So, does USF make the Women's NIT?
We probably shouldn't be doing research on what it takes to get into the Women's NIT. Surely, there are larger issues we can tackle, even late on a Sunday night. Still, here we are. It's shameful. We know.
So after Sunday's 64-42 loss to No. 18 West Virginia, did USF (16-15) do enough in the last two weeks to earn a spot in the Women's NIT? Of course, we did some research on last year's WNIT field. Of the 48 teams, 15 were from the six major conferences. Here are the questions we know you've been asking yourself, even if you won't admit to it publicly:
-- Were any WNIT teams as close to .500 as USF is at 16-15? Yes, Minnesota made it in at 16-15, losing in the second round. Two other teams made it with only 16 wins: Kansas State was 16-14 and Oregon was 16-13.
-- Did any have a conference record as bad as USF's, at 5-11? Yes, Kansas State went 4-12 in the Big 12 and managed to not only make the WNIT but win three games, reaching the semifinals, and Missouri also made it in at 5-11 in the same league. Two other teams made it despite being four games below .500 in league play: Virginia, which went 5-9 in the ACC and beat USF in the WNIT second round; and Indiana, which went 6-10 in the Big 10 and lost in the second round.
-- Did many teams with an RPI like USF's (73rd before tonight's loss, according to CollegeRPI.com) make the WNIT field? Absolutely. Seven of the 15 major-conference teams in last year's field had RPIs of 73 or worse, the lowest being Oregon (RPI 97) and Mississippi State (RPI 94).
-- If eight Big East teams make the NCAA tournament as expected, could USF be a third Big East team in the WNIT? Sure. The Bulls are probably behind Marquette and St. John's, both 16-14 with better league records. But last year, two leagues (the SEC and Big 10) each put four teams in the WNIT, so three wouldn't be a stretch.
-- If the Bulls are barely making the WNIT, would they likely play on the road? Perhaps not. The WNIT gives 16 teams a first-round bye (12 of those were major-conference teams) and has 16 others host opening-round games. Of the 15 major-conference schools in last year's field, only two (Kentucky and Missouri) opened the tournament on the road. USF has submitted the paperwork to host games throughout the WNIT, as far as the tournament would allow them.
-- Is there anything else that might help USF's chances? Like, for instance, the rest of the state also missing the NCAA Tournament? Florida, Florida State and even Jacksonville are probably out of the NCAA mix, so it'd be easy to match those four up in the opening round, keeping travel costs low and helping increase attendance with local matchups. Florida and FSU probably deserve a first-round bye, but USF could wind up in Gainesville, as they did three years ago when the Bulls beat the Gators.