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'They believe in him'

Fellow Big East coaches think Coach McCullum is building a winner.

By GREG AUMAN
Published February 1, 2007


Whether USF is able to pull together enough wins to make the Big East Tournament, coach Robert McCullum is already drawing high praise from his fellow coaches. "I've always thought he is a great coach," said Marquette coach Tom Crean, who has known him since both were assistants in the Big Ten. "They play extremely hard, they compete, they execute. ... With what he's got, with the talent he has on this team and the way he's building, he's going to get it."

USF is 3-21 in Big East play, missing out on a huge upset against Crean's No. 15 Golden Eagles on Sunday, losing 70-68 on a layup at the buzzer. But Crean said the Bulls have enough to be among the 12 teams that make the conference tournament.

"The way they're playing right now, the way they played against Rutgers, beating Cincinnati, they're going to win games," Crean said. "You know why I love watching his teams? They all do what he wants. That's a great sign of a great coach. They do what he wants and believe in him."

Still going strong

Off to a 16-5 start, the women's basketball team has the consolation that all of its losses are against schools with an RPI of 22 or higher.

Can the Bulls finish strong enough to earn a top-four seed and a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament? Only three of the eight remaining games are against teams with winning records in Big East play, so it would be easy for the Bulls to pass the school record for victories 21 before the regular season is over.

The biggest remaining test for Jose Fernandez's squad will come in a five-day stretch, facing No. 6 Connecticut at home Feb. 20, then traveling to No. 16 Marquette on Feb. 24. Win either of those, and the Bulls will have real confidence entering the postseason.

Quick hits

- Two years ago, cornerback Anthony Henry was the first USF player to earn a huge NFL contract, getting a $25-million deal from the Cowboys. Next? Chiefs linebacker Kawika Mitchell, who could land a similar deal when free agency opens in March.

- Senior Jessica Dickson, a likely first-round WNBA draft pick, will play guard in the pros, but she entered the week as USF's top rebounder in Big East play. She ranks higher in rebounding (9.0 per game, sixth) in conference games than in scoring (15.9 ppg, ninth).

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.