Irish set sights on Bulls in Big East quarterfinals

The sixth-seeded South Florida Bulls will try seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as the two square off in the quarterfinal round of the 2012 Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The winner of this contest will advance to Friday's semifinal round to play either Louisville or Marquette.

South Florida (20-12) has been one of the top defensive teams in the nation all season long, and leads the Big East with an allowed average of just 56.9 ppg in league play. While the Bulls' defensive abilities are unquestionable, their lack of offensive production is concerning. Head coach Stan Heath was awarded the Big East Coach of the Year award after turning USF into the surprise team in the league. USF is hopeful that its 56-47 victory over Villanova in the first round of the tourney will be enough to push it into the Big Dance for the first time since 1992.

To continue on, the Bulls will need to snap their six-game losing streak versus Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish topped USF, 60-49, when the two met on Jan. 10 early in 2012.

Notre Dame (21-10) ended its two-game losing slide in its season finale with a 75-69 win over Providence. The Fighting Irish were the only team in the nation to defeat Syracuse this year. Head coach Mike Brey has also constructed a strong defensive program this season. The Fighting Irish are a close second to USF in league action with an allowed average of only 59.2 ppg. Notre Dame set a new school record with its nine-game winning streak during Big East action, which helped it arrive at a third place, 13-5 finish in the conference. The Fighting Irish began to lose a little bit of their fire towards the end of February, as they barely outlasted Villanova in overtime and suffered setbacks to Saint John's and Georgetown. The Irish are still seeking their first ever Big East Conference Tournament title as well.

Anthony Collins scored 17 points and handed out four assists in his postseason debut to lead the Bulls past Villanova on Wednesday. Collins was primarily a distributing, pass-first point guard for the majority of the season, but he recently has become the go-to-guy for USF. As the Bulls' freshman point guard leads the team, Ron Anderson Jr., Augustus Gilchrist, and Jawanza Poland continue to contribute.

USF will need to figure out a way to stop Notre Dame's star forward Jack Cooley if it wants to advance. Cooley scored a game-high 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting the first time these teams met. The junior forward is coming off of a monstrous 27-point and 17-rebound performance he posted versus Providence in the team's season finale. Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant are notable contributors for the very deep Fighting Irish.