USF must win and wait
It was a week of highs and lows for South Florida, the surprise team in the Big East.
The Bulls did what they had to do to get into position to earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1992 by getting the signature victory they needed, upsetting No. 19 Louisville on the road. But when they had chance to virtually assure themselves of that bid, they let West Virginia manhandle them on their own home court.
Coach Stan Heath would not say the victory got his team into the tournament or that the loss will keep them out.
"I have no idea," Heath said to the Tampa Tribune. "I want my guys to clearly, clearly understand the only thing that matters is 6 o'clock next Sunday (when the NCAA's 68-team field is announced). Our only focus is on playing and winning. You can watch them (NCAA bracket projections). You can look at them. You can have your opinions. But it doesn't matter until next Sunday."
Before that, there is the matter of the Big East Tournament. The WVU loss kept South Florida from getting a double-bye into the tournament but the sixth seed is a good one.
They have a one-game bye and enter the tournament against either No. 11 Rutgers or No. 14 Villanova.
"Even if we would've won today, I still feel like we've got to win games in the (Big East) tournament," Heath said after the WVU game. "When all is said and done next Sunday, maybe the Louisville game was all we needed. I'm not going to take that chance. We've just got to keep winning."
And to do that, they have to keep playing the hard-nosed defense they played that carried them to their best Big East season ever with a 12-6 league record.
Bulls on both ends of conference leaderboard
--For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. South Florida led the Big East in scoring defense. It also was last in the Big East in scoring offense.
--South Florida held its final eight opponents to 56 points or fewer.
BY THE NUMBERS: 57.2 -- The number of points a game allowed by South Florida as it led the Big East in scoring defense and finished eighth in the country.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I still have a chip on my shoulder because I don't think we get respect. We've done a lot in this league. We have to continue to earn respect." -- South Florida coach Stan Heath as his team heads into the Big East Tournament, as quoted in the Tampa Tribune.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
vs. Rutgers-Villanova winner, Big East Tournament, March 7
KEY MATCHUPS: South Florida's No. 6 seed earned it a first-round bye into the Big East Tournament and the team would like to win at least one game to help solidify its NCAA resume. Every game the Bulls play is similar -- playing tough, in-your-face defense. The Bulls played Villanova twice and scored two easy victories, 74-54 in Philadelphia and 65-51 in Tampa. Rutgers proved to be a real struggle on the South Florida home court, winning 67-65. Eli Carter burned USF with 21 points in that game.
FUTURES MARKET: South Florida's run in the Big East and the fact that true freshman Anthony Collins could play a key role as a starter should really help coach Stan Heath in recruiting freshmen rather than relying on transfers. Recruiting there is a tough sell, going against Florida, Florida State and Miami without the basketball tradition but seeing that they can make an impact is important.
--USF is on the verge of winning 20 games and if the Bulls reach the mark, it they might do so without a scorer in double-figures. The Bulls' leading scorer entering the Big East Tournament is Augustus Gilchrist at 9.9 per game.
--PG Anthony Collins stands fifth in the league in assists at 5.3 per game, even though South Florida ranks last in scoring in the Big East.