USF women learn Big East opponents
USF's women's basketball team learned the breakdown of its Big East conference schedule on Tuesday, with a tough, ranked Marquette program chosen as the Bulls' "mirror" opponent for a home-and-home series.
The Big East's 16-game schedule for women has each team playing one team twice, and the Bulls can be happy it's not Pittsburgh, which swept four meetings with USF in the past two seasons. But Marquette is coming off a 26-7 season that set a school record for wins and put the Golden Eagles in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In all, USF's eight home league games include five against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year -- national runner-up Rutgers, Marquette, nemesis Pittsburgh, DePaul and West Virginia. USF was a significantly better team in the Sun Dome than away from it last season, so having more of its tough games at home is a big plus as the Bulls try to make it back to the NCAA Tournament after falling short this spring.
The Bulls do face two of the league's toughest opponents, Connecticut and Louisville, on the road, as well as Notre Dame. Add in nonconference games against North Carolina and Duke, and it's another year where a challenging strength-of-schedule should help USF's case, so long as the Bulls can win enough games to be considered for the NCAA field.
The best of the "mirror" home-and-home matchups? That'd be Rutgers and Connecticut -- two top-five programs who will go head-to-head twice, perhaps meeting again in the Big East tournament, if not the NCAAs as well.