Women's hoops: Breaking down the Bulls' NCAA chances
Three full pondering days remain until Bulls fans find out whether their women's basketball team makes its way off the bubble and onto the NCAA Tournament bracket.
The women's selection show will be broadcast live Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Until then, we thought we'd help you analyze, assess and agonize over the Bulls' chances with some rankings, records and other minutiae, as well as thoughts from prominent coaches on USF's chances.
First, the dreary forecast.
ESPN women's bracketologist Charlie Creme has USF (19-12) among his "First Four Out" with Rutgers, Minnesota and Creighton. Likely fueling that bleak assessment is USF's 0-8 record against top-50 RPI teams.
The Bulls currently are 58th (per RealTimeRPI.com). Among their early-season defeats were ugly losses to Florida Gulf Coast (63), College of Charleston (148) and Clemson (158).
So why are we talking tournament?
One could rightfully argue only a handful of teams currently are playing better than the Bulls, who finished third in a solid women's league (13-5 in the American Athletic Conference). Since Jan. 1, USF is 13-5.
If the selection committee considers a team's record down the stretch, well, USF has won eight of its last 10. If it really studies the Bulls' season, it will discover six losses occurred in December, when senior G Inga Orekhova was recovering from knee surgery.
USF held No. 1 Connecticut to its lowest point total of the season in a 63-38 loss on Feb. 16, and led third-ranked Louisville much of the game before falling 60-56 in the American tournament semifinals.
Clearly, some (see below) will suggest the Bulls are worthy of one of the tournament's 64 bracket spots because there aren't 64 other teams currently playing better than them. The error in that logic is, only 32 at-large bids are awarded in the women's field.
On Monday, the Bulls learn if their performance down the stretch was enough to merit one.
What they're saying
"If they're not one of the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament it's a shame. They're healthy, they've got everybody back. ... (Sophomore guard) Courtney Williams and Inga Orekhova are special players and if we're trying to put the best 64 in the NCAA Tournament there is no question South Florida should be in." -- Louisville coach Jeff Walz, shortly after the No. 3 Cardinals rallied in the second half for a 60-56 win against the Bulls in the American tournament semifinals
"Nobody in the country is talking about South Florida, but I wouldn't want to play them in the NCAA Tournament, and if anybody gets in ahead of them there should be an investigation. I don't think there is any team playing better basketball right now than South Florida is." -- UConn coach Geno Auriemma
"I've been very proud of this group, and I think this group has shown when we are totally healthy we can play with anybody in the country. You know, our only losses since January are to UConn and Louisville. I think we came out at this conference tournament and this team pleaded its case to the NCAA Tournament committee." -- USF coach Jose Fernandez, shortly after the Bulls' loss to Louisville in the conference tourney