TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – You can call it “A Tale of Two Seasons.”
The men’s basketball team at the University of South Florida had to pause their season in January due to COVID-19 and they could not continue it until February.
“I think one of the biggest challenges that we faced is not just the 32-day layoff,” said Brian Gregory, the Bulls head basketball coach. “When we play on Thursday, it will have been 57 days since we hit the pause. In that time, we only had 18 practices and, in those 18 practices, only 14 of them had 10 scholarship players available for practice.”
Those numbers are numbing and, if your team is not strong mentally and physically, the disruptions can destroy the collective chemistry and the individual abilities of those players.
“You look at the defensive numbers and the offensive numbers, a dramatic difference in the first six games compared to the last eight games,” said Gregory, “and a lot of that has to do with who we are, a program that values what you do daily in practices and our preparation and our development within the season and some of that stuff has really been put into conflict with our ability to even be on the court and time and different things like that.”
The Bulls have only won one game since returning to the court on Feb. 9. Their record since that return is 1-7.
Gregory admitted he feels his team has “legitimate, rational explanations” for their recent struggles but they need to acknowledge them and, now, they need to push past them.
“You still have to go out there and dig down,” he said, “and, whatever pieces are left and whatever pieces are available, those have to be good enough and those are the challenges we face collectively right now as a coaching staff and as a team.”
Gregory and the Bulls, who are the eighth seed in the American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, will play the Temple Owls, the ninth seed, on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.
The game is the first game of the tournament and it is scheduled to start at noon.