Yesterday we logged our picks for the best teams and players of the 2011-12 USF athletic season. Now we hand out our awards for the best and worst games of the year, along with our favorite stories and controversies.
Andrew: Basketball vs. Connecticut. We lost, but it was the best kind of loss. At the time UConn was #9. USF was 7-6, and really went through the motions in the previous game against Southern Miss. We hung in there against the defending national champs, and only lost by three. That game proved that USF basketball could hang with the best in the country. After that game, USF went 13-6 and earned an NCAA invite for the first time in 20 years.
Gary: Lots of candidates here, too. Men's basketball won a tough game at Louisville that punched their dance ticket. The NCAA blowouts of California and Temple. The softball Super Regionals with Hofstra were all tense, and that team also breezed through a difficult regional in Gainesville. The NCAA soccer quarterfinal at Creighton was a terrific match, even though USF lost.. But when you play a mistake-free football game against Notre Dame in South Bend despite deadly thunderstorms, that has to get the top prize.
Jamie: Depends on what "best game" means. USF's best-played game was the #BEATEMDOWN of California in the NCAA Tournament play-in game. The most exciting game was either men's soccer beating New Mexico on penalties in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 (complete with post-match fisticuffs), or the entire softball Super Regional between USF and Hofstra.
Ken: USF 23, Notre Dame 20. Just a bizarre marathon that included two lightning delays, five Notre Dame turnovers, Kayvon Webster's 96-yard fumble return for a touchdown that I probably yelled "GO!" 20 times, and the best Brian Kelly face ever in the history of the world. Good times all around.
Andrew: Softball beating UF in Gainesville to for the spot in the Super Regionals. Fun as heck.
Gary: Men's basketball at Louisville. It was less an upset than usual in terms of talent level, but any time the Bulls win in Louisville it's always a shocker. We're like the Washington Generals to them. Louisville went to the Final Four this year, and it was their senior night to boot. Amidst a string of near-misses (at Syracuse, vs. West Virginia, Notre Dame in the Big East tournament), this was the one time USF kept control of a big game they were leading against a superior team, and got a win they needed to go to the NCAA Tournament.
Jamie: Just on sheer shock value, I'm going with the baseball team knocking off Florida on April 24 to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Gators. The Bulls had a decent season (finally), but going to Gainesville and holding off a Gators team that ended up with the #1 overall seed in the NCAAs and just booked another trip to Omaha... that came out of nowhere. I picked it over football beating Notre Dame because, come on, Notre Dame's lost at home to Tulsa, Navy, Syracuse, and UConn the last few years. USF beating them wasn't THAT big of a stunner.
Ken: Men's basketball finally taking care of Louisville on their Senior Day. The basketball team needed a marquee win on its resume, and this win was probably the reason we saw the Bulls in the dance.
Andrew: Even though we won, the Notre Dame game was simply excruciating. Lightning delays, porous defense, and NBC's announcing team combined for as miserable a win as we could experience.
Gary: Football at Pittsburgh. Ugh. USF has won big non-conference games and then faded in Big East play before, but never has the illusion been so comprehensively destroyed in one night. Dishonorable mention: men's basketball vs. Auburn. Yeah, the machine wasn't humming yet, but the Bulls only put up 40 points against a bad team.
Jamie: Lots of football games to choose from, but the 6-3 loss to Miami was so horrible that I refused to write about it afterwards and still do. Also want to mention the men's basketball loss to Notre Dame in the Big East tournament, which was a failure pile in a sadness bowl.
Ken: Can I just say the Big East schedule for the football team? Every game was an exact replica of sadness, yelling, and eventually throwing things.
Gary: I want to use this space to praise several very funny FanPosts we got this season. Stephen Dedalus's "Victor Marc vs Yakety Sax" still cracks me up every time I watch it. Andrew P's Campus Nomads series got harder and harder to write as he ran out of campus locations and it turned out the team didn't suck. Then came "How The Fitch Stole Christmas" by EvilSkipHoltz, whose title speaks for itself. Finally, "The Ballad of Stanley Heath III" by the great gunsby. He promised to write an epic poem if USF made the NCAA Tournament, and delivered... well, epically. If you missed any of those, go read them now. And there's even more great stuff in there, like the "Heath School of Hardwood Dentistry" meme. Keep those cards and letters coming, kids.
Jamie: An easy choice here - it's Chris Bivins taking a snake with him to the USF Softball Stadium during the Super Regional. So nonsensical. So awesome.
Ken: Jennifer Holtz dropping this line on Skip when his name came up for the Arkansas job:
"Why would anybody want to hire you? You were 5-7 last year."
Gary: Could it be anything else? The implosion of the Big East Conference. Who could have imagined in September that we'd be in a league with Temple, SMU, and San Diego State? Ugh. Even worse, I'm sure this will continue to play out over the next several seasons.
Jamie: I want to give this to a very specific part of what happened to the Big East this year. Did anyone at USF do anything to try and get out of this league? Syracuse and Pittsburgh snuck off to the ACC. Louisville and West Virginia fought each other tooth and nail to get a spot in the Big XII. UConn and Rutgers made goo-goo eyes at the ACC. Cincinnati got itself in the rumor mill as a partner for Louisville if they ended up in the Big XII. And USF... what, did we just lie back and take it? We got one, obviously planted article out of Mike DeCourcy and that's it. Good job! Good effort!
Ken: Conference expansion. Bah.