Jones: Anything less than NCAAs is 'failure'
With 15 wins and a 5-6 start in Big East play, USF's men's basketball team has put itself in contention for the NCAA Tournament, and star guard Dominique Jones made it clear Thursday that even though the Bulls haven't made the NCAAs in 18 years, anything less than that will make this season a disappointment.
"(It's) just me and my confidence and the confidence I have in the team, if we don't make the NCAA Tournament, then the season is a failure," Jones said. "That's just me saying that. I think the team needs pressure on us. We've opened up new challenges for ourselves, and we have nothing to lose. We've been losing, so the only thing we have is something to gain. We're going out here working hard, and we hope to be in the NCAA Tournament. Y'all can write that."
The Bulls play Saturday at Marquette, then have four of their last six games at home. After never winning back-to-back conference games in their first four seasons in the Big East, the Bulls had won four straight before losing Sunday at Notre Dame. Jones said USF has the talent to move out of the bottom quarter of the league and become a competitive program.
"It's about time for us to start making ourselves known in the Big East," Jones said. "We've been here too long to just be the team at the bottom that finished second to last, always by Rutgers. It's time for us to move up."
Jones led the nation in scoring for the month of January, and his strong play has him being discussed as a potential early entry to the NBA Draft. He said that decision will have much to do with how much success he's able to lead the Bulls to this season.
"I won't leave South Florida if I'm a loser," Jones said. "I want to leave here a winner. I want this program to be something I look at 10 years later like, 'Oh, yeah, we made it to the tournament, we were top 16, something like that. I feel like I owe this school that. ... As of now, we haven't won enough. Some people think NCAA Tournament is enough. Maybe it might be. It might be the thing we need to boost this program up, or maybe we might need the Sweet 16. Those options are just something that's open for me after this season."