Historic USF men’s basketball team cracks AP poll

South Florida was ranked at No. 25 and received 127 votes from writers around the country. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

From the day he set foot on campus in the spring of 2023, South Florida head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim knew his team would be playing to make history.

“I asked [USF Athletic Director Michael Kelly], are you afraid of heights? Because you’re gonna have to get up on that ladder one day to cut down those nets,” Abdur-Rahim said in March 2023 at his introductory press conference.

Related: Abdur-Rahim to bring ‘connected philosophy’ to men’s basketball coaching position

Following a 79-68 win over SMU on Sunday, the Bulls (21-5, 14-1 AAC) made their first appearance in the AP Top 25 poll in the school’s history at No. 25 on Monday.

South Florida also made an appearance in the Coach’s Poll, coming in at No. 25.

USF had played 40 years of Division One basketball before finally attaining status as one of the best teams in the country.

The Bulls have been a surprise to the college basketball world this season after being picked to finish ninth in the AAC by the national media.

They seemed to be all but an afterthought after beginning the year with a 2-4 record with losses UMass on Nov. 22 and Maine on Dec. 2 on their resume.

Since then, USF has battled to win 19 out of their next 20 games and is currently on a school record 13-game winning streak, the second longest in the country.

Related: USF men’s basketball achieves longest win streak in program history

The Bulls’ recognition as a Top 25 team is not the only first achieved in Tampa this season, though.

Abdur-Rahim has led this squad to the school’s best conference record ever in just his first year with the program.

With a win against Charlotte on Saturday, the Bulls could lock up their first regular season conference title ever as well.

Being ranked in the Top 25 does not make USF a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament, however.

The Bulls will likely need to win the rest of their regular season games and make a deep run in the AAC tournament to lock up one of those coveted tournament spots.

Regardless of how the rest of the season turns out, Abdur-Rahim has turned Bulls basketball into must-see TV, as well as a team that could make a deep postseason run.

“When we step between those lines at Yuengling, the days of people coming into Tampa feeling like it’s a vacation just because it’s nice weather is over,” he said in October 2023. “We’re gonna have an edge that we play with, that we compete with and that we carry every day to give our community and our campus a brand of basketball that they can be proud of.”