Bulls’ tourney fate in question

The USF women’s basketball team schedule consists of 27 games, but the previous 25 will all be meaningless after this weekend. The Bulls (13-12, 3-9 in Conference USA) season has come down to two games: Saint Louis Friday and Memphis Sunday.

If USF wins both, the Bulls virtually secure one of the 12 bids to the C-USA Tournament March 1-4 in Chicago, where the winner receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Should the Bulls lose both, their season ends. Split and everything’s up in the air.

“This weekend is crucial, without a doubt,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “Friday is very important because St. Louis has four wins in conference. We definitely have to win that one on Friday.”

The Bulls enter their matchup with the Billikens (11-14, 4-8) in a three-way tie for 11th with UAB (11-14, 3-9) and Southern Miss (10-15, 3-9). UAB and USF split two regular season meetings, while the Golden Eagles beat the Bulls 78-56 Jan. 17 in Hattiesburg. The Tigers (11-14, 5-7) are holding firm to 9th, one game in front of St. Louis.

Not only will this weekend be crucial to the Bulls’ postseason hopes, but USF will retire Wanda Guyton’s jersey. Guyton, the Bulls’ all-time leading scorer, will become the first woman since the inception of women’s basketball at USF in 1972 to have her number hang from the rafters of the Sun Dome.

“This is long over due,” Fernandez said. Guyton amassed 1,820 points and 1,077 rebounds from 1985-89, both tops for a career at USF. Guyton, a Tampa native, excelled at Hillsborough High School before arriving at USF, taking the Terriers to the state championship in 1984. The success didn’t stop for Guyton at USF as she became a three-time All-Sun Belt selection and the conference’s Player of the Year in ’89, when she averaged 20.3 points per game. Upon completing her career with USF, Guyton played overseas before joining the WNBA’s Houston Comets, with whom she won a title in 1997.

“Several of the (current USF) players have come up and congratulated me,” Guyton said. “I think they’re more excited than I am. I hope it gives them something to look forward to. They can set this as a goal because if I can do it, they can as well.”

  • Anthony Gagliano covers women’s basketball and can be reached at oracleanthony@yahoo.com