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Women’s basketball schedule –anything but an easy ride

Rankings – they’re meaningless.

No. 7 North Carolina. No. 11 DePaul. No. 13 Michigan State.Ignore them; they don’t mean squat.

But the women’s basketball team was not that much finer in North Carolina.

The Spartans are on tab Saturday, and that’s good considering the biggest upset in the program’s history – beating the Blue Demons 79-77 in overtime Wednesday – is one fast-propelling move into the Big East.

Bottom line: Not exactly an easy schedule, conference or non-conference.

“This year’s schedule is even better than last year’s,” senior Ezria Parsons said. “We are an NCAA team. With this win tonight, we can beat anybody in our conference.”

Too bad conference play is off for the rest of the month – but the Bulls’ schedule doesn’t give them much breathing room.

“Yeah, (the win) was good, but if we play as a team – if we listen to the coaches – we could beat anybody,” Parsons said. “We proved it tonight, but no, we could have done it any day.”

North Carolina seemed to be in the past. Scoring only 47 points was something easily forgettable for team that was averaging 80 points a game.

No, the Bulls weren’t happy with their performance, and no, it’s not something they want to relive, but with the strength of the schedule coach Jose Fernandez complied – graded an A in the preseason – you can imagine why rankings mean about as much as a score at halftime.

“The schedule that coach Fernandez set up – it’s why he did it, because it’s what we are: an NCAA basketball team,” junior Jessica Dickson said. “We can contend with the North Carolinas, the DePauls, the Rutgers, teams like that. For him to go out and schedule those games, it’s really going to help us and help us say, ‘We are an NCAA team.’ Because if we go out there and practice hard every day, we can play with just about anybody.”

Anybody also includes No. 3 LSU, No. 8 Connecticut and teams that are already receiving votes, such as Villanova, Louisville and St. John’s.

It’s mind boggling to think about why Fernandez would do this. Not the teams he had no control over – the Big East teams – but the teams that are non-conference. Two were in March’s Final Four. Both are away games.Browse the schedule and you’d think Jose was loco.

“(DePaul) is an NCAA Tournament team,” Fernandez said. “North Carolina has 12 players who can shoot the three and blow right by you. But now (with Michigan State), we have to prepare for a whole different type of style. They are one of the toughest teams in the country.”

Tough this and strong that and strength of schedule the other, Fernandez is as sane as any college basketball coach – men’s or women’s – could be.

It depends on how you look at it.

You can think, “The Bulls had no chance against three ranked teams in the span of a week,” or you can think, “What the hell are rankings in December worth anyway?”

Fernandez happens to think the latter.

“Kids know (the rankings),” Fernandez said. “We got eight votes last week. We lose to North Carolina on the road by 23 and we get no votes. Then North Carolina goes to Connecticut and beats them, and (the Huskies) drop what, two spots? But forget that. We’ve got some tough kids now. I don’t have to motivate them much (with the rankings).

“They’re emotional and that’s why they play so hard defensively. Tell you what, I’d take every one of them with me in an alley.”Never mind. He is crazy.