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ESPN bracketologist says USF not on bubble...yet

USF point guard Laia Flores (sore right ankle) is among a handful of Bulls playing through injury.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

USF point guard Laia Flores (sore right ankle) is among a handful of Bulls playing through injury.

20

February

Despite USF's unsightly two-game skid, the nation's foremost NCAA women's bracketologist doesn't think the Bulls are sitting precariously on the bubble.

As of right now.

"USF has faded, but I don't think there is danger of missing the tournament, yet," ESPN's Charlie Creme wrote Monday morning in an e-mail to the Tampa Bay Times.

Besieged by injuries, the Bulls (20-6, 9-4 American) fell 66-62 to UCF at home on Tuesday, and watched a valiant second-half rally fall short in Sunday's 77-71 home loss to Temple.

As a result, they have fallen out of the top 25, and their RPI has dropped to 34, third in the American Athletic Conference behind top-ranked Connecticut (1) and the Owls (23).

Their strength of schedule is ranked 64th.

"My answer would be they can't just go on a long losing streak and count on making it," said Creme, who had USF as a seven-seed in his most recent tourney projection. "But if they do what would be expected and win the games remaining they should win, then I think the Bulls will be safe."

Considering USF's health, it's questionable if any "should-win" games remain.

Junior Laia Flores, the Bulls' only healthy point guard (relatively speaking), has been playing on a sore right ankle the last two weeks and noticeably winced through Sunday's game.

All three freshmen in the rotation also are ailing. C Tamara Henshaw , named the AAC Freshman of the Week on Monday, has a sprained ankle. Low-post backup Dorottya Nagy is playing through plantar fasciitis, and rookie wing Jazz Bond is nursing back spasms.

Junior Laura Ferreira, projected to be one of the Bulls' top scorers, has barely played this season due to plantar fascia issues, and isn't expected back the rest of the way.

On Sunday, this unit began a stretch of four games in nine days. It continues Tuesday at Houston (10-16, 3-10) and Saturday at Tulsa (8-19, 4-10), and ends next Monday at home against UConn in a nationally televised matchup.

"We've got to go on the road and win those two games (against Houston and Tulsa)," Coach Jose Fernandez said after Sunday's loss. "And if we don't, we don't deserve to go to the NCAA Tournament. ... Then you have to get to the (AAC) championship game.

"That's what I told our kids, we've had too good of a year for us to not close it out on the right side of things."

[Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2017 1:04pm]

    

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