You said it. I know you did. I did too. After USF laid an egg at home against St. John's, everyone thought the dream was dead. There was no way the Bulls could squeak into the NCAA tournament. It was over. But now USF has won their last three, and they're headed to New York with a 9-9 conference record, 19-11 overall. It's the exact scenario I wondered about a month ago. A win against DePaul on Tuesday gives them their first 20-win season since 1990. Then another win might get their ticket punched. All I know is that this is a hell of a lot more fun than treating any conference win like it was time to cut down the nets.
There were two big stories today. One was USF's hustle and intensity. They were after every loose ball hard, and got most of them. They even did some good work when the Huskies tried a zone. And they were by far the more aggressive team. Getting to the rim was a priority today, and it led to easy baskets and a big free-throw advantage. They shot 53% from the field and only took six threes.
The second was UConn being so flat from the end of the first half to the start of the second that Jim Calhoun pulled all five Huskies on the court at the 16:04 mark, including seniors Jerome Dyson, Gavin Edwards, and Stanley Robinson. None of them returned to the game. USF took full advantage of their - let's just say it - laziness to get open baskets and shut them down defensively. That 17-1 run spanned from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second. It broke open the game, and it was enough of a cushion for the Bulls to hang on when it got close.
(Not as ballsy of a move as it seems, by the way. I mean what did Calhoun have to lose at that point? They were gonna get beat by 25 points if he didn't do something. What he did was instill, in my opinion, a work ethic that's as good as any team in our league and almost any league in the country. Translation: They suck but they try hard. Yeah, I got a little tired of all his stupid pat-on-the-head quotes.)
One thing to work on - you can tell the Bulls aren't used to having big leads because they aren't totally sure what to do when teams start pressing and fouling to try and get back in it. It happened a little bit against Cincinnati and obviously it happened today. The nice thing was that everyone contributed a little bit down the stretch to hold on. Chris Howard made some big free throws, Famous had a clutch putback, and Gilchrist had a huge block in the final 30 seconds to pretty much seal the game.