After impressive season, Bulls deserve NCAA Tournament spot

Chances are high that USF will be selected to put on itsdancing shoes and enter theNCAA tournament for the first time in more than five years after animpressive season with over 20 wins.

With Selection Mondaytaking place at 7 p.m., the Bulls will host a watch party in the club level of the USF Sun Dome.

After USFs two-gameshowing in the Big Easttournament during spring break, the team was part of aconference which included two of the top three teams in the nation.

The Bulls started the tournament off by defeatingRutgers, 42-39, 11 days after suffering a double-digit loss in New Jersey to the Scarlet Knights.

In the key games the Bullshave won this season, defensive stops and heads-up play havebeen important factorsin the closing minutes.

That proved to be true in the case against Rutgers as USF led 40-39 with just under a minuteremaining.

Failing to score on theirpossession despite an offensiverebound and all of the focus shifted to defense, the Bulls needed the win.

Rutgers came up the court with the game in their hands and all eyes on the ball. Before theScarlet Knights could put a shot up, junior forward Inga Orekhova came up with a huge steal to seal the game and sinking her free throws.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the second-ranked team in the country was waiting for them in the next round.

The Bulls gave one of their best performances of the season against No. 2 Notre Dame the following day, but it ended up coming short in the final minutes.

The Irish won the BigEast tournament, endingConnecticuts reign asconsecutive champions.

USF, which has been led by the strong play of seniorsAndrea and Andrell Smith twins, finished a20-win season beatingmultiple ranked teams and hada winning record in conference play.

The Bulls have been toughcompetition for each team they have faced this season, andperhaps the defining moment was a four-day stretch fromFebruary 20 – 24.

In two games, USF beat two ranked teams and made the case for an NCAA tournament berth.

During this stretch, arguably the most important moment of the season happened for the Bulls.

Late in the game againstSyracuse, things were tied and USF had the ball.

A jump shot was missed, but junior center Akila McDonald had alreadypositioned herself for anoffensive rebound. She gained the advantage on the Syracuse
defender and she grabbed the ball and put it up for the game winning shot.

McDonald euphorically pumped her fist and the Bullswere celebrating their best win of the season seconds later.

The Bulls have shown thisseason that rankings andseeding do not intimidatethem, and this resiliency could be put to the test if they are selected for the NCAA