Both men’s and women’s basketball start their seasons on Nov. 7. Women’s basketball looks to build on the success of the previous year, going 24-9 (12-3 AAC), while dealing with the new pressure because of it. The men’s team finished 8-23 (3-15 AAC) last year and seeks to improve.
As the preseason favorite to place first in the AAC, women’s basketball is coming into the season with a target on their back. Coach Jose Fernandez has not let this season’s expectations deter the team’s focus.
“We hadn’t talked about the conference regular season title, even when we have won it, we never brought it up,” Fernandez said. “We have to attack and prepare for each game like it’s the last one of the season. Every game is just as important as the next.”
This mindset starts with senior guard Elena Tsineke. The preseason player of the year spent the offseason working to become a more consistent three point shooter. She is a career 30% three-point shooter and shot 29% from beyond the arc last year.
“I’ve been literally in the gym every day with one day off. I know that that was an area for growth last year that I had to improve my 3-point shots so that’s what I did,” Tsineke said. “I try to be more consistent in my workout and it’ll just translate on the court hopefully.”
Her work ethic has rubbed off on her teammates. Fernandez complimented the example Tsineke sets in the locker room.
“When one of your better players is one of your hardest workers and invests the most in getting better themselves. It’s a huge trickle-down effect,” Fernandez said.
From a team standpoint, getting better will be a day-by-day process, but USF is as talented as they are motivated to do so. Despite losing some of the players that helped them make their run to the AAC conference finals, Fernandez is confident in the roster’s depth and versatility.
“I think when you watch us this year, we’re gonna be a lot different. We are much bigger, we have more size all over the place,” Fernandez said.
Defense is a signature for coach Brian Gregory-led teams. Last year was no different. The Bulls held their opponents to 64.9 points per game and finished top 50 in the nation in that category.
This same success was not replicated offensively. A theme throughout South Florida’s season was their struggle to finish inside. The team had a field goal percentage of 37% and shot 25% from three-point range last year.
“We were just not a great finishing team in any aspect, offensively last year, so it’s something that we have to get much better at,” Gregory said.
Improving their shot-making should be easier with the additions they made in the off-season. South Florida added senior guard Tyler Harris, sophomore guard Selton Miguel and senior forward Keyshawn Bryant to its roster.
Harris and Bryant in particular will give the Bulls more options on offense. Both players eclipsed 1,000 points last year.
Including new players into the rotation is important, but the eight returning players will have to continue to make strides. In order to improve in 2023, each player needs to buy into their role and be the best versions of themselves on the court.
“Once roles become a little more defined, and as we get a little deeper into practice, I think we’ll have a chance to do that,” Gregory said.