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South Florida's Stan Heath
South Florida (19-12, 12-6)
Strength of Schedule: 23
Quality Wins: Louisville, Cincinnati
South Florida did not do itself any favors by losing its final game, at home to West Virginia. After going to Louisville and ruining senior night for the Cardinals, USF seemed like a good bet for the tournament, finally getting that marquee win it had been searching for all season.
South Florida’s 12 wins in conference far exceeded the dreams of even the staunchest of USF fans. But its home record was even more impressive.
The Bulls’ normal on-campus home, the Sun Dome, was closed for renovations and forced the team to play its home games in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, off-campus in downtown Tampa. USF had a hard enough time drawing fans when it played on campus.
At times the cavernous Tampa Bay Times Forum had so few fans it made games look like shootarounds. That’s what makes its 14-2 record at home so special, with its only losses coming to No. 9 Connecticut and the aforementioned Mountaineers.
USF has allowed the fewest amount of points of any team in the Big East and gave Syracuse a run for its money at the Carrier Dome, only allowing 56 points to the high-powered Orange.
In its last four games against Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia, USF has allowed 56, 45, 51 and 50 points respectively. USF’s defensive prowess shows it can play with the big boys.
West Virginia (19-12, 9-9)
Strength of Schedule: 13
Quality Wins: Georgetown, Cincinnati
West Virginia has spent the entire season trying to find its identity. It started the season 10-3, with its losses coming to a respectable Kent State, a very good Mississippi State and an excellent Baylor, by only two points in overtime. It also found ways to beat Kansas State and Miami along the way.
Then the Big East schedule started. First West Virginia beat Villanova by 14, then it lost Seton Hall by 19, then it beat Rutgers and No. 9 Georgetown by 19 and 12 respectively and then it was beaten by seven against UConn.
WVU won its next three games, but that would mark the only time the rest of the season it would be able to win more than two in a row. The three wins were followed by three losses, then one win, then two losses, then one win, then two losses.
With a 7-9 record in conference, West Virginia absolutely had to win its last two games against DePaul and USF. West Virginia stepped up to the challenge and evened its conference record to 9-9.
On USF’s side, the Bulls finished the season strong, winning 6-of-8 and getting that road win at Louisville. No team has ever won 12 games in the Big East and not made the tournament, so USF should be safe, although a win in the Big East Tournament certainly won’t hurt.
West Virginia had trouble staying focused this season but has been battle tested. The Mountaineers took five teams to overtime this year and amassed a 4-1 record doing so, with the only loss coming against Baylor, by two, in the finals of the Las Vegas Classic. But they beat the likes of Kansas State and Cincinnati.
Just like USF, West Virginia should be in, but a win in the Big East Tournament should cement its NCAA tournament chances.