Bulls notes: That's 'South Florida,' Mr. President
TAMPA - President Barack Obama will attend tonight's NCAA tournament First Four games — Mississippi Valley State-Western Kentucky, followed by Brigham Young-Iona — at the University of Daytona Arena. By Wednesday night, when the University of South Florida Bulls (20-13) take on the California Golden Bears (24-9) at the First Four finale, Obama will be gone. Obama, who will be hosting British Prime Minister David Cameron at tonight's games, is a noted basketball fan. For the past few seasons, he has picked winners in the 68-team bracket for ESPN. On Obama's official website, he challenged fans to pick against him in the "Obama Bracket Challenge.'' If computer users put their mouse over the Cal/USF line in the bracket, it read: University of California/University of San Francisco.Oops. By Monday night, it had been corrected to: University of California/University of South Florida. First-round strength California coach Mike Montgomery has won 11 of his past 12 first-round NCAA tournament games. Ten were at Stanford, with the only loss in that span being Cal's 84-71 loss against Maryland in 2009. The Golden Bears, who have lost three of their past four games, including a 70-59 decision against eventual tournament champion Colorado in the Pac-12 semifinals, might have a travel disadvantage. California's route to Dayton: 2,039 miles. USF needed only to go 822 miles, an approximate two-hour flight. "We've got to have our key players ready to perform,'' Montgomery said. "Energy is part of it.'' USF was knocked out of the Big East tournament on Friday night, losing a quarterfinal game to Notre Dame. "After we lost, we took two days off,'' USF coach Stan Heath said. "We're pretty fresh. Our guys will be fired up to play. This time of year, you just want to play.'' Learning curve Asked Sunday what he knew about California's basketball team, Heath said: "It's in California … and I know Mike Montgomery is a heck of a coach.'' Heath and his staff have crammed to study multiple California games in the past 36 hours. Heath said the Golden Bears, who have four double-figure scorers, have a versatile offense and will be a stern challenge for USF's defense. Noteworthy Wednesday night's USF-California game will be preceded by a No. 16-seeded battle between Lamar and Vermont. USF assistant coach Steve Roccaforte was Lamar's head coach for five seasons, going 76-78 before being fired last March. USF opened its regular season against Vermont, defeating the Catamounts 61-59 on Nov. 12 at the University of Tampa's Martinez Center. … USF men's basketball has twice played in Dayton, winning 72-61 on Feb. 22, 1975, and losing 86-58 on Feb. 12, 1977. … USF's defense allows just 56.9 points per game. The Big East's all-time single-season record is 57.8 by 2006-07 Georgetown, which reached that season's Final Four.