Could USF's women host the NCAAs again?
As atmosphere goes, USF women's basketball reached its apex last March when thousands streamed into the Sun Dome for a pair of NCAA Tournament contests.
Question is, will a sequel materialize in 2016?
A month before Selection Monday, the 22nd-ranked Bulls (17-6, 10-3 American Athletic Conference) appear in decent position to earn early-round hosting rights for a second consecutive year.
Yet "decent" remains a far cry from "optimal," and the Bulls can bridge the span between the two this Monday.
USF, 1-4 against RPI top-50 programs, plays at No. 12 Louisville in a nationally televised rematch of last season's NCAA second-rounder -- a 60-52 Cardinals triumph.
Defeat the Cardinals, then avenge its two non-UConn conference losses (Memphis, Temple) at home later this month, and the Bulls presumably would boast a resume sufficient to stay home for the NCAA's opening weekend.
"You don't know what those guys in that committee are deciding," Coach Jose Fernandez said following Tuesday's 77-65 victory against Tulane.
"I don't think one game's gonna decide whether we host or not. ... I think the committee will take into consideration us not having (Laura) Ferreira and (Alisia) Jenkins and losing at Memphis in overtime, right? You would think."
Jenkins, who sprained her left ankle in a Jan. 5 home romp against UCF, aggravated the injury two weeks later at Memphis and was limited to two minutes in the Bulls' 88-87 overtime loss. In Saturday's two-point loss at Temple, Ferreira (torn plantar fascia) was out and Jenkins played 26 minutes.
Ferreira (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) remains out for now, but Jenkins (10.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg) grabbed 20 rebounds in 36 minutes Tuesday against Tulane.
"We need to get those guys back hopefully for the stretch run and into conference tournament so (the committee) can see we're a different team with those two guys on the floor," Fernandez said.
To be sure, the committee will be watching Monday.