The Morning After Recap: Monday, January 30

... the safe, smart AM read for college basketball fans

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With a narrow victory over Providence yesterday, the South Florida Bulls quietly moved to 6-3 in the Big East. In a year where traditional powers Villanova and Pittsburgh are complete non-factors, it's only fitting that someone from the lower tier has ascended the league's hierarchy.

But of all teams, South Florida is the one to do it? Hard to believe.

It's worth noting that Stan Heath's Bulls went 3-15 in conference play last season and entered 2011-12 with comparably-awful expectations. And here we are, not even to February and this team is 13-9 overall with twice as many Big East victories as last year in half as many games. So regardless of how this all plays out, it's safe to say that Heath has done a helluva job.

But with nine conference games left to play, you have to think USF will need to reach the nine-win mark to draw any NCAA consideration at all. That means a 3-6 record down the stretch, which seems almost too easy. The main issue though, is that the Bulls' non-conference resume is borderline cancerous, and it's possible that USF's chances are directly tied to the Big East's perceived strength among committee members. Then again, the 09-10 South Florida team finished 20-13 & 9-9 and was still banished to the NIT, so it's never a sure thing to go throwing assumptions around.

Most have been quick to brush the Bulls aside because they don't appear to be a very good basketball team. But as time goes by, it's getting harder and harder to say this. South Florida might not have your full attention yet, but they definitely have ours. Is this the start of a big mid-season push, or is a fall from grace on the horizon?

The Local Guys

* Beilein on Michigan's miniscule free throw numbers: "They got fouled better than we did." (Plain Dealer)

* Junior John Henson passed Sam Perkins to become UNC's second all-time leading shot blocker (The Herald-Sun)

* Absurd: Iowa drained 79% of its shots in the second half and still lost by 14 (Indy Star)

The Blogosphere

* Time to respect the Irish? Opponents have been held to 25 or less second half points in four of ND's six Big East wins. (One Foot Down)

* A sloppy rivalry game: Oregon/Oregon State combine for 40 turnovers (Building The Dam)

* With 6:33 remaining, BC and Miami were deadlocked at 49 apiece. Annnnnd that's precisely when the Eagles fell asleep at the wheel and lost by 22. (BC Interruption)

Who Won It Best

Notre Dame - Mike Brey's slow burn is working like a charm. The Irish are gritting out wins against teams people aren't expecting them to beat, and now look like one of the Big East's most consistent squads. Sunday's win over UConn was the truest test of Notre Dame's mettle, and it passed with flying colors. There are still a few difficult road games left for the Irish to deal with, but being 3-2 away from home in the league is a wonderful sign right now.

Who Lost it Worst

St. Peter's - Shield your eyes....The Peacocks' 40-point showing against Iona yesterday set a new season-low, and likely brought fond back memories of a vomit-inducing 55-30 loss to Robert Morris two years ago. St. Peter's also gave the ball up 17 times, shot 15.4% from behind the arc, and mustered exactly 15 points in the opening half. All in all, not a very fun afternoon.

MVP

Augustine Rubit-South Alabama - The 6'6" center filled up the box score on Sunday (18 points, 19 rebounds, 5 blocks) AND hit a game-winning layup with two seconds left to give South Alabama a 68-66 win over Troy. Rubit gutted out 37 minutes and did not turn the ball over once or pick up a foul; the latter of which is flat-out strange for a guy who roamed the paint for nearly the full duration.

By The Numbers

68.5% - Field goal percentage for Cody Zeller at home this season. The freshman went 11-for-12 on Sunday and scored a career-high 26 points to help the Hoosiers topple Iowa 103-89.

This Really Happened

From Saturday - Idaho State's awesome buzzer beater

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