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Jose Fernandez: USF and UConn will keep playing each other in women’s hoops

Look for the Huskies, headed back to the Big East, to face USF annually in non-conference action
With Connecticut's return to the Big East, USF women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez now appears to possess the American Athletic Conference's premier program. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Jun. 26

As it stands, Connecticut's move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big East represents a win-win situation for no fewer than three basketball programs.

The UConn men, UConn women...and USF women.

Bulls women’s coach Jose Fernandez, whose team now shapes up as the AAC’s premier program with the Huskies’ departure, said Wednesday he and UConn coach Geno Auriemma already have discussed continuing the Bulls-Huskies series on a home-and-home basis.

“I don’t see it being an issue for Connecticut and South Florida to continue playing,” Fernandez said.

MORE USF: UConn appears headed back to Big East, but what does it mean for USF?

The longtime league rivals played 16 times in AAC competition the past six seasons, with UConn winning all 16 and annually drawing crowds in excess of 6,000 when the teams played in Tampa. Four of those meetings occurred in the AAC tournament final.

But UConn’s return to the Big East was unanimously approved Wednesday by the school’s board of trustees, clearing the way for a formal announcement by the league on Thursday.

When the move takes place (likely in the 2020-21 season) expect the Bulls and Huskies to meet once a year as non-league foes, further bolstering USF’s normally rigid non-conference slate.

That rigidness now is more essential than ever. UConn’s departure represents a telling blow to the AAC, which ranked ninth last year in terms of conference RPI.

UConn’s departure “is a huge blow,” Fernandez said.

“It won’t affect us because of the way we schedule. ... But I think now in our conference, if you do not schedule people in November and December, it’s going to be very, very difficult to get an at-large (NCAA Tournament) bid as our league stands right now.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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