It came down to the wire, but the USF Bulls made their first NCAA Tournament in 20 years. Let's take a look back and see how the Bulls got to this point.
Biggest Victory: 58-51 win over Louisville
The Bulls were needing a big win to bolster their resume, and they got it when they went to Louisville and upset the #18 Louisville Cardinals. Jawanza Poland had 16 points, including a couple of big baskets to keep Louisville from making it a game. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick added 11 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
Ugliest Loss: 52-40 loss to Auburn
This was the low point in the season. The Bulls were dealing with a shortened roster due to strep throat and a suspended Poland. The Bulls were 6-5 after the loss and all hopes for any sort of tournament bid were quickly diminishing.
Who are the Bulls?
This is a team that is led by their upperclassmen. Seniors Ron Anderson Jr., Hugh Robertson, and Augustus Gilchrist lead by example with their defensive toughness. Anderson Jr. is the emotional leader, keeping the defense in check while doing all the little things to keep the team going. He's willing to take a charge, crash the boards, and doesn't mind a little contact in the paint.
Gilchrist and backup post Toarlyn Fitzpatrick can score from anywhere on the court. Gilchrist is more adept scoring in the post, while Fitzpatrick is the team's best 3-point shooter, making 41% of his attempts from deep this year.
Robertson, Jawanza Poland, and Victor Rudd are all leapers who can throw down breathtaking dunks in a moment's notice. They play tough perimeter defense, limiting opponents to 29% from behind the arc.
Anthony Collins is the man who runs the show. The freshman point guard from Houston has been a revelation running the offense this year, and will need to produce if the Bulls are to make an extended run in the tournament this year. Blake Nash is the backup and will see 5-10 minutes to spell Collins. He's more suited to play off the ball, but depth issues has forced Nash to play primarily as Collins' understudy.
Shaun Noriega is the team's sharpshooter and will only see limited minutes.
Why They'll Go Far in the NCAA Tournament
Defense. They say defense wins championships, and the Bulls are one of the best in the country with keeping teams from filling out the scoresheet. USF regularly keeps teams under 50 points and will force you into tough shots possession after possession.
You also need a quality point guard, and Anthony Collins has stepped up in a big way this year for Coach Stan Heath. He sees the court well, can make the tough pass, and has started to find his own shot as the season progressed. The Bulls don't get rattled and forces the other team to play to their tempo.
Why the Won't
Not enough scoring. Eventually someone will get hot and the Bulls will have to keep up on the scoreboard. Without a consistent go-to scorer, the Bulls will eventually have a prolonged drought that will send them to elimination.
First Round Opponent: Who are the Cal Golden Bears?
The Cal Golden Bears (24-9) were the only at-large team to make it out of the PAC-12. While lacking a Top 50 RPI victory, Cal was able to get in with 9 wins over the RPI Top 100. The Golden Bears finished 2nd in the PAC 12 and exited the PAC 12 tournament in the semifinals, losing to eventual champions Colorado.
Cal isn't a particularly deep team, but they have a quality starting five led by Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe. They play a little quicker and will run their offense through their guards. Along with Gutierrez and Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Harper Kamp score in double figured. No one else averages more than 7 points a game. Cal also has a player named Bak Bak, which is always nice.
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