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2003 schedule less daunting for Bulls

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team struggled through a 7-20 year last season, due in part to playing, arguably, one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation.

Home games against Georgia and back-to-back national champions Connecticut, along with road trips to Indiana, Iowa State, Miami and Florida, led to a 5-8 non-conference record for the Bulls last season.

The loaded schedule was designed to provide a tune-up for an increasingly tougher Conference USA schedule, but the perennial powerhouse schools may have drained all the energy out of the Bulls, who went 2-12 in conference play last year.

Bulls’ fans will, therefore, breathe a sigh of relief that the multitude of postseason teams from 2003 are not featured on USF’s schedule this year, paving the way for an improvement, record wise.

Of the 13 non-conference teams USF will face in the 2003-2004 season, only Georgia and Miami made last year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Bulls’ schedule features games against Florida’s big three — Miami, Florida and Florida State — as well as intra-state rival Florida Atlantic.

“I think this schedule matches us up with several postseason teams from last season and creates some really competitive match-ups for us at home, as well as on the road,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said in a news release. “It should get our players ready for league play, most definitely.”

The Bulls travel to FSU this year on Dec. 14 looking to avenge a tough loss against the Seminoles in the Dodge Shootout at the Sun Dome last season. The loss, after holding a ten-point lead in the second half, heralded a slump in which the Bulls dropped 15-of-16 games, including an 11-game losing streak.

Just like last season, USF opens the 2003-2004 season on the road, traveling to Wagner on Nov. 21 and then to Army two days later. The Bulls sandwich a home game against UM before hosting the Best Western Roundball Classic Nov. 29-30. Akron, Monmouth and UMKC join the Bulls in the four-team tournament this season, one the Bulls have won the past two seasons.