TAMPA, Fla. — Oh nieces and nephews your old uncle is under the weather and watching the University of South Florida basketball is not picking up your old uncle and lifting his spirit.
In fact, your old uncle is ready to throw in the towel for the USF 2016-17 men’s basketball season.
The undoing for USF all started last summer behind the closed doors of University of South Florida Athletic Director Mark Harlan. When it was decided that Oliver Antigua would be released from his job as an assistant coach from his brother’s staff the former basketball coach for the Bulls, Orlando Antigua.
The reasons for the dismissal always seemed to be cloudy but there is an NCAA investigation, that is looking into some of the student-athlete admission because there are too many unanswered questions.
Harlan wasted no time in finding a replacement for men’s basketball opening on the sideline for an assistant coach.
In August we got a chance to say, hello to Murray Bartow and welcome him to the sunny state of Florida, to the bright lights of the city next to the bay and to the best venue for basketball on the west coast of the state- the Sun Dome.
Remember, way back in the month of November when the 2016-17 men’s basketball season began. There was plenty of hope that surrounded the arena, from the bench especially with the victory against Florida A&M University to start the year off on the right foot, there was a good feeling of being optimistic about the Bulls.
Then disaster struck the Bulls, their leading scorer and point guard Jahmal McMurray notified Antigua, that he is leaving the USF program. McMurray would be the 13th player under Antigua to leave the program, in fact McMurray would leave the school.
This is after he played just three games for the Bulls and coming off of a six-game suspension according to Antigua for violating a couple of team rules.
The spinning out of control for the Bulls continued to gain momentum and after two games into the American Athletic Conference portion of the schedule. Antigua found himself again behind the closed door of Harlan’s office and his reign as the basketball coach for the University of South Florida came to a sudden end.
The investigation by the NCAA is still progressing and the result is very important to Antigua, to his future employment and to his bank account.
If the NCAA can find any improprieties that is remotely linked to Antigua, then he losses the rest of his contract but if he is found that he is not at fault then he will be awarded the remaining portion of his contract.
Harlan’s decision to remove Antigua and then replaced him with the understanding that it comes with the title interim, Bartow took over the duties of the basketball coach for the University of South Florida January 7, 2017 against Sothern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas at Moody Coliseum.
So far, the transition has been rough for Bartow who is still waiting for his first victory of his tenure, the first conference victory and that first victory would end a seven-game losing streak.
That streak includes, Saturday afternoon Jan. 15, inside the Sun Dome as 2,614 watched and are still waiting for the sweet taste of victory.
Tulsa University stepped out onto the court and proceeded to make 47.9 percent of their shoots from the floor, out rebound USF 39-34 and defeated the Bulls 79-64, continuing the spinning out of control.
Watching the Bulls out on the floor is different with Bartow but the same old problems with the Bulls continue as the season moves toward completion and the conference tournament.
The first problem for the Bulls is an on-going problem that has plagued the Bulls since last season and the fact that it still continues this season-is problematic.
It seems like the Bulls are leading the universe in turning the ball over to the opponent.
As the Bulls walked off of the court after their defeat against Tulsa University, USF had committed 16 turnovers for the game, guess what nieces and nephews that is the team’s average for the season, 16 turnovers per game.
Your old uncle, looked it up and nieces and nephews, did you know that there are 342 teams that play men’s basketball at Division 1 level.
USF is ranked currently as the 331st team in turning the ball over, tied with Sacred Heart University and is better than 11 teams including the worst team at holding onto the ball Stephan F. Austin University who averages 19 turnovers a game.
The second problem for the Bulls is that they go into way too many spurts were they cannot score a basket and when you turn the ball over 16 times a game you need all of the points that you can score.
Tulsa University scored 18 points because of the generosity from the Bulls.
Once about a time your old uncle showed up for school and the class was all about getting to rebounds.
It was pointed out to your old uncle there are three ingredients in getting to a rebound and those are: positioning on the floor, heart which means that you want the ball and toughness which means you are not going to get out worked under the boards.
USF is last in the conference in getting to an average of 38.2 defensive rebounds, the Bulls are tied with Tulsa for seventh place in the conference in offensive rebounds both teams averaging 36.4 rebounds off of the offensive glass.
So the concept is relatively simple for the Bulls because basketball is about putting the basketball through the basket.
First, try holding onto the basketball, so you can score those elusive baskets.
When the other team misses the basket, it is okay to grab the miss and move the ball down the court toward your basket and score.
Bartow told your old uncle that his team is familiar with the concept of the game and are making steps toward getting better.
“I love coaching these guys and we’re just going to continue to battle,” Bartow said about coaching the Bulls. “I’m just telling you they are fighting and competing and working. Our practices have been great.”
Bartow also said after the Bulls loss, that his team fighting to get through the firing of Antigua.
“You’ll see us win in practice. You don’t always see us win games but we’re going to start. It’s coming,” Bartow said. “These guys have been through a lot, a tough transition. On a daily basis we’ve got to keep getting better and we just have to play a little better.”
With the season spinning out of control and ready to crash, the University of South Florida will face the University of Connecticut, another team that is beginning to start a slow spin of their own.
The game is scheduled for Wednesday night, Jan 25 inside the most favorable basketball arena that calls the west coast of Florida home-the Sun Dome. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
It will be a chore for Bartow and his team but he is hoping that the hard work during practice will show up during the game against the Huskies and all the sweat will be rewarded with a spirit-lifting victory.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.