If the collective projection of league coaches is on point, the USF women’s basketball team will capture its first conference title this upcoming season.
The Bulls were an overwhelming favorite to win the American Athletic Conference title in a polling of coaches, collecting eight of the 11 first-place votes.
USF’s men, who return four of five starters and get power forward Alexis Yetna back after a year’s absence due to a knee injury, were picked to finish fifth in the men’s coaches poll.
USF’s women never have been picked first in a preseason conference poll, which stands to reason since they have spent the past 15 years in the same league as Connecticut. The Huskies, who never lost an AAC game in seven seasons, have moved to the newly-configured Big East.
The Bulls return their top seven scorers from last season’s 19-13 team. Among them are sophomore guard Elena Tsineke (team-best 12.4 ppg) and junior guard Elisa Pinzan (9.0 ppg, team-best 4.5 assists per game), both of whom were named to the preseason all-conference second team.
“I’m excited where we’re at,” veteran Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said last week.
“This program continues to be a shining star at this university and athletic department. And I think across the country we’ve been consistent; the last nine years we’ve won at least 19 games. ... We’re definitely going to have some high expectations in my opinion.”
USF’s men, again a trendy NCAA Tournament dark horse pick, were picked in the top half of the preseason poll a second consecutive year. Houston was picked to win the league by its coaches, receiving nine of the 11 first-place votes.
Yetna, who is practicing with the Bulls this preseason but hasn’t yet been cleared for full contact, was a second-team pick on the men’s preseason all-AAC squad. As a redshirt freshman two seasons ago, he nearly averaged a double-double (12.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg) en route to being named AAC Freshman of the Year.
Upon being fully cleared, he’ll join one of the deepest rosters in program history, which also includes senior David Collins (team-best 13.7 ppg, 53 steals), 7-foot junior Michael Durr (6.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), imposing Mississippi State transfer Prince Oduro (6-foot-8, 255 pounds) and rookie guard Caleb Murphy, the highest-ranked USF signee of the Rivals era.