By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - A memorable 2011-12 run has helped the USF men's basketball team earn its highest conference ranking to start a season.
The Bulls were picked eighth in Wednesday's Big East Preseason Coaches' Poll at the start of the conference's media day in New York City. Head coach Stan Heath's squad received a total of 96 points and is ahead of UConn, St. John's, Rutgers, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall and Providence in the 15-team poll. The conference's head coaches do not put their own teams on their ballots.
The solid selection comes a season after the Bulls made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1993 and the first time the program has won two tournament games. Heath earned Big East Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Bulls to a 22-14 record (12-6 in Big East play).
Collins Makes Preseason All-Big East Second Team
Point guard Anthony Collins was the lone USF representative on a Preseason All-Big East Team.
The sophomore received second-team honors after averaging 9.0 points and 5.2 assists per game in his first season as a Bull. Collins scored in double figures in 10 of his final 11 games as a freshman and he averaged 14.4 points in his last five.
"I didn't really surprise myself. I knew I was ready to play in the Big East," Collins said. "I was ready to do whatever coach asked me to do."
Collins said the Bulls "will look totally different" than last season while they go without a true post player.
"This year we'll be playing at a faster pace. All five of us can drive, so that right there is a way to put points on the board," he said. "We'll be in transition more."
In Collins' eyes, a Bull that may look different on the court this season is senior Shaun Noriega, who has really worked hard on the defensive side of things this offseason.
"He improved dramatically over the summer," Collins said.
2012-13 Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Louisville (14), 196
3. Notre Dame (1), 166
4. Cincinnati, 152
5. Georgetown, 136
6. Pittsburgh, 132
7. Marquette, 121
8. USF, 96
9. Connecticut, 83
10. St. John's, 73
11. Rutgers, 63
12. Villanova, 61
13. DePaul, 48
14. Seton Hall, 42
15. Providence, 31
First-place votes in parentheses