Men's preview: Big East Conference

Men's preview: Big East Conference

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Men's preview: Big East Conference

Chris Malloy knows he’s selling a different product at South Florida. The main appeal of playing for the Bulls is not being part of a longstanding tradition of excellence, but creating one. Yet in two years, the former Florida State assistant has transformed USF into a Big East contender, and he’s done so while battling perennial heavyweights Florida, Florida State, Central Florida and North Florida (all of which are ranked in the top 50 nationally) on arguably the most fertile recruiting ground in the country.

“It’s tough going against schools of that caliber (for recruiting), but I’m happy it’s raised the bar,” Malloy said. “It just adds credibility to everyone.”

So, why are some of the top juniors in the country starting to choose USF? It starts with Malloy, who is young and popular and gregarious. Then it helps to have great courses at the players’ disposal — tracks such as Lake Jovita, Tampa Palms, Concession, Belleair and Avila, all of which are currently in the Bulls’ rota. And, perhaps most important, “it’s the unique opportunity to be the first to win a conference championship here,” Malloy said.

That goal is more attainable than you might imagine. The Bulls finished last season No. 196 in Golfweek’s rankings, but enter the spring at No. 61. Part of that ascent can be attributed to their standout freshmen, Trey Valentine and Brenden Collins, both of whom were under-recruited as juniors but are flourishing in their first year on campus. Valentine hasn’t finished outside the top 5 in three starts. Collins, meanwhile, has “superstar potential,” Malloy said.

“They’ve been such pleasant surprises,” Malloy said. “I knew we’d have a lot of firepower, but I didn’t quite know what to expect.”

Asked the difference between Year 1 and Year 2 in Tampa, Malloy laughed and said: “Well, it’s easier to sell a product that you know.”

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Top of the class: Notre Dame

Best player this fall: Trey Valentine, South Florida

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Past champions

2007: Louisville

2008: Marquette

2009: Louisville

2010: Georgetown

2011: Notre Dame

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Conference capsules

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Complete coverage

Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.

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