Heath hopes Providence win can spark Bulls again
TAMPA -- USF's men's basketball team isn't likely to match last year's 9-9 Big East record, but at 1-5 in league play, the Bulls have the same conference record they did after six games last year.
Last year, the catalyst for USF's strong finish was an overtime win at Providence, sparking a four-game win streak, and coach Stan Heath is hopeful that Sunday's win against the Friars can give his team some momentum during perhaps the easiest stretch of USF's Big East schedule.
"Hopefully, we can have that kind of run again," Heath said Tuesday. "It's important we take it one game at a time. The guys can draw from the past and say to themselves, 'Hey, we've been here before. We've still got an opportunity,' and seize the moment as best we can."
Starting with a game at Rutgers on Thursday night, three of the next four are on the road, and USF has yet to win a road game this season, but the opponents could help that change -- Sunday's game at No. 21 West Virginia won't be easy, but take that away, and the rest of USF's next four (Rutgers, DePaul, Providence) are a combined 1-15 in conference play.
Rutgers, whose only league win is also against the Friars, has a first-year coach in Mike Rice, but Heath said there's a familiarity because of his background as a Pittsburgh assistant.
"When you're in league play, you kind of know each other inside and out," Heath said. "When there's a new coach, obviously they have a different style. With Mike, you can see the similarities with Pittsburgh, see their defensive strategies are very similar to what Pittsburgh does. You get a little more of a feel than if someone was completely brand-new to the league."
THIS AND THAT: All three of USF's senior guards last year are playing professionally -- Dominique Jones with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, point guard Chris Howard in the Ukraine and guard Mike Mercer is now playing in Canada for the Halifax Rainmen of the Premier Basketball League. Mercer is averaging 17.0 points in his first four games. ... USF football's Scholar Athlete award went to sophomore linebacker Armando Sanchez, a Northeast graduate who earned a 4.0 grade-point average in the fall semester. Seven other Bulls had a 3.5 GPA or better in the fall. ... One sign that Skip Holtz had an inexperienced team in his first season -- of the 62 players who earned letters in 2010, 45 of them did so for just the first or second time at USF.