NCAA tournament watch
Strength of Schedule: 64
Regular season record: 22-10, 8-8
Key wins: Rutgers, Iowa and Texas Tech
Key losses: Marquette (2)
Diving into USF’s NCAA tournament chances is downright mind-boggling at times.
After the Bulls defeated Cincinnati in the second round of the Big East tournament last weekend, it seemed USF was on its way to the “Big Dance.” However, a crushing 72-49 defeat to No. 1 Connecticut has kept the Bulls on the edge of an at-large bid.
As it stands now, ESPN’s Bracketology expert Charlie Creme has the Bulls as the No. 12 seed in the Berkley Regional, pitted to play No. 5 seed Kansas State. He also has the Bulls as one of his “last four teams in.”
Among Minnesota (56), Mississippi State (45) and Temple (23), the other three teams included in Creme’s last four, USF (54) has the third-worst RPI.
However, collegerpi.com has the Bulls as a No. 10 seed. According to its projections, the Bulls would play No. 7 seed Florida in the Berkley Regional and could set up a second-round matchup with No. 2 seed Baylor.
USF and Baylor participated in nonconference tournaments together in the Virgin Islands earlier this season. While the Bulls never played the Bears, coach Jose Fernandez and his staff watched the Baylor-Wisconsin game and are familiar with the team.
With USF’s fate in the balance, there is a trio of conference tournaments to watch closely this weekend.
With the number of at-large spots dwindling, USF will rely on non-BCS conference favorites to win its conference championships.
“Those teams are going to get bids regardless,” Creme wrote. “So if one of them loses, South Florida will not receive an at-large bid. Unfortunately, as nicely as the Bulls finished the season, the last image we saw was them being turned into roadkill by Connecticut.”
The Bulls were helped Tuesday night when No. 1 seed Middle Tennessee State won the Sun Belt and South Dakota State won the Summit Conference championship. South Dakota is projected as the No. 6 seed in the tournament and Middle Tennessee is projected as the No. 8 seed in the Raleigh Regional, according to Bracketology.
This weekend, the Horizon, Colonial and Mid-American Conference championships are the ones to watch.
In the Horizon League and sitting with an RPI of 46, No. 1 seed Wisconsin-Green Bay (25-3, 18-0) is almost sure to get an at-large bid if it fails to win its championship.
In the Colonial, top-seeded Drexel (21-8) could make a case for an at-large bid if it doesn’t prevail, and No. 2 seed Virginia Commonwealth is listed as one of Creme’s “last four out.”
In the Mid-American, top-seeded Bowling Green (25-3) will most likely snatch up an at-large spot ahead of the Bulls if the Falcons fail to win its respected title.
USF sits in a good position to fulfill its NCAA tournament aspirations if all goes as planned. After battling their way into the top eight of the Big East, the Bulls will find out if that’s good enough for the top 64 in the country.