Forget the NCAAs, the NITs or, for that matter, the Conference USA Tournament: South Florida has one more regular season game to play.
With positions in the aforementioned tournaments still to be determined, the Bulls (18-10, 8-7 in Conference USA) will face Southern Miss Saturday at 2 p.m. in Hattiesburg in the final regular-season game of the year.
“We have to go into this like this is our last game,” Altron Jackson said. “The higher you’re seeded, the better chance you have. We want to match these guys’ intensity and play South Florida basketball. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
The best-case scenario for the Bulls plays out like this: USF defeats the Golden Eagles (9-17, 3-12 in C-USA) and Saint Louis and Houston lose to Tulane and UAB, respectively. If that happens, South Florida will claim the No. 5 seed, meaning USF will play the lowest rated seed (12) in the tournament.
“Their season’s done,” Jackson said of Southern Miss. “They’re a good defensive team, but they struggle to put the ball in the hole.”
South Florida broke a two-game losing streak beating Houston 88-57 Tuesday, and is looking to continue its momentum heading into the conference tournament. The Bulls still have a chance for a berth in the National Invitational Tournament, but the only way for them to reach the NCAAs is by winning the C-USA Tournament.
“We just need to work hard and play each game as hard as we practice,” Jackson said. “I don’t think anybody can beat us but us.”B.B. Waldon, who has been slowed by knee injuries throughout the latter part of the season, looked salubrious for the first time in weeks against Houston, scoring 26 points and grabbing 18 boards.
“I saw B.B. cutting and slashing and getting off the ground,” Greenberg said. “And that was the first time I’ve seen him like that in awhile.”
The Bulls defeated the Golden Eagles 74-52 Jan. 8 at the Sun Dome, and Southern Miss is one of only two teams that did not qualify for the C-USA Tournament. But Jackson said that since the Golden Eagles have nothing to lose, they are a dangerous club.
“They’re going to be going out with reckless abandon (and) not care about anything,” Jackson said. “Whatever happens, happens. And that is scary.”
- Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org