Women's hoops gets huge win at DePaul
Needing a road upset to stay in reach of the NCAA bubble, USF's women's basketball team picked up a huge 76-69 win at DePaul on Tuesday night, one of its biggest victories of the season.
Senior guard Shantia Grace led the Bulls with 27 points, and junior guard Janae Stokes had four 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes on the way to 20 points. DePaul (20-8, 8-6) had lost just one game at home all season, and the win gives USF a chance to finish with a .500 record in conference play with two games remaining.
USF (19-9, 6-8) returns home to face Cincinnati (3-10 in Big East) on Saturday in the final home game for Grace and other Bulls seniors. USF finishes the regular season Monday at Villanova (9-4). DePaul entered the game with an RPI of 25 according to CollegeRPI.com, giving USF another quality win to show the NCAA selection committee. Eight of USF's nine losses are against teams currently in the RPI top 50, the lone exception being Saturday's loss at West Virginia.
Before Tuesday's win, USF was on the outside looking in on the NCAA field, according to two sites that project NCAA brackets. CollegeRPI.com's Jerry Palm didn't have USF in his first four teams missing the NCAA cut, and ESPN.com's Charlie Creme had USF in his "next four out" group of four teams after the first four to miss the cut. Both projections had DePaul as a No. 7 seed before Tuesday's loss.
-- One more note on USF: Again, it looks as though USF will not get a first-round bye in the Big East tournament, but this could actually serve to help the Bulls. They'll likely have an opening-round game against one of the conference's worst teams like Providence or Cincinnati. The second-round matchup should allow the Bulls to address one of the biggest things working against them: head-to-head losses to Marquette and Georgetown, the two conference teams closest to USF on the NCAA bubble.
Marquette is 16-11, but has a higher RPI (34-45) and swept the Bulls in two meetings this season. The Golden Eagles still have games at DePaul and against Louisville, so they could be 17-13 and 8-8 entering the Big East tournament. If they lose their first game to a USF team with, say, 21 wins at that point, it'd be hard for the Golden Eagles to get in at 17-14, even with the two wins against the Bulls.
Georgetown (17-10) has a better league record than USF at 7-7 and won the head-to-head meeting, but unless they can knock off Villanova, they're probably finishing 8-8 as well. USF is Georgetown's only win against an RPI top 50 opponent -- the Bulls have four, by comparison -- so if USF could beat the Hoyas in Hartford, it should offset the regular-season loss and push the Bulls ahead in the NCAA pecking order.
Again, I'm considering four Big East teams as locks (UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame) and see six teams competing for four or five spots in the tournament. USF right now ranks sixth in that group in the Big East standings and fifth in RPI, but is second in overall record, so the Bulls need two more regular-season wins to help their chances ...