South Florida is a team on the rise in the Big East.
It is a quiet, unassuming freshman point guard who is leading them.
His name is Anthony Collins and he has basketball in his blood.
His older brother, J.D., was John Beilein's first recruit at West Virginia and finished his career eighth on the school's all-time career assist list and there's a younger brother, E.J., coming behind him at Houston 's Lamar High.
But Collins, who had 15 points and six assists Sunday in an 81-78 win over Providence, is his own man at South Florida, not flamboyant but certainly effective as the Bulls have turned their fortunes around.
"Your eyes will gravitate toward him," USF coach Stan Heath told the Tampa Tribune. "He has presence. He has made such an impact on us already. He's our guy, our floor leader. Everyone listens to him and follows him. They just do."
He averages more assists and steals than any other Big East freshman and while not a big scorer he has hit big shots.
"When the ball is in his hands, everything just settles down," Heath said. "Right away, he had that above anybody else. Other guys may shoot better. Other guys might be bigger or stronger. But he could run the team. And that told me he was our guy.
"And he's no-maintenance. You've heard of low-maintenance kids and high-maintenance kids. Anthony is no maintenance. Zero. No problems. I can go to sleep very well when I think about Anthony."
Bulls dominating the boards
--South Florida, after grabbing more rebounds Providence in an 81-78 win on Jan. 29, has now outrebounded eight straight opponents.
-- Providence was the second team this season to reach 70 points against South Florida when it lost 81-78. Only Kansas this year had managed to score 70 against USF before Providence .
--South Florida is playing its home games at the downtown Tampa arena while the on-campus facility goes through a renovation. While he admits it's different from playing at home, Heath said, "I can't complain, we've had only one loss all year in the building and that's against Connecticut ."
BY THE NUMBERS : 15 -- The number of consecutive games USF held opponents to 30 or fewer first-half points until Marquette went past that number on Jan 24.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're still trying to figure out where we fit. We're just trying to get better. We don't feel out of the mix. Our defense gives us a chance every night to play with people and when our offensive is clicking we're at the top part of the league." -- South Florida Coach Stan Heath on his team's place in the Big East.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Georgetown , Feb. 4
KEY MATCHUPS: There are any number of ways to look at Georgetown , which has been a Top 10 team this year, but perhaps the best way to look at the Hoyas is as a mad team. They were cruising along on an 11-game winning streak until going to West Virginia , where they fell and since then the Hoyas have been a .500 club, winning 3 of 6 games. Among the losses was a difficult to swallow home loss to Cincinnati , then a solid beating by a revitalized Pitt team. The Hoyas live off their defense, as does South Florida, which is first in the conference in points allowed, just ahead of Georgetown . USF has got to defend the 3-point line against the Hoyas and their Princeton-style offense as Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson and Markel Starks will launch from there, Thompson hitting 50 percent of his 3s. Ron Anderson Jr. could be an important figure for the Bulls on the boards.
FUTURES MARKET: Ron Anderson Jr. is a senior, which means his future consists of half a Big East season, and he wants to make the most of it. "I embrace every moment of it and I want my teammates to feel the same way," he said. "I feel by doing that it's going to raise the level of everybody else." And raising the level is what he wants to do at USF as his legacy. "I really want to make the tournament," he said. "I made it my freshman year (at Kansas State ) and I don't want my first year in college to be the only year I ever made it."
--Junior F Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is that rare combination of outside shooter and rebounder. Is one of just to players ranked in the top 5 in 3-point field goal percentage and the top 15 in rebounding through Jan. 29.
--Senior F Augustus Gilchrist went past 1,100 points scorer during the Bulls' victory over Providence on Jan. 29. Only 14 other Bulls have scored more points that Gilchrist in their careers.