Women’s basketball in a bad spot

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMEUSF (13-13, 3-11) at Notre Dame (21-6, 9-4)When: Tonight, 7Where: Joyce CenterTV/Radio: 1010 AM

The South Florida women’s basketball team finds itself in a difficult situation as three games remain on its schedule. The team sits at 14th in the Big East Conference, which allows only the top 12 teams into the conference tournament. The Bulls play No. 14 Notre Dame (21-6, 9-4) tonight in South Bend, Ind., where they will try to keep their winning percentage above .500.

The Bulls (13-13, 3-10) missed an opportunity to get into the final spot Saturday when they lost to Georgetown (14-12, 4-9) – another team that was fighting for 12th place – 66-55.

“That’s why the Georgetown game was so big,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “Because we were both fighting for that 12th and final spot, but now you put yourself in a position to get in front of (Georgetown). You have to win (at least) two out of (the last) three to get that final seed, so that makes it a little tougher.”

Fernandez said he thinks the Bulls will probably need to win the rest of their games to get into the Big East Tournament in Hartford, Conn. After the Notre Dame game, the Bulls face No. 24 Pittsburgh (18-8, 8-5) and Marquette (15-12, 7-7) – a team that beat USF 79-66 on Jan. 26.

Many factors contributed to the situation in which the Bulls find themselves, but inconsistency ranks high among them.

“It’s just a variety of reasons, to be honest with you,” Fernandez said. “They’ve been a very inconsistent team all year long. And when you fix a problem, another is created.”

Fernandez said he’s played about 15 different lineups this year in an attempt to find something that works.

“When you’re doing that, you’re searching for answers,” he said. “You’re searching for solutions.”

The Bulls will be searching for an answer when they go into two straight games against ranked opponents, but the competition is nothing new to the Bulls. The Big East continually pits USF against tough opposition.

“The Big East is the strongest league in the country,” Fernandez said. “Night in and night out you’re playing one of the top teams in the country. I think they got nine out of 16 teams projected to get into the NCAA Tournament.”

Notre Dame is one of those projected teams. They lead the all-time series against the Bulls 3-2, but haven’t beaten them in their last two meetings. They will look to end that streak tonight, with an offense that scores 78 points per game. USF averages 67.3 points.

“The last two years we have beaten Notre Dame in the regular season, so they’re definitely going to be up to play us. Notre Dame offensively is a very, very good basketball team,” Fernandez said. “They got guards that can take you off the dribble, they can shoot the three… They are a well-balanced basketball team.”