Women’s basketball waits for NCAA bid

After the conclusion of the conference tournament championships, 31 teams will automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and 33 at-large bids remain.

With a convincing 79-64 victory over Seton Hall in the opening round of the Big East Tournament, the Bulls have made their case for earning their second-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

“We’re 20-11 with a 32 RPI, so I don’t see how we wouldn’t get in the NCAA Tournament,” coach Jose Fernandez said Sunday. “This year, the best we can get, I think, is nine teams that should get a bid in this league. It doesn’t mean that I think there are nine teams in this league deserving of a bid.”

Although Fernandez thinks as many as nine teams from the Big East Conference can qualify this year, the Atlantic Coast Conference was the most represented league after sending seven teams to last year’s tournament.

Last season, the Bulls earned their first tournament appearance as a No. 9 seed, but lost 67-65 in the opening round to No. 8 Southern California.

The 2007 tournament is broken up into four regions: Dallas, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Fresno, Calif., and Greensboro, N.C. The Final Four will be hosted in Cleveland starting April 1.

Charlie Creme, ESPN.com’s bracketologist for women’s college basketball, has USF seeded No. 11 in the Fresno bracket, playing No. 6 California (23-8) in his latest projections. Opening night of the tournament is March 17.

“We’ve followed (the projections) for the last two or three weeks,” Fernandez said Tuesday night. “But (our seeding) doesn’t really matter. It’s up to the NCAA (voting committee). Those are just projections.”

Creme predicts eight teams from the Big East will earn tournament berths, leading all conferences and up from six in 2006.

Although the Bulls won’t know if they make the tournament until Monday, they are preparing by returning to practice today through Friday.

“Once we find out Monday, we’ll come in and shoot around, and we’ll figure out where we’re at,” Fernandez said. “But our strength of schedule and our RPI speak for itself, so we’ll see.”