Paschal, '92 Bulls eager to see USF return to NCAAs
TAMPA -- For 20 years, Bobby Paschal has been the last coach to lead USF to the NCAA Tournament, but the retired coach is excited to think that could change next week as Stan Heath's Bulls make a strong case for a long-awaited return.
"The thing that makes me feel good about them and makes me want so much to see them in the NCAA Tournament, it's not necessarily the number of wins they have, but the way they play the game," said Paschal, 70, who still lives in Tampa. "I have always respected teams that play hard, that play tough defense and understand that defense can have a big impact on winning games."
Paschal coached the Bulls to their only previous NCAA Tournament appearances in 1990 and 1992, and while he hasn't attended a game this season, he said he's watched the Bulls on television whenever possible. He said there should be no debate as to whether USF (19-11, 12-5 in the Big East) deserves to return to the NCAAs.
"I don't think they're close to getting in. I think they're in," Paschal said. "I can't imagine there's anything they can do to eliminate themselves. Nothing's definite until it's definite, but in my opinion, they've certainly earned their way into the NCAA Tournament."
Fred Lewis, a key member of both USF teams that made the NCAAs, said he's watched several games on TV and online and sees things in this year's team that remind him of the ones he played on.
"The biggest thing I like is that all the guys play together, play for the team, for each other," said Lewis, now coaching at Middleton High. "When you defend they way they do, you can beat anybody. Whoever they play in the tournament better be ready to play."
News of USF's success reached all the way to Israel, where former Bulls star Derrick Sharp, the No. 3 scorer on the '92 team, is coaching European power Maccabi Tel Aviv, having retired last summer after 15 years of playing with the team.
"It's always an honor to see those guys play well, to bring prestige to the university," Sharp said. "It's just a matter of getting the right players together with the right coach. Everything has to come together, like it did with our team in '92."
Paschal said he understands the nervousness of being on the NCAA bubble -- even after USF won the Sun Belt conference tournament in 1990 and earned an automatic berth, he said he was anxious watching the selection show that year, having to wait until the final regional to see his school's name listed on the bracket on television.
He said the way USF has played its way into NCAA consideration in recent weeks, combined with the long drought since the Bulls last made it, should make them one of the better stories of this year's tournament.
"The fact that it has been 20 years is going to throw the spotlight on them even more," he said.