NOTEBOOK: War on I-4 set for prime-time kickoff; AAC announces future schedules
The War on I-4 is set for prime time.
USF and UCF will kick off from Spectrum Stadium on Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. in a game set to air nationally on ESPN, the AAC announced Monday.
The game will be the 11th installment of the rivalry, which USF holds a 6-4 lead in, though UCF has won the last two meetings.
That wasn’t the only big scheduling news from Monday, though.
USF also knows what its conference schedule will look like the next two years.
The AAC announced future conference matchups for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Each team will play eight conference games — four home and four away — as well as each of the other 10 league members at least once over the two-year span.
Thanks to the departure of UConn at the end of this season, the conference will only have 11 football-playing members next season and will not feature divisional play like it has since 2015.
It will, however, continue to hold a conference championship game thanks to a two-year waiver from the NCAA. The exact method for determining which teams qualify for that championship game will be determined by the conference at a later date.
In a “quirk” of the new schedule, as a USF release put it, the Bulls face Tulsa at Raymond James Stadium in both 2020 and 2021. USF’s opponents — with exact dates yet to be determined — are listed below:
Home: UCF, East Carolina, Navy, Tulsa
Away: Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Temple
(will not play SMU, Tulane)
Home: Cincinnati, Houston, Temple, Tulsa
Away: UCF, East Carolina, SMU, Tulane
(will not play Memphis, Navy)
Women’s basketball faces No. 2 Baylor
If you thought things were going to get easy for USF women’s basketball following its opening-weekend matchup against then-No. 15 Texas, you thought wrong.
The Bulls (4-0), who moved up three spots Monday to No. 22 in the AP Poll, head to Waco, Texas, to face defending NCAA champion No. 2 Baylor (3-0) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. (TV: ESPN+ | Radio: BullsUnlimited)
The big story is whether or not Baylor senior forward Lauren Cox plays. The 6-foot-4-inch reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is out indefinitely with a stress reaction to the second metatarsal on her right foot, according to ESPN. Cox missed Thursday’s victory against Houston Baptist.
The injury is not on the same leg that forced her out of April’s national championship game at Amalie Arena.
However, when asked if Cox’s status would affect USF’s preparation, coach Jose Fernandez simply said, “No.”
Through three games, Baylor has outscored its opponents by a combined 212 points. However, that really doesn’t tell the full story, given that Baylor has played New Hampshire, Grambling State and Houston Baptist.
In fact, Fernandez hasn’t shown much video to his players of Baylor’s first three games — mainly because there wasn’t much to show.
“We watched all three of their games — our staff did,” Fernandez said. “Our players, we didn’t show much because the opponents that they played … it was watching a track meet and a layup fest.”
Film or no film, there shouldn’t be many surprises playing the national champions.
“We know it’s going to be very, very intense, very physical, especially inside,” junior forward Bethy Mununga said. “We’re just ready to fight. Every day is a fight, but [Tuesday], I think we’ll have to push a little bit more.”
While the Bulls were preparing for and traveling to Baylor, the AAC announced two USF players had received weekly honors.
Freshman guard Maria Alvarez was named Freshman of the Week after averaging 15.5 points and shooting more than 60 percent from the field.
Mununga was named to the AAC Honor Roll following a week where she recorded back-to-back double-doubles, averaging 14 points and 11.5 rebounds.
Men’s soccer makes NCAA Tournament
For the first time since 2016, USF men’s soccer is going to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls (11-6-1, 4-3 AAC) earned an at-large bid to the 48-team tournament Monday, the program’s 21st overall.
“I’m really excited for the guys, no doubt about it,” coach Bob Butehorn said in a statement. “They were on pins and needles there, as all of us were, just not knowing, but it’s really good. They put a good season together and they deserve what they got.”
USF travels to Louisville (8-7-2, 3-4-1 ACC) for a first-round matchup with a Cardinal team it defeated 2-0 back in September, when Louisville was ranked No. 5 in the nation.
“I think it’s gonna be a tough place for us to go and play, but the guys are definitely looking forward to it,” Butehorn said. “It will be, for us, another good challenge.”
The winner of USF vs. Louisville, which kicks off Thursday evening at 7:30, travels to No. 14-seed UC Davis (13-4-2, 5-1-1 Big Sky) in the second round of the tournament.
The Bulls have not advanced out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2012.
Additionally, four Bulls earned postseason AAC honors. Defenders Avionne Flanagan and Javain Brown earned spots on the first team All-AAC, while forward Adrian Billhardt earned second team honors.
Brown and defender Salvatore Mazzaferro were also named to the AAC All-Rookie Team.