"The strength of any conference is its balance and that is especially true with the BIG EAST," head coach Robert McCullum said. "To open against a team like West Virginia, a program that played as well as any in the nation last March, is obviously a big challenge. It also provides an early opportunity for our fans to see the caliber of collegiate basketball they have been yearning for."
Including the 13-game non-league schedule, the Bulls will face a total of 11 teams with postseason experience in 2004-05 and that number could increase based on the squad's regular season tournament matchups at Missouri State and Hawaii.
"This schedule is easily the most challenging we have had during my tenure at USF," McCullum said. "To have two NCAA-potential programs in Michigan (2004 NIT Champions) and UAB (back-to-back NCAA appearances) playing on your home court in non-conference action is rare. We will be extremely well-prepared for BIG EAST play when January arrives."
The 16-game BIG EAST slate features home contests with the Mountaineers, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Connecticut and Georgetown. The Bulls will make road trips to Syracuse, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, Louisville, Notre Dame, Providence and Rutgers. Seton Hall, Villanova and Notre Dame will all be first-time opponents for USF.
USF fans will be treated to visits from five BIG EAST squads with postseason appearances in 2004-05. West Virginia, Villanova and Connecticut all made runs in the NCAA Tournament and both DePaul and Georgetown were invited to participate in the National Invitation Tournament.
"With the quality of the programs in the BIG EAST, we are going to be able to feature an outstanding home schedule every year," McCullum said. "Teams like Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville will all be making trips to Tampa in future seasons. If you combine that with a challenging non-conference schedule, USF fans will have numerous opportunities to see top-level competition."
The BIG EAST schedule makers provided USF with an evenly distributed home and road schedule. The Bulls' longest conference home stand is only two games, but back-to-back contests are also the longest duration the team will be away from Tampa.
USF's longest overall home streak is three games, which begins with non-league action versus Bethune-Cookman (Dec. 28) and concludes with the BIG EAST opener against WVU. The Bulls also face UAB on Dec. 30.
Game times and complete television information will be released at a later date.