Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF Bulls remaining steady, focused during late NCAA Tournament push

USF coach Stan Heath, left, with assistant Eric Skeeters, says he’s impressed with how his team has stayed on an even keel.


USF coach Stan Heath, left, with assistant Eric Skeeters, says he’s impressed with how his team has stayed on an even keel.

TAMPA — Stan Heath had been relatively relaxed in the moments before Sunday's game against Cincinnati. That is, until he was reminded of the 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 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. "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."

This opponent isn't one Heath worries about overlooking; USF's history against Louisville isn't pretty. The Bulls are 3-25 against the Cards, having lost 11 in a row. They've won once at Louisville, in 1998, but Heath said his team won't lack for confidence.

"This is a little different Louisville team than in the past. They've always had great talent," Heath said. "I think this team maybe doesn't have the same kind of depth as Louisville teams past. Because of that, I'm not sure they can go 40 minutes straight of pressing and really attacking you the way they've done in the past."

Relatively speaking, Louisville is vulnerable: The Cardinals have lost three Big East games at home, the most they've dropped since their first season in the conference in 2005-06. In the past two weeks, they've played close games; last-place DePaul took them to overtime, and Pittsburgh, which USF swept, lost by only three this week. The Cardinals lost at Cincinnati, which lost to the Bulls on Sunday.

USF has gained attention as one of the most compelling teams on the NCAA bubble, having overcome early injuries and nonconference struggles to battle for a top-four seed and double bye in the Big East tournament. Since Dec. 28, the Bulls haven't lost to an unranked opponent, which only Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina can boast.

Tonight is a different challenge: stepping up and beating a ranked opponent on the road, potentially filling that biggest hole in their NCAA resume. They'll have another chance at a key win Saturday at home against West Virginia, but for now, their focus is squarely on Louisville and a historic opportunity.

"The plays we're making out there, I feel like they're not really plays for us," senior Ron Anderson said after the Cincinnati win. "They're plays for the university, for the overall success of the program, really."

USF Bulls remaining steady, focused during late NCAA Tournament push 02/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chris Archer, 25,000 Cubs fans and Tampa Bay's painful truth

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The biggest ovation inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night was not for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was returning for the first time since managing the Rays.

    "W" flags fly in the stands after the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Rays Tuesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. A rendering of the Bucs' indoor practice facility.
  3. Clemson reunion for Bucs' Adam Humphries, Vikings' Mackensie Alexander


    Bucs receiver Adam Humphries will have a familiar face lining up against him Sunday when he's in the slot and the Vikings have Mackensie Alexander guarding him as their nickel defensive back.

    Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries (10) makes a reception before being tackled by Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Cooper (31) Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Cubs, trying to get even with Joe Maddon


    After a tough 2-1 loss on Tuesday, the Rays take on the Cubs again tonight, looking to split the two-game series with former manager Joe Maddon.

    The Rays are starting young lefty Blake Snell.
  5. Whatever USF has to say about Temple waits till Thursday


    "The holes were wide open. Anyone could have run through them."

    South Florida Bulls cornerback Mazzi Wilkins (23) intercepts a pass during the second half of the home opener for the South Florida Bulls against the Stony Brook Seawolves at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times