TAMPA — USF coach Jose Fernandez sees that the benefits of an extended run in the Women's NIT may be more for next year's team than this year's.
"We only have one senior playing for us, so we're really using this tournament to be a springboard for next year," said Fernandez, whose Bulls (19-15) play at 7 tonight at James Madison (26-7) in the third round.
"We were fortunate to be able to host two games at home and took care of business, and now there's only 16 teams left."
The Bulls entered the season hoping for more than the WNIT — this is their seventh appearance in nine seasons — but leading scorer Andrea Smith redshirted after knee surgery, and the team has been short-handed beyond that.
The Bulls opened the WNIT with home wins against Florida Atlantic and Florida International despite losing point guard Sasha Bernard, a key reserve, to a torn ACL.
Should the Bulls beat James Madison (which has the highest RPI left in the field, No. 35), they'll play at the winner of Appalachian State and Virginia on Sunday.
"The road doesn't bother us,'' Fernandez said. "We've played at Connecticut and Notre Dame, so we're excited about anyone."