USF women open NIT Thursday at Florida
USF coach Jose Fernandez was absolutely right: The Bulls will open the Women's NIT on Thursday night at Florida, which made the postseason despite a losing record as the SEC's automatic berth.
The Bulls (15-15) and Gators (14-16) will play in the O'Connell Center -- and yes, it's not the first time they've played in the Women't NIT. In 2005, the Bulls beat the Gators in the first round in Tampa. Fernandez predicted the Bulls would play at Florida after a news conference Monday morning.
With the NIT appearance, USF extends its postseason streak to seven seasons in a row, though six of them, including the last three, have been in the NIT. The Bulls won the tournament last year, finishing the season with a school-record 27 wins.
"We're excited to put another banner up and continue in postseason play," Fernandez said. "I'm happy especially for (Jessica) Lawson, (Melissa) Dalembert and (Allyson) Speed, who were a part of last year's tournament. Once you're in a tournament like this, anything can happen."
The Bulls-Gators winner continues a Florida mini-regional, playing the winner of Thursday's opening-round game that has Florida Gulf Coast at Miami.
"I'm sure it's going to be be exciting for all four teams," Fernandez said. "With FSU in the NCAA Tournament, the team that comes out of this can have a kind of bragging rights as the second-best team in the state."
Four other Big East teams are in the 64-team field -- Syracuse and Marquette are hosting first-round games, while Pittsburgh and Providence are on the road.