Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bulls Return To Big East China Shop

USF coach Stan Heath has reason to smile after leading Bulls to NIT last season, but will need to effectively replace Dominique Jones to return to postseason play. (Photo courtesy of GoUSFBulls.com)

At Big East media day last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with South Florida coach Stan Heath for a few minutes, and not just because he was easily accessible. The affable Heath had discussed at length with me how USF had built respect in recent years with their upset of Syracuse and near-upset of UConn in overtime, and the respect multiplied just a few months later when the Bulls participated in the NIT. One year later, I was unable to gauge Heath's opinion of the upcoming season, but I am sure there is still optimism emanating from Tampa as the Bulls prepare to open their 2010-11 campaign on November 12th against Southern Mississippi.

USF has undergone a makeover since taking the court for the last time back in March, as Dominique Jones was selected in the NBA draft after deciding to forgo his senior season. Without Jones, a core of young and talented players still remains for the Bulls, including twin towers Jarrid Famous and Augustus Gilchrist, who Heath considered to be the Big East's best frontcourt in an interview with college basketball insider Jon Rothstein of MSG and 1050 ESPN Radio in New York. Although picked 13th in the Big East preseason poll, USF also returns former Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater to the backcourt, which gets a new arrival in Coach Heath's oldest son Jordan, a freshman who becomes the first Big East player to play for his father since current Michigan coach John Beilein's son Patrick was a reserve for West Virginia in the early 2000s.

USF's nonconference schedule features a matchup against NCAA Tournament team BYU the day after Thanksgiving, as well as a possible meeting with Sweet 16 participant St. Mary's the following day should the Gaels defeat Texas Tech. December 12th marks a homecoming of sorts, as the Bulls travel to Kent State, a school Stan Heath led to the Elite Eight back in 2002. The Bulls open their Big East season on the road against Seton Hall on December 28th before heading to Gampel Pavilion to face UConn on New Year's Eve.

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