Hard to believe it has been four months since the South Florida Bulls capped an exciting season by winning two out of three games against DePaul to claim the College Basketball Invitational championship.
A four-game Canadian trip featuring three games in Montreal and one in Quebec City starting this weekend signals that the 2019-20 season is not too far away.
First things first, though, and that is for coach Brian Gregory’s team to enjoy and make the most of their visit to two of Canada’s oldest cities.
“It’s a real good opportunity for our guys, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said at a media session Tuesday afternoon. “We play four very good teams that are very well coached and have had success against colleges in the United State that have gone up there to play.”
The Bulls commence what is billed as the Canadian Foreign Tour against the University of Quebec on Sunday afternoon. Monday evening they will tip off against Laval University for their only game in Quebec City, North America’s only fortified city north of Mexico with existent walls.
Following a day off Tuesday, it’s back to game action Wednesday night to play Carleton University, which is based in the Canadian capital city of Ottawa and has won 14 national titles in the last 17 seasons.
The final game is Thursday evening versus McGill University, located in Montreal.
“In particular, Carleton has had great success against U.S. universities going up there and playing them,” said Gregory. “They have beaten some real good teams, but our goal is to have guys play significant minutes within each individual game and to use it as an opportunity to try some different things that we have worked on.”
Gregory said that Laquincy Rideau will not play in either game. The guard is coming off a leg injury that bothered him late last season and there is no need to take a chance in a summer tournament.
“There’s no need with where we are at right now to take a chance,” he said. “That’s really going to make more playing time available to some other guys.”
To that extent the trip should be beneficial to players who did not see action last season or had limited minutes, including Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson. The guard sat out last season after playing five games as a freshman with the Cowboys in 2017-18.
“We have some guys that need to play,” said Gregory. “We are going to do some different things to make sure they are playing 20-plus minutes in those games.”
While the Bulls will not prepare for their opponents like they would during the season, the trip nonetheless represents an opportunity to sharpen their game.
“I want to go on this trip and play really good basketball, do all the little things and focus on looking forward to getting better with my teammates,” said junior guard David Collins, who led the Bulls in scoring last season (15.9 points) and earned CBI MVP honors.
Collins said he will be making his first international trip. Conversely, forward Alexis Yetna has plenty of experience on the international stage. The 2018-19 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, who is from France and whose first language is French, said the trip will help gauge the team’s progress at one end of the court.
“Defensively, it will be a good test to see how we are getting better and what we need to work on the rest of the summer,” he said.
The Bulls are coming off a 24-win season and a postseason title. As such, a group that largely returns intact has set the bar at a decent a height and would like to use this trip as one that can help propel them into 2019-20.
“We’ve got a lot of high expectations for this season coming up, so this trip is really gonna help us get even more prepared for the regular season,” said junior forward Justin Brown.
* More information on the teams USF will be playing.