TAMPA — Wherever the USF men's basketball team is picked to finish when the preseason poll of Big East coaches is released today in New York, it's safe to say that it will be a source of motivation for the Bulls in the upcoming season.
USF took a huge leap forward last spring, going 9-9 in the conference to finish ninth after going a combined 11-57 in its first four seasons in the league. But after losing star G Dominique Jones a year early to the NBA draft, the Bulls are still likely to be picked in the bottom four of the conference standings. The team's expectations are considerably higher.
"I feel just as good as I did last year," PG Anthony Crater said. "We've got speed, height, athleticism, just as much as we had last year, so I feel just as good. … To be totally honest, not being cocky, but this is how confident I am. … Last year we won 20 games. This year, we want to win 25. This year, we want to make sure we make the (NCAA) Tournament, instead of being right there on the edge of making it and not making it. I feel great about this."
Coach Stan Heath is confident in his frontcourt, led by junior F Augustus Gilchrist and senior C Jarrid Famous, double-digit scorers as inside complements to Jones, who led the league in scoring in conference games at 23.2 points per game. Now they will be more the focal point as USF eases in new starters in the backcourt, likely junior Hugh Robertson and sophomore Shaun Noriega.
"I think our leadership has been the best we've had," Heath said. "I think Jarrid Famous and Gilchrist have really stepped up in that role and have done a nice job. Even the returning guys, like Toarlyn (Fitzpatrick), Mike (Burwell), Shaun or Crater, have really accepted that they can help the young guys come along and how important they are to our team."
Robertson and another junior college transfer, Jawanza Poland, should help USF's rebounding at small forward, and Ron Anderson, a transfer from Kansas State, is a strong inside presence to go with Famous, Gilchrist and Fitzpatrick.
"We know how Big East play is going to be," Gilchrist said. "We've really grown over the summer, and you'll see the results of that this year."
Frenzy finalized: USF will hold a "Bulls Frenzy" event Friday night in the Sun Dome, allowing fans to watch the football game at Cincinnati on the video screens and see both basketball teams scrimmage at halftime. The event is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., with free pizza and ice cream for all, as well as fan contests against players.
Second generation: Four USF football coaches have sons playing high school football in the area. Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch's son Curtis, a freshman quarterback at Steinbrenner who turns 15 today, threw a 79-yard touchdown with 1:32 remaining in a 27-24 win Friday against Middleton. Skip Holtz's son Trey and grad assistant Steve Bird's son Ryan are junior quarterbacks who are behind college-bound seniors at Plant and Land O'Lakes, putting them in strong position to start next fall. And defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves' son, Vernon III, is making a name as a sophomore cornerback at Wharton.
This and that: Back-to-back 1-0 wins against Louisville and Cincinnati over the weekend have the women's soccer team at 9-4-3, matching the program's most wins since 1999. USF finishes the regular season at home, with St. John's on Friday and Syracuse on Sunday. … Men's soccer, behind GK Jeff Attinella, hasn't allowed a goal in six matches entering tonight's game at Cincinnati. The Bulls (8-2-3) are in third in their division with four matches left in the regular season.