It’ll happen. It almost has.
When the season started and the men’s basketball team began dropping guards faster than buckets, most people – even critics – said, “Oh yeah, they’ll win at least one Big East game.”After coming within 13 points in three games of beating No. 12 West Virginia, No. 20 Syracuse and Georgetown, with three being the Bulls’ smallest deficit in a conference loss, it looks more probable.
Which begs the questions: What if the Bulls were truly healthy?
What if Chris Howard didn’t have to redshirt?
What if Collin Dennis wasn’t limping everywhere, or Zaronn Cann hadn’t gone down like he was shot in his knee, which has more scars than a biker?
What if David Sills hadn’t been an enigma?
Lots of “what ifs” and still no win in the Big East, which is now the 16-team super conference talked about more than the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie baby.
I know it’s probably tough to get on this side of the wagon when six of those 16 teams are ranked and about eight of them will make the NCAA tournament with a handful of others making the National Invitational Tournament.
The schedule is hard to look at, sure, but even at the beginning of the season, most figured the Bulls could scrape one out.
The women’s team already had an upset over then-No. 11 DePaul, almost upset No. 10 Rutgers and has lost two other Big East games by four points.
But the men are a different story.
You have to pray for that elusive win. Pray every night at the bedside.
The Bulls have their chances.
Taking a look at the Big East standings, there are plenty of other struggling teams, four other teams with barely a Big East win and another without one as well.Providence, the team USF travels to on Feb. 21, is winless in the Big East.
Georgetown, which the men lost to by three points and at one point led by six points during the game, is the last game of USF’s season at home on March 4, just when McCullum’s team starts to pick up a little steam and self confidence.
Granted, those two factors need to come into play earlier in the season, but this team is looking for baby steps, which eventually – with a prayer or two – will lead to the leaps needed to survive in this super conference.
The problem for the Bulls is they are only scoring 60.8 points a game, and that’s because they’re shooting .435 from the field, which is leading to shooting .332 beyond the arc.
The team has plenty of blocks, and its defense has been sufficient enough to almost beat the Mountaineers and the storied Town of George while holding teams to 62 points a game.
Upsets happen in college basketball. It’s why it’s better than the NBA.
They happen. The women’s team proved it. St. John’s proved it Tuesday.
Soon, the men will, too.
Just one little Big East win for men’s basketball? This is probably the toughest debate ever, because my opponent could win just due to the odds: 12 games left to win at least one – I mean, lightning has to strike once, right? Maybe not.
The Bulls may have the odds with them, but they are constantly trying to defy them.Playing Syracuse, West Virginia and Georgetown semi-close only to fold down the stretch has to be frustrating to a team looking for something positive to build on.
I don’t like to do this, but here are some compelling stats against the Bulls. USF is near the bottom of almost every offensive category, most notably in points per game (60.8). The Bulls could get over this if they didn’t keep shooting themselves in the foot (last in turnover margin with -4.29).
USF has been battered and bruised all season, and injuries to Collin Dennis and Chris Howard haven’t helped a team that needs both of them healthy.
But injuries are just a few in a series of unfortunate events for the men’s team, and nevertheless, they are reasons why the Bulls will have trouble competing with the top-tier talent in the conference.
The Bulls have games to play against No. 7 Villanova, No. 3 Connecticut, No. 15 Louisville, No. 12 West Virginia and Cincinnati (receiving 11 votes). Of the Bulls’ 11 remaining opponents, five made the NCAA tournament last year (West Virginia, Louisville, Villanova, Connecticut, Cincinnati) and three made the National Invitational Tournament (Georgetown, DePaul, Notre Dame).
Some may argue USF’s best chance lies with a rematch with Georgetown at home in the final game of the season. But unfortunately, at 3-5, the Bulls aren’t the most stellar team at home, and will have trouble inspiring the 3,500 fans the Sun Dome averages, which also happens to be near the bottom attendance-wise in the Big East.
But the Bulls can upset someone, right? I mean, they did it last year.
Gone are Terrance Leather and Brian Swift. Gone are those players who upset Charlotte and Cincinnati last year. Only three players from this year’s team – James Holmes, Collin Dennis and Solomon Jones – even played significant minutes last season.
You want to know if USF will win a Big East game?
The young and inexperienced Bulls should learn to win against the FIUs and the Bethune-Cookmans of the basketball world before they take on the beasts of the Big East.