Tennessee Tech (0-0) at South Florida (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: USF Sun Dome (10,411) -- Tampa, Florida. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: TTU 0-0, USF 0-0. Away Record: TTU 0-0, USF 0-0. Neutral Record: TTU 0-0, USF 0-0. Conference Record: TTU 0-0, USF 0-0. Series Record: South Florida leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles will be put to the test as they tip-off their 2013-14 season at the Sun Dome against the South Florida Bulls.
Coach Steve Payne's second season with TTU delivered the opposite result of his inaugural 17-12 campaign as his rotation's lack of experience made it difficult to compete against the senior-filled OVC. Now with a 31-31 career record, Payne has more veterans than most of his counterparts for his third year as head coach. Maturity may not be enough for the Golden Eagles as their lack of production on the offensive end (64.8 ppg) gave them just the 10th ranked scoring offense in the OVC. Their problems on the offensive end may get worse with leading scorer and rebounder Jud Dillard no longer around.
Following their run in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the Bulls dropped off to a 12-19 finish last season. Coach Stan Heath has consistently received strong defensive play out of his teams since taking over the helm of the South Florida program, but the offense was clearly lacking the firepower needed to compete in the Big East in 2012-13. The Bulls scored just 58.8 points per game and shot a miserable 38.9 percent from the field. They will begin their first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference, hoping to improve upon their 31-11 all-time record in season openers.
This will be the third meeting in history between the Golden Eagles and Bulls. South Florida won both previous encounters, the last of which took place in the 1975 season.
Payne will rely heavily on his senior duo of Dennis Ogbe (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Jeremiah Samarrippas (9.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 1.8 spg) to pilot TTU back to a winning record. Ogbe will be much more important on the offensive end without Dillard present, which could be the remedy to the team's scoring woes, as he led the OVC with a 61.3 percent clip on field goal attempts. Freshman spot-up shooter Shirmane Thomas will see some action because his ability to stretch defenses will open up the paint for Ogbe.
USF added a pair of talented forwards to bolster the frontcourt and both played well in the team's 88-53 exhibition victory over Barry on Monday. Freshmen Chris Perry and John Egbunu combined for 20 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. They will join three returning starters in Anthony Collins, Martino Brock and Victor Rudd. Collins, who has been a starter since joining the program, and Rudd were both named to the AAC Preseason All-Conference Second Team. Sophomore forward Zach LeDay is expected to have a breakout season after adding 27 pounds to his frame over the offseason.
TTU has a decent point guard in Samarrippas, but it lacks a consistent go-to- guy on the offensive end. Ogbe will struggle against USF, which received a much needed facelift from its top 25 recruiting class. The Bulls could be the surprise team in the AAC if their newcomers are able to help solve the offensive woes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 63, Tennessee Tech 52
11/09 10:30:56 ET