USF (10-10, 1-5) vs.Rutgers (8-11, 1-5)When: Sun DomeWhere: Tonight, 7TV/Radio: Catch 47, 1250 AM

Men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum has stressed one philosophy all season on how to make it to the Big East Tournament: Win at home, and split on the road.

So far, that hasn’t worked, as USF is 1-1 at home and 0-4 on the road since Big East play began earlier this month.

“Winning your home games is so important from a conference standpoint, whether (you’re) trying to win a conference title or (make it to the conference tournament),” McCullum said after practice Tuesday. “If you take care of your home games, you’re going to (be) in pretty good shape.”

The Bulls will have a chance to improve their home conference record with three straight games at the Sun Dome, starting tonight against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, the only team in the Big East with an overall losing record, are in a last-place tie with USF in the 16-team conference.

“It’s going to be vital to get a win (tonight), but they’re looking at us the same way,” said forward Melvin Buckley, the Bulls’ leading scorer. “Right now, we’re fighting to keep out of last place, so it’s going to be a heck of a game because everybody is going to be playing for something.”

Although USF and Rutgers are tied for last place in the Big East, they’re still in the hunt for one of the 12 conference tournament berths, because the bottom eight teams are within two wins of each other.

After facing the Scarlet Knights, the Bulls host No. 15 Marquette and No. 22 Notre Dame. After USF’s 82-58 loss to the Fighting Irish on Sunday, Buckley said the Bulls have to win at least two of the next three games to keep their postseason hopes alive, and he’d like to start with a win against Rutgers.

“When you’re looking at games, you don’t really decipher which ones are more important than others,” Buckley said. “But when you’re looking from the outside in, I would say this is probably the game (we) have to (win) if we want to stay in contention.

“The next two games you have ranked opponents coming in, so you want to have some momentum going into those games.”Guard Chris Capko agreed that USF needs to win at least two of its next three games, but he’s hoping for upset wins against Marquette and Notre Dame along with a victory tonight against the Scarlet Knights.

“Realistically, we do have to get two out of the three,” Capko said. “But in the locker room, we’re talking about winning all three, starting with Rutgers. Some people might not think we can, but within our team we think we can win three.”