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South Florida has only one remaining game against the Big East's top five teams (at Villanova on Feb. 24) and Gilchrist's expected return this week should give the Bulls a boost.
Teams in Trouble
• The Bulls' rise in the standings is making life uncomfortable for five potential Big East bubble teams who already have enough troubles of their own.
CONNECTICUT (14--9, 4--6): An upset of then No. 1 Texas on Jan. 23 was followed by losses to Providence, Marquette and Louisville. With coach Jim Calhoun still on a leave of absence, the Huskies face the toughest remaining schedule of any of the bubble teams, including clashes at Syracuse, at Villanova and against West Virginia.
MARQUETTE (15--8, 6--5): If the Golden Eagles hold serve at home (South Florida, Pitt, Louisville, Notre Dame), they are probably in on the strength of their nonconference schedule and a quality win over Georgetown earlier in the season. A victory at Connecticut on Jan. 30 could prove to be a valuable tiebreaker.
LOUISVILLE (15--8, 6--4): With an 0--4 mark against ranked teams and a soft nonconference slate (which featured a loss to UNLV, one of the few quality opponents), the Cardinals might need to win one of their two remaining games against Syracuse or upset Georgetown to ensure that they won't miss the tournament.
CINCINNATI (14--9, 5--6): The Bearcats' résumé is solid, with nonconference victories over Vanderbilt and Maryland, who were ranked 24th and 22nd at the time. But Cincinnati is unlikely to win against West Virginia, Villanova and Georgetown, so a victory or two in the Big East tournament might be needed to secure an NCAA berth.
NOTRE DAME (17--7, 6--5): The squad that features All-America Luke Harangody—the nation's third-leading scorer (24.5 points)—and six other upperclassmen has underachieved, but they held USF's Jones to 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting in a 65--52 win on Sunday. They still have to face Louisville, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, UConn and Marquette. If that stretch doesn't kill the Irish's hopes, their inability to win on the road in the Big East and a weak nonconference slate probably will.
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