The last time the USF men’s basketball team was in the NCAA Tournament, many current players and students were not even born. The year was 1992. The Bulls played Georgetown in the first round and lost, 75-60. Two years earlier, they also had a first-round exit with a 79-67 defeat to Arizona.
Now, 20 years later, the Bulls could be headed back to the big dance. As of this writing, head coach Stan Heath’s club is 17-10 overall with a 10-4 Big East mark. As terrific as the team has played in conference games, its victories have come against teams it would be expected to beat if the team wants consideration for the tournament. On the other hand, the Bulls suffered some tough losses to inferior teams during their non-conference schedule. They have also struggled against tougher competition in the Big East, including a 30-point loss at Georgetown and a 20-point defeat at Marquette.
Most college basketball analysts believe USF must win at least 20 games to have a legitimate shot at earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. With four regular season games left, USF will need to pick up at least one or two signature wins. Their road test at Louisville could be their best chance to do so, and beating West Virginia and Cincinnati at home will also bolster their resume. The team will also play in the Big East Tournament in New York. Winning games in this 16-team competition will certainly help the team make a better case to play with the big boys and be a part of everyone’s brackets.
The Bulls’ success has come as a result of everyone chipping in each game, not just one star carrying the team on his back. If ESPN’s Dick Vitale hasn’t labeled freshman point guard Anthony Collins a “diaper dandy” yet, he should add him to his list. Collins has had a tremendous season as a freshman and will be a shining star for the Bulls throughout his career. Other notable players include seniors Ron Anderson Jr. and Hugh Robertson, both of whom have played exceptionally well defending the basket and getting defensive stops. Meanwhile, Shaun Noriega has been clutch with his three-point shooting. Jawanza Poland and Victor Rudd have had some great offensive performances, and senior Augustus Gilchrist has been a consistent force on both sides of the ball all year long.
No matter how USF’s season turns out, it has been one of the most successful campaigns on the court in school history. Since the football team went 5-7 in the fall, the basketball team is now giving Bulls fans a reason to be excited. They should also be looking forward to the newly renovated Sun Dome that is set to reopen next season. Although USF has won nearly every home game playing off-campus at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this year, the team has struggled to draw fans to the games. So it should be more convenient for students, alumni, and fans alike to attend games at the Sun Dome and cheer on what should be an even better Bulls basketball team next season.