Another season, another reason for a challenge

The USF women’s basketball team will once again face the challenge of taking on five teams who enjoyed post-season play in 2003.

Unfortunately, those five are just Conference USA opponents, and there will be two more 2003 NCAA Tournament teams awaiting them in their non-conference schedule for 2003-04.

Jose Fernandez’s fourth season as the Bulls’ coach will again present his team with a tough season, both home and away from the Sun Dome.

“I believe our non-conference schedule will give us an opportunity to play some really challenging opponents from major conferences around the country,” Fernandez said. “We will definitely be tested at home and on the road.”

The Bulls will open the 2003 season with a 7 p.m. game at Wagner on Nov. 11 and then a Nov. 23 battle at Army.

The first home game of the new season will come against in-state rival No. 25. The Hurricanes had an overall record of 18-12 last season, including a 60-49 victory against the Bulls at Coral Gales.

The Bulls will host its 2003 Best Western Roundball Classic starting Nov. 29 against Akron. USF won its own tournament last season defeating Bethune-Cookman and Birmingham Southern.

The Roundball Classic will be a warm up for USF’s Dec. 2 home date against the Gators, who came away with a 70-59 victory against the Bulls in 2002.

USF will face the third of its in-state rivals Dec. 14 when they travel to Florida State for a 2 p.m. meeting against the Seminoles.

The Bulls will have another chance to avenge a 2002-03 loss when they travel to Athens Jan. 3 to take on Georgia. The Bulldogs are the second team the Bulls will face that made an appearance in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

The Bulls open their home C-USA schedule against Marquette, a 2004 Women’s NIT participant on Jan. 16. Just two days later, DePaul travels to the Sun Dome for a 2 p.m. contest. DePaul also made an appearance in the 2003 NCAA Tournament and spent part of the season ranked in the top 25.

Other highlights of the 2003-04 schedule include games against TCU, UAB and Charlotte. The Horned Frogs were the 2003 C-USA Champions and the only C-USA team to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

USF’s final game against an NCAA Tournament team will be Feb. 6 at Cincinnati. The Bearcats also finished No. 2 in C-USA last season

“We are in one of the strongest leagues in the country,” Fernandez said. “Last year, eight teams went to postseason play from our conference. We have a tough opening match-up with Charlotte on the road, who we defeated last season. I think we need to get off to a good start in league play to carry momentum into the latter part of the schedule which we will finish with three out of the last four game at home, heading into the conference tournament.”