Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
USF Bulls Men's Basketball
The Big Picture:
Last season, the Bulls were arguably the biggest surprise in the league. Coach Stan Heath discovered a formula how to win close games with strong defense and a steely freshman point guard. Some of the results were program firsts. The Bulls set a conference record in scoring defense, allowing only 56.9 ppg in league games. No player averaged in double figures. USF finished 22-14 overall – a school record for wins -- and a best-ever 12-6 BIG EAST mark. Heath was the BIG EAST Coach of the Year. The Bulls made the NCAA tournament for first time since 1993 and won two games. USF had never won an NCAA tourney game.
Anthony Collins was the rookie point guard who emerged as one of the league’s top young players. He averaged 9.0 points and 3.4 assists. Six-foot-4 senior Jawanza Poland averaged 8.0 points while showing tremendous athletic ability. Victor Rudd, Jr., is a 6-foot-9 junior forward who averaged 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. He came on strong for the Bulls late in the season. Six-foot-eight senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick is a veteran with some starting experienced and a surprisingly good 3-point shooter. He made 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. Shaun Noriega, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, can be a dangerous 3-point threat. Guard LaVonte Dority (3.0) played 15.1 minutes per game as a reserve.
Forward Augustus Gilchrist was the team’s leader scorer, though only with a 9.5 average. He pulled down 5.0 boards. Ron Anderson, Jr. was a dependable forward who averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds. Guard Hugh Robertson (6.5, 4.3) was a strong helper on defense. Backup point guard Blake Nash (3.4) transferred.
Heath has three starters to replace, but still has four other players who averaged at least 22 minutes per game of playing time. Only three opponents reached 70 points last season against the Bulls and Heath wants to maintain the strong defensive look, though he won’t mind some improvement on the offensive end. Freshman Javontae Hawkins can help with the perimeter shooting. Junior college transfer Musa Abdul-Aleem, who will be a sophomore, is a shooting guard candidate who may press for a starting position. Zach LeDay, a 6-foot-7 freshman, will compete at forward. At center, 7-foot-3 Jordan Omogbehin was redshirted for medical reasons as a freshman last season. Six-foot-5 freshman Martino Brock is a point guard candidate.