Cut the Nets! Men’s Basketball plays a season for the ages

Men’s basketball players wearing USF uniforms and media stand amid a shower of green confetti on the court. They hold a large black and silver trophy over their heads.

The Bulls celebrate their first-ever regular season conference title. [Photo: USF Athletics]


Showers of confetti falling on the Yuengling Center floor. A first-ever regular season conference title. A first-ever Top 25 national ranking. The nation’s longest winning streak. Three-straight home sell-out crowds. A raucous SoFlo Rodeo student section that swelled to near 4,000 at numerous games. The Bay area buzzing and a national spotlight on USF.

USF men’s basketball experienced a season for the ages under first-year head coach Amir Adbur-Rahim. He came to USF in late March 2023 from Kennesaw State, where he led men’s basketball to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

“This ain’t the same ol’ South Florida,” he proclaimed in the preseason. And boy, was he right!

The coach, wearing a golden-tan jacket and deep USF green tie holds a large trophy over his head. The team, Rocky and Trustee Will Weatherford applaud and cheer in the background.

Head Coach Amir Adbur-Rahim. [Photo: USF Athletics]

Since rebounding from a Dec. 2 loss at UMass with a resounding 88-72 victory over Florida State on Dec. 9, the Bulls went on to win 21 of their last 23 regular season games to run away with the American Athletic Conference regular season championship by two games, including wins at No. 10 Memphis and vs. No. 24 Florida Atlantic (a 2023 NCAA Final Four participant) before a roaring Yuengling Center record crowd of 10,659. 

“USF is one of the hidden-gem stories of the season,’’ said Andy Katz, a college basketball correspondent for the NCAA and a Big Ten Network analyst.

The Bulls’ program-record 15-game win streak, which included seven consecutive road wins, vaulted them into the No. 24 spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls in March as the program made its first-ever top 25 appearance. More than 31,000 fans crammed into sell-outs in the last three home games, while lines to get into an ever-growing student section stretched hundreds of yards from the Yuengling Center gates. 

The Bulls finished their first-ever undefeated home conference season with an 85-72 win vs. Tulane on March 5 with 10,354 fans in attendance. After the game, Coach Abdur-Rahim and the Bulls cut down the nets and hoisted a championship trophy as confetti cannons fired, the band played on, and fans reveled in the stands. 

ESPN college basketball studio analyst Seth Greenberg, who served as USF’s head coach from 1996-2003, said the Bulls’ unexpected rise has been “incredibly impressive’’ and praised Abdur-Rahim. 

 “I think he has done an incredible job,’’ Greenberg said. “He has brought energy and ownership while connecting with the campus community and the students. They see it as their team. That’s a big part of the process, and when you get ownership, you can play off that in so many ways.

 “Winning obviously helps and it’s the most important thing. But they play a fun style of basketball. Their late-game execution is really good and the stuff they’re doing really fits their personnel. I see a focus, a sense of purpose, and an attention to detail that’s extremely impressive. This isn’t a one-hit wonder. USF is building something.’’

The Bulls equaled a program record win total at 24-7 as they headed into play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) at rival UCF.

Abdur-Rahim was a unanimous choice for AAC Coach of the Year as USF’s 16-2 conference mark shattered the previous program best by four wins, and standout guard Chris Youngblood, with 15.1 points per game (ppg) was named AAC Co-Player of the Year. Veteran guard Selton Miguel  (14.9 ppg) earned AAC Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Players honors, while freshman Jayden Reid was named to the All-Freshman Team

“It’s really cool — it’s cool for our university,” Abdur-Rahim said. “I get text messages from all across the country, ‘Man, do you know how cool it is that people are recognizing what’s going on in Tampa, Florida?’ All across the country.

“You want an impact. You want to make sure people feel special.”