USF's new spring nemesis: Florida Gulf Coast
Baseball coulldn't do it. Softball couldn't do it. So can women's basketball end USF's spring struggles against ... Florida Gulf Coast University?
The Bulls (16-15) travel to FGCU tonight in the opening round of the Women's NIT, and they're making a fairly big deal of it down in Fort Myers. FGCU went 21-8 in its first season in Division I after reaching the Division II national championship game last season. The catch? FGCU has struggled against RPI top 100 teams, losing to Florida State by 40 and Florida by 26. And they don't have a starter taller than 5-foot-11, which bodes well for USF's starting frontcourt of 6-3 Melissa Dalembert and 6-2 Porche Grant. The Naples News has also noticed the height disparity.
FGCU bid $30,000 to host the opening-round game, according to the Fort Myers News-Press, which means they'll need a crowd of at least 2,000 to break even financially. Impressively, more than 1,100 tickets have been sold, so USF will have to deal with a partisan crowd, if nothing else.
And more good news for USF: freshman guard Gianna Messina, thought to be lost for the postseason after being diagnosed with mononucleosis, has been cleared to play. Turns out it was just "mononucleosis-like symptoms." USF will be without forward ChiChi Okpaleke, who tore her ACL after playing a key role in USF's late-season surge.
-- Thanks to USF men's coach Stan Heath, who shared his insights on each of the four NCAA Tournament games played in Tampa today. Here's Heath's thoughts on Drake-Western Kentucky, UConn-San Diego, Vandy-Siena and Clemson-Villanova. He's calling for two upsets out of the four, and if you watch the Vandy game, remember USF gets them in Nashville next season.
-- Want a new mock draft? How about eight? USAtoday.com has mock first rounds from eight staffers, and the picks are encouraging for former USF cornerback Mike Jenkins, who goes in the top 16 picks in all versions. Four of them have him going 10th to the Saints, two send him to Buffalo at No. 11 and the other two have him going 16th to the Cardinals. USA Today ranks him second in the defensive back class but seems to think he's a safety, due to a "lack of agility." They also write that he "isn't really an aggressive hitter" -- they should ask that Cincinnati receiver how he feels about that.
-- Another story from the Orlando Sentinel on junior power forward Keith Clanton, who has USF as one of two college offers.
-- One of USF's recruiting targets, guard Jeremie Simmons, had 22 points Thursday to lead Mott Community College into the Division II junior college Final Four. Mott plays again tonight; Simmons is scheduled to visit USF next weekend. In the Division I juco nationals, powerhouse Chipola College and USF target Gary Flowers lost in the opening round to unranked Seward. And even more Gene Teague: here's a Q&A he did in January 2007 with the Courier-Post in New Jersey.
-- Naples News also had a good writeup on the tragic death of UCF freshman Ereck Plancher and its impact on USF.