During the South Florida Bulls' four-game winning streak, a run that's brought them to 17-10 and 10-4 in Big East play, the questions have started. Is this really an NCAA Tournament-worthy team? Where's their indelible, signature win on the resume? Tonight the Bulls get a chance to claim one as they visit the Carrier Dome and face off against the second-ranked Syracuse Orange.
Mind you, it will hardly be an easy task. Syracuse is 27-1, losing only at Notre Dame when center Fab Melo was sitting out due to academic concerns. They have a deep, balanced team that overwhelms most opponents -- Kris Joseph leads the team in scoring, C.J. Fair and Melo are tied for the lead in rebounding, Scoop Jardine averages five assists per game at the point, and Dion Waiters is instant offense off the bench. And of course, they have their famous/infamous 2-3 zone, with their size and wingspan on the front line, and Melo averaging three blocked shots per game.
For one of the rare times since joining the Big East, USF is not a team to be taken lightly. While this could have been a trap game in past years, you can bet Syracuse will take the Bulls seriously. Not only that, but the Orange are fresh off a scare on Sunday afternoon against lowly Rutgers. They won 74-64, but the Scarlet Knights hung tough at home for nearly the entire game until Jardine's back-breaking three-pointer with 90 seconds left finally gave Syracuse breathing room. Certainly Jim Boeheim will not stand for two subpar efforts in a row out of his team.
USF hit double-digit conference wins for the first time ever on Sunday night, a streak that reached all the way back to their first season in a basketball conference (the Sun Belt) in 1976-77. In a 56-47 win at Pittsburgh, Anthony Collins was in control with a career-high 22 points and six assists, and USF also got 11 points from Victor Rudd and nine rebounds from Ron Anderson Jr. A win tonight would give the Bulls their longest Big East winning streak ever and their highest-ranked victim in school history, plus put a huge win on their NCAA Tournament profile. But they're going to have to earn it.