No surprise: USF picked last in Big East
No real surprise, but USF's men's basketball team has been picked by league coaches to finish last out of 16 teams, the Big East announced Wednesday from their annual basketball preseason media gathering at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Bulls went 3-15 last season and are 7-43 in three seasons in the Big East, and the preseason pick makes it easy for USF to overachieve this season. Coach Stan Heath is still waiting to find out if talented forward Gus Gilchrist, a transfer from Maryland, can get an NCAA hardship waiver allowing him to play this season.
Bulls sophomore guard Dominique Jones has a little motivation of his own, as he wasn't among 11 players selected for the Big East's preseason All-Conference team -- nor three honorable mentions. Jones ranked seventh in the league in scoring as a freshman, getting 17.1 points per game, and that total ranks fourth among returning players, behind Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, Pittsburgh's Sam Young and Cincinnati's Deonta Vaughn.
Connecticut was chosen by coaches to win the league, getting nine of 16 first-place votes. Louisville and Pittsburgh were next with three first-place votes each, and Notre Dame came in fourth, getting a single first-place votes.
The new predicted standings allow us to revisit USF's league schedule, which ranked as the conference's most difficult using last year's standings. It's still not kind to the Bulls, as four of the five games they'll play against teams expected to finish 12th or lower (in essence, the opponents they're most likely to beat) are on the road, making those games harder. The Bulls also have four of the five games they'll play against the league's top four teams (Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame) on the road, making a huge upset that much harder.
It does, however, mean that if you look at the middle of the league -- the teams expected to finish between fifth and 11th -- the Bulls have seven of those eight games at the Sun Dome, making it easier for the Bulls to pull off wins in reasonable upsets.