Bulls need to get to the next level

It felt like it had always felt before.USF playing Connecticut. Goliath is ranked, David is not.

In the corner of their metaphorical pen, the Bulls – who’ve lost three of their last four games – probably missed out again in Tuesday’s loss.

Except for themselves and their die-hard fans, many didn’t give them a chance.

See, David never got a chance and won – but USF, I guess, saw it another way Tuesday.

They want the next level. For as long as I’ve been taking quotes from coach Jose Fernandez, he’s talked about getting to the next level.

That’s good. Most coaches look ahead. Then-ranked teams such as Connecticut or LSU get in the way. Problem is, this season, teams such as West Virginia and DePaul got in the way.

Take this perspective: USF, the women’s basketball team and coach Jose Fernandez – who should be considered a doctor the way he breathed life into this team when he took over in 2000 – have been ready for the next level since first making the WNIT in 2004.

Then there is a team such as Connecticut, which has a better following than most celebrities.

Should USF strive to be that powerhouse? Of course.

It just might take longer than people hope.

Connecticut women’s basketball has a storied history just as much as its male counterparts. No surprise, since that was there even before Geno Auriemma won three straight titles.

Fernandez and company should strive to be like the No. 3 team in the nation – because who else should you model after, especially when the team is right in your conference? And though Fernandez won’t come right out and say it, he talks about the All-Americans the Huskies are loaded with and wonders; he sees the many Connecticut fans in the crowd and gets jealous.

“Every team wants their own identity,” Fernandez said.

Ask about next level, and Fernandez will talk your ear off.

“(Connecticut is) our next level,” Fernandez said. “We’ve had our steps in the right direction – making the NCAA Tournament – and we hope to get back there.”

Well, the next level for this team would be, at the very least, a guaranteed trip to the tournament every season – that is, after replacing Jessica Dickson, which will be harder than explaining a Stephen Hawking book to third graders.

There can’t be excuses for mid-week road losses to teams below them in the conference standings.

“There’s no excuses for the West Virginia and DePaul games,” Fernandez said.He’s right. There aren’t any. No one wants excuses, anyway.

The point is, most want that next level already. They are sick of pouring so much emotion into the men’s basketball team and getting unrequited love, or in this case, wins.

Is it going to be a slow process? Sure. I don’t think many can argue with that, but how many more exceptional players can fans fall in love with, only to be themselves disappointed.

Now, the team is sitting on a very thin bubble with a ranked team and a team just as good as USF still remaining on the schedule, and is in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ll have nothing to blame but ourselves,” Fernandez said solemnly following his postgame press conference. “If we had taken care of what we had to on the road, we wouldn’t be talking about the bubble right now.”

In the media room, Fernandez and Auriemma shook hands and embraced between interview sessions.

A passing of the torch? Perhaps, maybe in a few more years of fewer excuses and more recruits.

But at least this David and Goliath get along.

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