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PROVIDENCE -- The USF Men's Basketball team, represented by Head Coach Stan Heath and players Victor Rudd and Anthony Collins, has been picked to finish 8th in the new American Athletic Conference.
The American is essentially compiled of the leftover teams from last year's Big East conference along with Conference USA's top-tier teams. The competition will be much milder for the Bulls, who had to face teams like Georgetown, Marquette, and Syracuse twice each in past seasons.
USF received only 27 points in the conference poll, which finished just ahead of UCF and Rutgers, who received 24 and 16 points, respectively.
"I think any competitive person you know it's something that you're going to store away and when it's time to get out there, you go every single day at practice knowing that you have a chip on your shoulder. You have to prove yourself. It's not unfamiliar territory, we kind of been in that spot all the time," said Heath. "We prove people wrong almost every single year by going to the tournament or post-season play so, we have been in this before and we understand the perception standpoint of the east coast media and now a lot of teams are familiar with the Memphis and Louisville in that area. They just don't know us. They don't know who we have. They don't know what we're doing. So I see why that happens, but at the same time it keeps a chip on your shoulder to play."
Louisville, who was widely regarded as the conference favorite before the poll was released, received 81 points and was voted the number one team unanimously by the coaches.
Although the Bulls aren't receiving much notoriety on the national stage, the Bulls haven't lost focus of their own goals.
"I think we are very confident", said junior guard Anthony Collins. "We know what we have. We compete against each other every day to push each other. We know we have a great coaching staff. You know we are going to just keep pushing and keep working during the season. We are looking to prove people wrong."
Last season, he led the team with 194 assists and after two years, he's already 10th in school's history with 355 assists. He also averaged 8.6 points a game. Let him tell it, he's a pass first guard and not the type of guard who wants to take all of the shots.
"I think I'm going to have to do a little bit of both," said Collins. "You know I am going to take whatever the defenses give me. This off season I worked a lot on my jump shot, so if they are playing off of me, I will look to shot it. And if they are helping like they normally do, I am going to kick it to my teammates and make the right play. Whichever way I need to play to win, then I am going to do it. If I need to score more points for us to win, I will do that. If I need to pass it, I will do that."
Victor Rudd, senior forward out of Los Angeles, Calif., led the team in scoring last season with 12.3 points a game. He's another main piece to the Bulls' success this season. John Egbunu is making some noise on campus as one of the newcomers. Standing firm at 6-10 and weighing 230-pounds, he will be a roadblock to get through for the other big men in the nation. Egbunu is rated 83rd nationally and eleventh overall at his position by Rivals.com. USF also signed Chris Perry from Bartow, Fla., who will be a legit threat to other power forwards in the country.
Perry, 6-8, 245-pounds, is a Rivals three-star power forward. As a junior, he averaged 13.3 points and 11.5 rebounds.
Rudd recently told the media that the team has stapled magazine polls and newspaper cutouts about last year's underachieving team around the locker room for motivation.
Rankings don't seem to bother Coach Heath as he looked over the fact that his team is ranked No. 8 in the preseason AAC rankings. But his players are paying attention to what's being said about them.
"Yeah absolutely", Heath said with a smile on his face. "I wish they didn't; I wish they would just take care of business. But now with social media, you know they see all of that. They look at the magazines. They see where they are picked. They see who's all conference; who's all this; who's all that. The definitely take all of those things to heart. I think most good players do that."
USF hosts Barry University in an exhibition game on November 4th and opens the season against Tennessee Tech on November 9th at the Sun Dome.