The South Florida men's basketball team (20-13, 12-6 Big East) received its first invitation to the NCAA tournament in twenty years and will face California (24-9) face in a first-round game at 6 p.m. PT Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will be seeded 12th in the Midwest Region and face No. 5 seed Temple Friday in Nashville, Tenn.
The selection into the NCAA field is the Bulls third tournament berth in their history, but the first since 1992. The Bulls are also looking for their first NCAA tourney win ever after losing in the first round in 1990 and 1992. Coach Stan Heath was selected as the Big East's Coach of the Year after turning around the South Florida program and for leading them into the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls got here by playing a stingy defense and forcing teams to play their style of ball. Defensively, USF is among the best teams in the nation, ranking eighth in points allowed (56.9 points per game), 16th in three-point defense and 17th in field goal percentage allowed. The Bulls win games by turning them into slugfests, which suit them just fine.
On offense the Bulls struggle to score and haven't topped 65 points since Jan. 29 and don't have a player averaging double-digit production and do as a team effort.
USF is lead by freshman Anthony Collins, who was named to the Big East All-Rookie team. Collins led all Big East freshmen with 5.3 assists, averaged 8.5 ppg, 1.6 steals, 1.9 rebounds, and had a free-throw percentage of 85.7.
Senior Augustus Gilchrist led the team with 9.6 points per game, while averaging 4.9 rebounds, and forward/guard Victor Rudd Jr. is averaging 8.4 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. Senior forward Ron Anderson Jr. has been a force inside averaging 5.5 boards per game while chipping in 7.2 points per contest and Guard Hugh Robertson is USF's best defensive weapon, averaging 6.8 ppg, 4.3 rebounds, while assigned to harass opponent's top weapons.
Coming off the bench Forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick leads the team with 6.6 rebounds per game while averaging 8.0 points per contest. Junior guard Jawanza Poland averages 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Last time out:
USF finished the regular season with a 20-13 overall record and 12-6 mark in the Big East. The Bulls claimed their opening round game in the Big East Tournament with a 56-47 win over Villanova, and then fell to Notre Dame, 57-53, in overtime.
USF and Cal have meet twice previously with each team winning at home. California won a 79-69 contest on Jan. 20, 2001, in Berkeley, while The Bulls won 79-59, on Dec. 1, 2001, in Tampa.
A look at Cal:
This is Cal's 17th invitation to the NCAA Tourney and the third time in four years under head coach Mike Montgomery. Cal is 19-16 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a national championship in 1959.
Cal's starters are led by senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Gutierrez Leads team with 37 steals while contributing 13.1 ppg.
Guard Allen Crabbe, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection leads the Bears with 15.3 ppg and 5.7 boards per game. Guard Justin Cobbs (All Pac 12 team honorable mention) averages 12.0 pts, 5.3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game. Forward Harper Kamp (2 time All Pac-12 Second Team selection ) averages double figures for the Bears with 11.3 ppg, with 5.0 boards. Freshman David Kravish , who was named to All Pac-12 Freshman Team, averages 7.1 points, 5,2 boards and has 37 blocks this season.
Coming off the bench forward Robert Thurman chipped in 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds, while guard Brandon Smith averaged 3.0 points and 1.7 boards
This will be a battle between the Bulls and the Bears. Cal averages 71.7 points per game this season with an outstanding 47.9 percent shooting, but the Bulls play a grinding-style of defense that hold opponents to just 56.9 points per game (8th in the nation) with a 38.8 percent field goal efficiency. If the Bulls can turn the contest into one of their unique style of ugly games, force bad shots and turnovers, and make a few key shots, the Bulls will advance to Nashville as a No. 12 seed against fifth-seeded Temple on Friday.