USF picked up the signature victory they've been seeking to add to their NCAA Tournament resume, knocking off No. 19 Louisville with a 58-51 win on Wednesday night.
The Bulls, now 19-11 and 12-5 in the Big East, are that much closer to their first NCAA berth in 20 years -- they close the season at home against West Virginia. In the Big East's history, 69 teams have won 12 conference games in the regular season and all 69 advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls hadn't beaten Louisville as a member of the Big East, having lost 11 in a row. It's only their second-ever win at Louisville, and the first since 1998. And after totaling six Big East road wins in USF's first six seasons in the league, the Bulls have won five conference road games this season.
Is USF in the NCAA Tournament now? Opinions were divided online, with ESPN's Andy Katz tweeting that it looked USF was playing its was into the field, though CBSsports.com's Jerry Palm said he still didn't think USF had punched its ticket. …
TAMPA -- Stan Heath had been relatively relaxed in the moments before Sunday's game against Cincinnati, that is, until he was reminded of the sheer significance of the run his Bulls team has been making.
"My athletic director, Doug Woolard, grabbed me before the game and said 'This is the biggest game in our history, you know that?'" Heath joked after his Bulls (18-11, 11-5 in Big East) pulled out a 46-45 thriller. "I got really nervous after that."
Today, as the Bulls see a huge opportunity -- and a difficult challenge -- playing at No. 19 Louisville, a major part of why they're in the national spotlight is the way Heath's players haven't gotten caught up in the hoopla of their rise to the NCAA Tournament bubble.
"They've done a great job of just focusing on the next task," Heath said Tuesday, knowing well that one quality win could solidify the Bulls' NCAA chances tremendously. "They know that our league is so good, the teams are so talented that if you take a night off, you really don't give yourself a chance. They lock in on the next opponent, and that's the way it should be." …
TAMPA -- As both USF basketball teams sort out their postseason future, even in a year in which the Bulls men and women were displaced from their home arena during Sun Dome renovations, Stan Heath and Jose Fernandez have improbably combined for the best improvement of any teams in college basketball's major conferences.
USF's men are 11-5 after going 3-15 last year; USF women finished 8-8 after going 3-13 a year ago. So in terms of combined conference wins, men and women, USF has 13 more than it finished last year with, easily the greatest improvement of any program in the "Power 6" conferences. The closest any school from a major conference gets is California, plus-9 entering Tuesday's games, and in all of Division I basketball, out of 344 schools, only Davidson -- a combined plus-15 -- has seen greater improvement. …
USF baseball is in Orlando tonight to face Central Florida, and sophomore lefty Nick Gonzalez will get his first start of the year as the Bulls look to bounce back from a disappointing weekend.
USF (4-3) dropped two of three to Bethune-Cookman, this after losing last Wednesday to North Florida. The Bulls had opened the year with a promising 3-0 run in the Big Ten-Big East Challenge, but they're hitting just .223 as a team, while opponents are hitting .270; UCF, by comparison, is hitting .289 as a team, though their staff ERA (4.65) is a full run higher than USF's (3.39). UCF is 5-2, but one loss came to top-ranked Florida and another came in a three-game series with Boston College.
Gonzalez has fared well in two relief appearances this season, with a 2.84 ERA and five strikeouts against only one walk. He made eight starts as a freshman last year, going 2-3 with a 7.15 ERA. UCF is going outside the box, giving junior D.J. Hicks -- arguably their best hitter -- his first start since 2009. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound right-hander hasn't pitched this season and had an 8.03 ERA last season; he made two starts as a freshman in 2009, when he went 4-5 with a 6.79 ERA. …
TAMPA -- Inga Orekhova hit a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left to force overtime, and USF pulled away from there, sending senior guard Jasmine Wynne out with a 64-56 win over Providence in the final regular-season game at USF Rec Center.
"For us to finish the season like we did today, to send off our lone senior, was really special," said Jose Fernandez, who has been sick since Wednesday, missing a few practices and Monday's shootaround.
Orekhova, who had been 1-for-9 on 3-pointers, got a screen from Tiffany Conner and hit the three, then did the same for the first points in overtime, with the Bulls clinching the win with five free throws in the final 30 seconds. Orekhova had a game-high 17 points, with Wynne adding 15 on her Senior Night; point guard Sasha Bernard had 13 points and six assists, going 7-for-8 at the line.
The Bulls (16-14, 8-8 in Big East) will be the ninth seed in the Big East tournament, opening with Pittsburgh (0-16) Friday in Hartford. The Bulls won five more conference games than they did last year, marking the best improvement in the conference this year.
USF freshman offensive lineman David "Boo" Simon was released from a Tampa hospital on Monday morning and is headed home to Alabama as doctors continue to look for causes for a series of Grand mal seizures he suffered last week.
Simon, who redshirted this past season, plans to try to finish the spring semester by taking his classes online from home, with the hopes of returning to USF this summer if the seizures can be kept under control with anti-seizure medications. His father, David, said Simon is in good spirits and was grateful for visits by dozens of teammates and USF trainers and coaches, including Skip Holtz and offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler, during his time in the hospital.
"I can't say enough good about Coach Holtz and USF's program. So many people have been in contact with us. They were wonderful," his father said.
Simon has had some "mini-seizures" that are not painful and lasting less than a second, but has not had any major seizures since he was hospitalized Friday, his father said. Simon came to USF last summer from Bay Minette, Ala., about 35 miles north of Mobile.
Former USF running back Darrell Scott said Monday that his times in the 40-yard dash Sunday at the NFL combine workout in Indianapolis were slower becau. se he has been limited by a quad injury.
"I ran with a tweaked quad, so I wasn't happy with my time," said Scott, who was timed at 4.73 seconds, among the lowest for this year's running backs. "I know I can do way better than what I did. I just wanted to go out and show the teams that even though I'm injured, I can still do it, because I had questions about my toughness. The on-field drills, I felt really comfortable. I would have felt a lot better if I was 100 percent."
Scott, who entered the draft after only one season with the Bulls, said he expects to be healthy and run at USF's pro day on March 20, giving him three weeks to get himself at full strength. He checked in at 6-foot, 230 pounds at the combine, and said he'd like to drop an additional five pounds from his frame to 225. He'd like to see his 40 time down around 4.5, he said, or even "a high 4.4." …
USF's 46-45 win against Cincinnati on Sunday showed the volatility of the NCAA Tournament bubble, as no sooner had the Bulls landed a coveted spot as the "last team in" in the bracket of ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, they saw Miami upset Florida State and grab that spot just hours later.
We'll update here as more projected brackets are updated during the day -- you could argue that no conference has a greater presence on the NCAA bubble than the Big East, which has West Virginia and Connecticut sliding, Seton Hall suddenly reeling from a loss to Rutgers, Cincinnati still facing questions and USF making a case for themselves.
-- ESPN.com's Andy Katz led his Monday notes with USF, saying they don't have the resume to get in today, but they're still working on it. Stan Heath gives him a great stat -- Bulls haven't lost to an unranked team since Dec. 28, and only other teams that can say that are Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina. Some good research there ...If you hurry, you'll see USF as the main image on ESPN's college basketball page. That's Ron Anderson, and yes, that's Judy Genshaft in the background, celebrating with her husband. (And Mike Charles!) …
Here's video from after Sunday's huge 46-45 win for USF men's basketball against Cincinnati. First, here's senior Ron Anderson and freshman Anthony Collins, talking about their late free throws to rally the Bulls to victory.
And here's coach Stan Heath, talking about how athletic director Doug Woolard told him before the game this was the biggest game in USF history. No pressure or anything. ... (the blackout in opening seconds is just my camera ...)
TAMPA -- Life on the NCAA bubble is an exciting time, and USF didn't disappoint Sunday afternoon, rallying twice in the final 30 seconds to pull off a 46-45 thriller against Cincinnati and pick up a huge boost for their tournament resume before a season-high announced crowd of 6,784 at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Senior Ron Anderson --a 48 percent free-throw shooter -- hit two free throws for a one-point lead with 26 seconds left, and after Cincinnati got the lead back on Cashmere Wright's shot with 9 seconds left, freshman Anthony Collins drove the length of the court, drew a foul and hit two free throws with 3.2 seconds left for a crucial Bulls win.
"I'm really proud of those guys, the way we handled adversity, persevered and found a way to come back," said coach Stan Heath, whose team improved to 14-1 in home games. "Anthony Collins, he's just playing incredible. I don't know how to explain it. He's a freshman. He doesn't play like a freshman, he doesn't act like a freshman. But he sure makes things happen on the court for us." …
USF freshman David "Boo" Simon, an offensive lineman from Alabama who redshirted last season, is undergoing tests in a Tampa hospital after suffering two seizures this week.
Doctors are looking for answers as to what caused the seizures -- the priority isn't football or even classes right now, but finding out what caused the seizures and learning how to control them. Simon has the option of medically withdrawing from school if necessary, though no decision has been made yet.
Simon is one of five offensive linemen who signed with the Bulls last year -- four of them redshirted, and coaches are optimistic about them developing into potential multi-year starters for USF. The Bulls open spring practice on March 21, with their spring games scheduled for April 14 and April 21.
Exciting news for USF men's basketball as the Bulls prepare for today's noon tipoff at home against Cincinnati: With Saturday's losses by Seton Hall and Connecticut, USF has clinched a first-round bye in Big East tournament and will be seeded no lower than seventh.
The Bulls (17-11, 10-5 in Big East) need probably two wins in their last three to be strongly considered for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth -- that's today at home against the Bearcats, Wednesday at Louisville and Saturday at home against West Virginia, which has dropped seven of its last nine.
The first-round bye means the Bulls will need only one win -- potentially a rematch with West Virginia -- to reach the tournament quarterfinals for the first time. USF has won opening-round games the last two years, but lost on Wednesday in the second round each time.
A win today against Cincinnati wouldn't be a top-50 win by some ratings, but it would be seen as a quality win for the Bulls and help their seeding in the Big East. Cincinnati has arguably three Big East wins stronger than USF's best win -- Georgetown, Louisville and Connecticut -- but the Bearcats also have bad losses, like at home against Presbyterian. …
USF men's soccer coach George Kiefer has landed another top international player via the junior college route, as Edwin Moalosi, a top recruit from Botswana who scored 21 goals this past season, said Saturday that he has signed with the Bulls.
Moalosi starred at Lincoln College in Illinois, and was also considering North Carolina when he took an official visit to USF last month. He'll be reunited with a teammate and friend from Lincoln, Stiven Salinas, who played for the Bulls last fall.
USF had great luck with the junior college ranks a year ago, as Dom Dwyer ended up with 16 goals and won Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors before going to Sporting KC in the MLS Draft.
Friday night's softball game between USF and Mississippi State in Clearwater was indisputably a pitchers' duel, with the Bulls' Sara Nevins edging the Bulldogs' Stephanie Becker in a 1-0 Bulls victory.
The question that remains is whether Becker threw a no-hitter against the Bulls. When the game ended, the official scorer had USF with two hits -- one in the third by Gina Kafalas that scored the game's only run, and one in the seventh by Kenshyra jackson.
According to USF, a half-hour later, the box score was amended to show only one USF hit, and then an hour after that, the official scorer again reversed an initial ruling and filed a box score with zero hits for USF, giving Becker the 13th no-hitter in Bulldogs history, even in a loss. Both hits were changed to errors by the Mississippi State third baseman.
Here's the story from Mississippi State's official site, tallying the no-hitter as the 24th thrown by a pitcher under MSU coach Vann Stuedeman. Here's the story from USF's site, crediting the Bulls with two hits. …
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