TAMPA — For 20 years, Bobby Paschal has been the last coach to lead the USF men's basketball team to the NCAA Tournament, but the retired coach is excited to think that could change next week as Stan Heath's Bulls make a strong case for a return.
"The thing that makes me feel good about them and makes me want so much to see them in the NCAA Tournament, it's not necessarily the number of wins they have, but the way they play the game," said Paschal, 70, who lives in Tampa. "I have always respected teams that play hard, that play tough defense and understand that defense can have a big impact on winning games."
Paschal coached the Bulls to their only previous NCAA Tournament appearances in 1990 and 1992, and while he hasn't attended a game this season, he said he has watched on television whenever possible. He said there should be no debate as to whether USF deserves to return to the NCAAs.
"I don't think they're close to getting in. I think they're in," Paschal said. "I can't imagine there's anything they can do to eliminate themselves. Nothing's definite until it's definite, but in my opinion, they've certainly earned their way into the NCAA Tournament."
Fred Lewis, a member of both USF teams that made the NCAAs, said he has watched several games, and he sees things in this team that remind him of the ones he played on.
"The biggest thing I like is that all the guys play together, play for the team, for each other," said Lewis, now coaching at Middleton High. "When you defend they way they do, you can beat anybody."
Making memories: Daniel Rockhold went 2-for-2 and starter Matt Reed gave up an unearned run in two innings, but USF managed four hits off seven Yankees minor-leaguers and lost 11-0 in a baseball exhibition game at Steinbrenner Field.
"Some of these guys will never step a day on a big-league field," USF coach Lelo Prado said. "It's a great experience, something they'll never forget for the rest of their lives."
Rockhold singled up the middle in the second inning.
"Mark Teixeira came up to me after I got our first hit and was like, 'Hey, first major-league hit. Congratulations,' " Rockhold said. "I was like, 'Thanks, man.' I didn't know what to say."
Reed had no jitters, saying: "I saw Derek Jeter in the box and I was like, 'This is Derek Jeter. This is sweet. Let's go.' "