The waiting game isn’t what the women’s basketball team hoped it would be playing right now, especially with an NCAA Tournament berth at stake. But after two consecutive appearances to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, the Bulls are ready for the program to take the next step.
On Monday, the Bulls’ waiting will be over.
The NCAA women’s Selection Show will air on ESPN at 7 Monday night, and everyone involved with women’s basketball will be watching, hoping to see USF on a bracket.
“I want this for the players, especially the seniors, and for my staff because they have worked so hard this season,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “I want it for every player that has played for me the last six years.”
Fernandez preached to his players to concentrate on academics this week, get some rest and just get away from basketball for a few days. But for the players, that’s easier said than done.
“My thoughts have been all over the place the last couple of days,” senior forward Ezria Parsons said. “We didn’t get to 20 wins – that would have got us in. So I’m just waiting and hoping we get in.”
Following the Bulls’ first-round exit in the Big East Tournament, junior forward Jessica Dickson has been thinking about what could have been over the weekend but feels the rest has been refreshing.
“We needed the rest, and that’s a big plus for us if we make the NCAA Tournament,” Dickson said. “Coach Fernandez has been saving our legs, so coming in fresh will definitely help us.”
Fernandez and his players believe they have done enough this season and deserve a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls wanted to reach the 20-win plateau but fell just short. Now USF hopes its resume is impressive enough to convince the selection committee.
USF finished the season with a 19-11 overall record and 9-8 in conference play. The Bulls upset ranked teams DePaul and Notre Dame during the regular season, but had losses to North Carolina, LSU, Connecticut, St. John’s, Rutgers and Michigan State. Two losses to Pittsburgh and road losses to Louisville and Cincinnati won’t help the Bulls’ cause, either.
A berth in the WNIT will keep USF in postseason play, but the focus of the team this season is reaching the NCAA Tournament.
“It would be huge to get a berth because we have worked hard for years to reach this goal,” Parsons said. “We knew that we had the players this season and a shot to make the tournament. We want it.”
ESPN.com and CollegeRPI.com are consistent in putting the Bulls in the tournament as a 12th seed. ESPN.com, however, has the Bulls playing Utah in Pennsylvania, while CollegeRPI.com has USF facing Florida in the first round in Connecticut.
While Fernandez recognizes that a postseason berth in either the NCAA Tournament or WNIT is an accomplishment for his squad, Dickson feels anything short of an NCAA berth won’t be good enough.
“For me and my teammates, especially the four seniors, it would be a disappointment to not make the NCAA Tournament,” Dickson said. “We went to the NIT when I was a freshman, but our goal was to make the NCAA Tournament this season, and we worked hard for it; so going to the NIT is not what we want.”