TAMPA — Just as USF men's basketball earned a spot in Big East history last season with the toughest defense in the conference's 33 years, this year's Bulls are in danger of resetting conference records at the opposite end of the record book.
Last year's Bulls allowed 57.2 points per game. This year's team, which is 1-12 in Big East play, is in position to set a record for fewest average points in conference games.
USF is averaging 52.5 points in Big East games, on course to easily break the conference record of 55.6, set by Miami in going 1-17 in its first Big East season in 1991-92. Of the 15 schools in the league now, USF already has the two lowest conference scoring marks out of 350-plus seasons, averaging 56.8 points in its 1-15 Big East debut in 2005-06 and 57.4 in 2008-09.
In terms of shooting percentage, the Bulls are in position to set the same record. USF is shooting 35.6, in position to trump the mark of 36.7 percent set by Seton Hall in 1996-97.
Last year's Bulls, who went 12-6 in the Big East, had the second-best improvement in conference record in league history, up from 3-15. USF is in jeopardy of making the biggest single-season drop in Big East wins. The Bulls are down 11 from last year with five games to play; the biggest drop is 10 league wins, set by Pittsburgh last season (15-3 to 5-13) and by Connecticut in 1996-97 (17-1 to 7-11).
The biggest reason for the slip in the standings might be the dropoff on the defensive end. After having the Big East's toughest defense in terms of shooting percentage allowed in 2011-12, the Bulls are now next to last out of 15 teams, allowing conference opponents to shoot 45.4 percent.
WNIT AGAIN?: Barring a strong finish in its final five games, USF's women's basketball team (17-7, 6-5) will again fall short of the NCAA Tournament, meaning the Bulls would go to the Women's NIT for the eighth time in 10 seasons.
USF has been in position to pick up several key wins but has fallen just short, losing in overtime to No. 2 Notre Dame, falling by three to No. 12 Louisville and losing at Villanova on a foul committed with less than a second left.
THIS AND THAT: F Victor Rudd has had a ton of SportsCenter-quality dunks this season, but his 3-point shooting has been a problem. Twenty Big East players have attempted 100 or more 3-pointers this season, and only Rudd (25.5) is under 30 percent. …USF softball has gotten a strong debut from freshman C Lee Ann Spivey, who leads the team with seven RBIs in her first nine games. … Bulls pitcher Lindsey Richardson has a 0.25 ERA after pitching in eight of nine games. She was named Big East pitcher of the week. … USF baseball went 1-2 in its opening weekend and has a tough three-game set at Florida State this weekend. Senior Joe Lovecchio looked solid Saturday with five sharp innings in a 20-2 win against Purdue.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.