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USF women hope to begin NCAA play in Sun Dome

By Joey Knight | Times Staff
Published: March 8, 2018 Updated: March 9, 2018 at 10:04 AM
The USF women's basketball team, along with Coach Jose Fernandez (far right) and President Dr. Judy Genshaft (second from right) watch the NCAA Tournament selection show at the Sun Dome on March 13, 2017. (Photo by Travis Pendergrass)

Bring on the bracketology. With Tuesday night's gritty effort against Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference title game, the No. 19 USF women put a final tenacious touch on their NCAA Tournament resume.

On Monday night, they'll gather in the Sun Dome's club level for their annual selection-show watch party.

Or will it be a wince party? Who can say?

The Bulls (26-7) believe they have done enough to earn a top-four seeding and the opening-weekend hosting rights that accompany it. Their RPI (14) is solid, and Coach Jose Fernandez's stern non-conference scheduling produced some quality wins (LSU, Ohio State).

But Fernandez has been befuddled by the selection committee before. Moreover, ESPN women's bracketologist Charlie Creme had USF pegged as a five-seed in Raleigh, N.C., even after their valiant performance against the Huskies.

All Fernandez can do is wait — and lobby like heck.

"Four of our losses have come to Connecticut (which has beaten USF three times) and one to (No. 5) Notre Dame," Fernandez said after Tuesday's 70-54 loss to the Huskies, when the Bulls outscored the nation's top team by seven in the final quarter.

"I think we have done our part. We scheduled in the non-conference and I think we are playing our best basketball right now."

And....we need to host the NCAA First and Second Rounds. We dont deserve it, we earned it. Look at the brainer. Nothing less is acceptable

— Mark Harlan (@MarkHarlanUSF) March 6, 2018

The question may come down to how meticulously the selection committee studies the Bulls' season.

Will it glance at their 3-5 record against top-40 RPI competition, or probe further and realize three of those losses were to UConn? Will it take into account they didn't have starting C Alyssa Rader for their game at Oklahoma, when they lost by five? (Don't get Fernandez started on that one).

Will it put too much emphasis on that eight-point loss at Wichita State (149th in RPI)?

No sense trying to read the committee's collective mind; it would cause Fernandez to lose his own. He and his team have done all they can.

It's all over but the seeding.

Or perhaps the seething.

Selection Show Watch Party
Where: Fifth Third Bank Club, Sun Dome
When: Monday (Doors open at 6:30 p.m., selection show begins at 7)
Admission: Free (Fans may enter through Gate C)