AAC Regular season champs South Florida moves up to No. 24 in the rankings and is at home tonight against Tulane on Senior Night.

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South Florida forward Corey Walker Jr. (15) brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Charlotte on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

(Associated Press) – Last week, South Florida became ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 basketball poll for the first time in school history. Now up to No. 24 in the rankings, the Bulls (22-5, 15-1 American Athletic Conference) have also clinched their first regular-season conference championship in the program’s history, which includes 51 seasons and five conferences.

And they’re just getting started as they prepare to host Tulane (13-15, 4-12) on Tuesday night in Tampa, Fla.

South Florida entered the poll last week and defeated Charlotte 76-61 on the road Saturday.

“It’s different, and I’m not going to give you some coach-speak that it’s not,” said Amir Abdur-Rahim, who’s in his first season as head coach at South Florida after four seasons at Kennesaw State. “You have a different target on your back now.”

After hosting the Green Wave, the Bulls will visit Tulsa on Saturday before entering the conference tournament as the top seed. Presumably an NCAA Tournament bid will follow, regardless of what happens in the AAC tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.

“There’s still a lot of season left, and if you want to rest on being ranked, we aren’t going to make as much noise as we can,” Abdur-Rahim said.

Abdur-Rahim said he has told his players that continued success will require them to maintain “the same old boring habits” that have enabled them to win their last 14 games — a school record — and 20 of their last 21 games.

Their business-like victory against the 49ers ended Charlotte’s eight-game home winning streak.

South Florida, which hasn’t lost since Jan. 7 against UAB, hopes to make a March run reminiscent of the one conference rival Florida Atlantic made last season in reaching the Final Four.

Tulane began the season hopeful of being in the mix for the AAC title, but the Green Wave have been unable to build any momentum.

After posting a 20-11 record overall and 12-6 conference mark last season and with unanimous preseason first-team All-AAC selection Jaylen Forbes and preseason second-team selection Kevin Cross returning, Tulane was picked to finish third in the conference.

But it has had a hard time in close games.

“It’s frustrating,” guard Sion James said, “but at the end of the day we know who we are as a team. We know the pieces that we have, and win or lose we don’t want to do it with anybody else.”

The Green Wave dropped their sixth consecutive decision with a 79-73 defeat at Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

“It’s frustrating for sure because losing multiple games in a row is something that we’re not accustomed to as a team, something we’re going to have to figure out,” James said. “We just need to get one under our belt to get back on track.”

Tulane, which is tied with Temple for last place in the AAC, has won just two road games all season and is 1-7 away from home in AAC play. The Green Wave will conclude the regular season at home against Wichita State on Friday.

Meanwhile, Andy Katz of the Big Ten Network and NCAA.com Power 36 has USF at 16 which is up one spot up from last week.

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