Big East gives USF tough hoops slate
The Big East has announced the home and away opponents for men's basketball -- no dates for a while still -- and as the Bulls try to climb up through the standings of a ridiculously deep league, they're not getting much help from the conference.
To fill an 18-game schedule, each school has three "mirror" opponents it plays both home and away -- last season, USF got a nice break with double doses of Rutgers, Seton Hall and Syracuse, which meant five league games against teams that had failed to reach the Big East tournament the previous year.
This time around? The Bulls double up against Louisville, which tied for second in the league last season; West Virginia, which tied for fifth; and DePaul, which tied for 12th. It's not the kind of draw you'd expect to be handed to a program that's finished near or at the bottom of the league standings all three years it's been in the Big East.
"Our schedule makers have an impossible job," coach Stan Heath said in a statement. "We’ve got a tough draw but we won’t back away from the challenge. We have a tough slate in front of us but knowing the schedule we have will make us work harder."
What's more, three of the four games against the weakest non-mirror opponents are on the road, with trips to Rutgers, St. John's and Seton Hall, making those games that much harder for the Bulls to win. You can't discount the relevance of location, remembering that USF is 1-24 on the road since joining the Big East.
The home lineup is enticing -- in addition to Louisville and West Virginia, the Bulls play host to Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse, as well as Villanova, Cincinnati and Providence. That leaves Notre Dame, Connecticut and Pittsburgh as the toughest road-only opponents on the schedule.
Again, the Bulls are assured of making the Big East tournament this year, as the format expands to 16 teams. But if they weren't, a schedule like this would make it that much harder for USF to finish in the top 12, something that likely stands as a reasonable first goal as Stan Heath tries to make his team more competitive in a deep, deep league.
Thoughts? Expectations? How many Big East wins would constitute an impressive step forward for USF basketball in 2008-09?