What, me worry?
After coming off USF’s historic win Wednesday at Louisville, Bulls head coach Stan Heath felt confident his team would get an NCAA tournament berth.
Now he is expressing concern that maybe USF has not locked up a bid.
Is he trying to keep his players motivated or has his anxiety level risen along with the Bulls’ climb up the RPI?
Perhaps a little of both.
His uneasiness is legitimate. It has been 20 years since the USF men have made it to the dance, and the Bulls’ resume has blemishes.
But ESPN college basketball guru Dick Vitale says don’t fret.
Dickie V. sees USF getting in even if it loses to West Virginia in its regular season finale today at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and goes one and done in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
“My VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) SAYS THEY R IN BABY! And (Anthony) Collins has become a Diaper Dandy. Twelve wins in this conference should make them a lock,” Vitale said in a text Friday.
Others are not so sure.
Southeast High boys basketball coach Elliot Washington, who played at Alabama, can’t forget how his Tide got slighted last year.
Don’t take anything for granted, he warns.
’Bama didn’t get in despite a 21-11 overall record that included a 12-4 SEC regular season and first-place finish in the West Division. In the SEC tourney, the Tide lost in the semifinal to Kentucky, which went on to win the conference crown and beat Georgia, which got in.
“USF is 2-7 against RPI top-50 teams, so you can’t be sure of anything,” Washington says.
Here is a big difference. Alabama had an 80 RPI ranking last March, and right now USF is 35th, which is the sixth best in the Big East.
But remember last year when Shaka Smart was Public Enemy No. 1 on many college campuses when his Virginia Commonwealth squad got in. Dickie V was one of the biggest protesters.
Despite a 19-11 record and 12-5 mark in the Big East, USF is not taking any chances and was offering $10 tickets and “Madness” T-shirts. The school is close to selling out the lower bowl in the 15,000 seat arena.
USF is billing it as the biggest home game in 20 years.
Vitale says don’t worry. No reason to panic.
“You cannot tell me that a team which is well over .500 in a conference that is rated third in the RPI doesn’t belong in the field of 68,” he says.
The West Virginia game is reminiscent of Dec. 8, 2001, in the Sun Dome when the Bulls played Florida in an ESPN game in front of a near-capacity crowd.
A special attraction was USF’s Altron Jackson from Riverview High going against Booker High great Justin Hamilton.
Matt Bonner scored 31 points to lead Florida to a 92-73 victory. Hamilton, held Jackson, USF’s No. 2 career scorer, to a season-low eight points and added six assists and six steals.
USF has lost seven straight to West Virginia (18-12, 8-9), which probably needs this game more than the Bulls despite an extremely tough schedule.
Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins has had his way with USF now and when he was at Cincinnati.
Will he continue this mastery over USF? Does it matter?
Dickie V says no. Enjoy your weekend, Bulls’ fans!
But he has been wrong as has Jay Bilas and all those who hold a Ph.D. in college hoops!
Certainly Heath will sleep a lot easier tonight if his Bulls can get the win.
It’s all a little maddening!
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.