South Florida (12-19) vs. Rutgers (11-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 12, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedExForum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: USF 7-10, Rutgers 10-10. Away Record: USF 5-7, Rutgers 1-10. Neutral Record: USF 0-2, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: USF 3-15, Rutgers 5-13. Series Record: Rutgers leads, 7-6.
GAME NOTES: The first round of the inaugural American Athletic Conference Tournament kicks off on Wednesday, as the 10th-seeded South Florida Bulls take on the seventh-seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights at FedExForum.
There is no wave of momentum, at least in a positive direction, for the Bulls heading into the postseason. They lost each of their final eight games of the campaign to fall to 12-19 overall 3-15 in the AAC (last place). They are two years removed from their last NCAA Tournament appearance, but they have not won a conference tournament since hoisting the Sun Belt trophy back in 1990.
Rutgers, like USF, is one of the teams in the AAC to hail from the former version of the Big East. The Scarlet Knights never found their footing in their only league and didn't have much luck this year either. Playing their first season under head coach Eddie Jordan they wound up at 11-20 overall and 5-13 in conference play, and they come in having lost seven of their last nine games.
Luckily for the Scarlet Knights, both victories in that stretch came against USF, improving their lead in the all-time series to 7-6.
The winner this time around has the unenviable task of facing defending national champion and second-seeded Louisville in the quarterfinals.
Temple's Quenton DeCosey hit a floater at the buzzer to sink USF in a 66-65 win for the Owls in the regular-season finale. The Bulls only connected on 39.4 percent of their total shots, but kept the game close by outscoring the Owls 26-4 off of turnovers.
The Bulls have had trouble putting points on the board all season, ranking last in the AAC in scoring (65.5 ppg), while shooting a modest 43.4 percent from the field. Victor Rudd (15.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the only surefire bet on the roster, although Corey Allen Jr. (9.2 ppg) finished with a game-high 18 points to go with five assists against Temple. Rudd is the only double-digit scorer on the roster and the leading rebounder as well. At least the future is bright for USF, with John Egbunu (7.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Chris Perry (8.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) both named to the AAC All-Rookie team.
Rutgers was also handed a loss in the regular-season finale, although it did put up a struggle against eventual regular-season champion Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights forced 17 turnovers and owned a 39-34 edge on the glass in the 70-66 setback.
The Scarlet Knights are a more formidable offensive squad than the Bulls, netting 72.4 ppg, despite having a field goal percentage below that of USF (.431). Myles Mack (15.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Kadeem Jack (14.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) are the ringleaders for Jordan's squad, with each providing plenty of scoring. Jack tallied 15 points to go with 12 rebounds against Cincinnati, while Mack finished with only 10 points, but continued to show his improvement as a passer, handing out nine assists. J.J. Moore (11.2 ppg) is another decent scorer, coming off a 19-point showing in the finale.
Although USF may be the better team in the future, Rutgers has more offensive balance and firepower now and will advance to the next round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 68, South Florida 64
03/12 10:39:08 ET