1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

Sorry to burst your bubble, fans, but USF still has work to do

The men’s basketball team has a chance to rack up quality wins in the next two weeks.
The USF bench celebrates the lead over the East Carolina during the second half at the Yuengling Center n Feb. 10. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Feb. 12

TAMPA — Suddenly, people can’t look away from a program previously deemed an eyesore.

USF, the surprise of the college hoops stratosphere, has transitioned from doormat to darling in Year 2 of the Brian Gregory Era. Its current five-game win streak is its longest in conference play in 27 years. And not only are the Bulls (17-6, 7-4 AAC) winning, they’re winning in bizarre, breathtaking fashion.

When they’re not beating buzzers (see SMU), they’re rallying from double-digit halftime deficits (see East Carolina) or holding on for dear life after squandering immense leads (see Memphis).

Related: Bulls men top East Carolina in OT for fifth consecutive win

“There’s a lot of basketball left to be played, and ... I’m excited because we keep getting better,” Gregory said. “So I’m excited to see how good we could get by the end of the year.”

By then, maybe ― maybe ― realistic fans can add bracketology to the Bulls’ lexicon. To do it now is premature.

While USF hoops finally is back on the map, it’s not on the NCAA Tournament bubble. At least not yet.

For all the excitement this club has forged, it hasn’t earned what a selection committee would deem a quality win at this point. The Bulls are 67th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, which have replaced RPI as the committee’s primary evaluation tool. But they’re 0-3 against teams ranked 66th or better.

Their best win at this point was against Memphis (68th). Their only other triumph against a top-100 club was a 76-68 home victory against Connecticut (79th) on Jan. 2.

Check out ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest projection for the 68-team field, and USF isn’t to be found. Currently, four American Athletic Conference teams (UCF, Houston, Cincinnati, Temple) are on Lunardi’s bracket; the AAC never has had more than four teams make the NCAAs in its five-year history.

Even the 32-team NIT isn’t yet a lock for the Bulls, especially in light of that event’s tweaked selection process. Now, Division I conference regular season champions who fail to win their respective league tournaments and don’t earn NCAA bids are guaranteed a spot in the NIT.

As a result, the at-large field is limited. Tulsa finished 19-12 (and 12-6 in the AAC) last season, but wasn’t extended an NIT invitation. In 2016, Gregory’s Georgia Tech squad won 19 regular season games (two against top-20 opponents) and finished 8-10 in the ACC, but was seeded only fourth in the NIT.

Fortunately for USF, its entire postseason outlook can change by month’s end. Four consecutive quality wins are there for the taking, including Wednesday night’s showdown at UCF (46th in NET rankings), which comes to the Yuengling Center on Feb. 27.

Sandwiched between that pair of rivalry games are a home contest Saturday against Temple (55th) and a Feb. 23 trip to Houston (seventh). If the Bulls can go 2-2 or even 3-1 in that stretch, the postseason talk becomes warranted.

But now, it’s way too early.

“I think one of the things this team has been great at is staying focused on the task at hand, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve gotten better,” Gregory said. “We haven’t looked ahead and said, ‘Okay, in this next four-game stretch ...’ We’re just taking it game by game.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.


  1. USF guard Enna Pehadzic (0), USF center Shae Leverett (21) and Houston guard Julia Blackshell-Fair (33) battle for A loose ball at the Yuengling Center last season. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Bulls also have an afternoon home game the same day as the Gasparilla parade.
  2. The Bucs will get their first look at rookie Daniel Jones Sunday when he starts for the New York Giants in a 4:25 p.m. game against Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. FRANK VICTORES  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Exploring quarterback changes for the New York Giants, Florida Gators and USF Bulls.
  3. USF quarterback Jordan McCloud (12) runs against Georgia Tech during the second half of a Sept. 7 game. JON BARASH  |  AP
    Additionally, quarterback Jordan McCloud makes the AAC weekly honor roll.
  4. USF redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud warms up before Saturday night's game against South Carolina State. McCloud totaled five touchdowns in the Bulls' 55-16 triumph. SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times] SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The redshirt freshman’s five total touchdowns were the most by a Bulls first-time starter
  5. USF rejoices after defensive end Kirk Livingstone, getting hugged, recovers a first-half fumble against South Carolina State. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Journal: The Bulls force a single-game record eight turnovers against South Carolina State.
  6. Relentless pressure caused this first-half fumble; No. 20 Bentlee Sanders knocking it free with No. 4 Greg Reaves ready to pounce. USF recovered, then scored a touchdown just a few plays later against visiting South Carolina State. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    At least one unit still has some serious shortcomings entering conference play.
  7. Not perfect, but not too bad for USF quarterback Jordan McCloud in his first college start. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The redshirt freshman quarterback totals five touchdowns in his starting debut as the Bulls beat South Carolina State 55-16.
  8. UCF defensive back Aaron Robinson runs after intercepting a pass against Stanford during the first half of Saturday's 45-27 Knights win. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Fennelly: Like last year and the year before, Saturday’s big win (this one over Stanford) isn’t music to every ear.
  9. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel throws a pass against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday in Orlando. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    The true freshman quarterback throws four touchdowns in a 45-27 victory over the Pac-12 Cardinal.
  10. Warming up before the game Saturday night, USF redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud, a Plant High alum, got his first start as a college quarterback. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The former Panther gets the nod over Blake Barnett against South Carolina State.