Big East Player to Watch: Anthony Collins (South Florida)

South Florida had a special 2011-12, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992.

But without Anthony Collins, an unheralded recruit from Houston, the Bulls wouldn’t have come close to dancing.

A freshman point guard is vulnerable to mistakes. The college game, especially at the Big East’s level, is much different than in high school. And, yes, Collins did struggle at times with decisions, turning the ball over 3.4 times per game.

But he more than compensated for his blunders — just imagine, if you can, how the offensively challenge Bulls would have put points on the board without their frosh.

With great quickness and court vision, Collins gave some sort of semblance of fluidity to Stan Heath’s offense. He averaged nine points per game and 5.2 dimes per game, and he shot 50.8 percent from the floor for a team that ranked No. 153 in Kenpom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, a team whose top-two scorers shot below 40 percent.

Though he recorded just one assist in South Florida’s first round win over California, Collins averaged 4 assists throughout the Big Dance. He also turned the ball over a total of six times while averaging 14 points.

In fact, over the last 13 games of the year — including the tournament — Collins showed signs of becoming more than just a distributor, averaging 13.5 points.

Defensively, Collins fits into Heath’s gameplan. He’s quicker than most guards, giving him the ability to stay in front, and he averaged 1.6 swipes per game last year.

With the void left upfront by Augustus Gilchrist’s graduation and Waverly Austin’s ineligibility and subsequent transfer to Oregon, you can’t say that the Bulls will only go as far as Anthony Collins takes them. That would be unfair, considering Collins can’t do much to help out down low.

But, once again, Collins will play a major role in leading this South Florida team back to the NCAA tournament.

Follow Ari Kramer on Twitter to talk Big East and college basketball.

Here are the rest of the Big East Player to Watch pieces to date: Brandon TricheChane BehananPeyton SivaOtto PorterFuquan Edwin, Tray Woodall