketball. People talk about it like he's had a disappointing career. The sad thing is the program was in disarray when he came here. Now South Florida's considered one of the better programs in Conference USA and we've got, I guess, a national profile now.”

        UC held Waldon to eight points and six rebounds last season. Jackson scored 17 on 8-of-21 shooting. One guy who hurt the Bearcats was guard Reggie Kohn, now the starting point guard who hit four 3-pointers in last year's game.

        The Bearcats not only put their 18-game winning streak on the line today, they also are 28-0 — 24-0 in the regular season — against teams in C-USA's National Division since the league went to two divisions in 1997-98.

        Greenberg said on his weekly television show he rated UC No.2 in the country behind Duke.

        Cincinnati is coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season, a 54-50 victory at Saint Louis on Tuesday night. That obviously has been a point of emphasis the past two days of practice.

        This game will have a different tempo, though. South Florida is quicker and more athletic. It will use a variety of defenses. UC's biggest challenge on offense may be to aggressively attack the 1-3-1 zone.

        “Hopefully we learned our lesson a little bit at Saint Louis,” said UC assistant coach Andy Kennedy, who scouted the Bulls.

        “I think South Florida may be the second-most talented team in our league (behind Memphis). Obviously, we've got to do what we do. Sometimes (we) take for granted that we're going to guard and get after you and play hard, but we really have to do that. We've got to play with a great amount of energy defensively.”


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Coming up this week

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vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700


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