Big East Tournament 2011: Is South Florida a Big East Pretender or Contender?

Sal DeRoseCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Anthony Crater #10 of the South Florida Bulls makes a lay-up to take the lead late in the second half against Antonio Pena #0 of the Villanova Wildcats during the first round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

USF began its improbable run yesterday towards a Big East Tournament title and possibly its third appearance at The Big Dance.

The last time the Bulls made the tournament? 1992. That's right, almost 20 years ago.

A huge win over 10th-seeded Villanova has begun that run for the 15th-seeded Bulls. Anthony Crater and his do-or-die, last-second layup put the dagger in the hearts of Nova fans everywhere. A 70-69 victory has given this team some momentum and hope to win the tournament.

But, after all that, are they pretenders or contenders for this title and an automatic berth into March Madness?

It doesn't seem likely for the Bulls this season. As much as their fans may want me to say it, Cincinnati will most likely end all hopes tonight.

South Florida ended the season on a two-game losing streak to St. John's and Pittsburgh, which isn't all that bad.

Then you look at the Bulls' record to end the season: 10-22 and 3-15 in Big East play. Ouch.

Stats don't favor the Bulls either, as they are 309th in points-per-game and 273rd in field goal percentage.

It was luck last night that the Bulls won. Nova was up 16 going into halftime and basically choked. The Wildcats are possibly making the tournament, but could now be subject to becoming a bubble team.

I'm all for the Cinderella story and the small, no-name filled team making a run in any tournament. Everybody can say they have the momentum and the ability to beat anyone, and that anything can happen on any given day.

Sure. Fine. Whatever you like. That doesn't change the fact they have shown all season long they were incapable of being a .500 ball club and can't compete in the Big East, let alone its tournament.

Even if the Bulls were to win tonight against Cincinnati, they would have to face Notre Dame. It's a tough road ahead, and these Big East pretenders won't make it very far.