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Is an automatic NCAA tournament berth still on the table for USF?

Freshman guard Vittoria Blasigh scored a career-high 31 points in a 105-75 win against Garder-Webb on Dec. 10. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Despite having a winning record, USF women’s basketball hasn’t looked as dominant as it has in previous years.

The Bulls (10-6, 2-1 AAC) were unable to record a win against a top-50 opponent in its nonconference schedule and are three games into American conference play.  

It’s worth noting that many of the Bulls’ key players have dealt with injuries, including senior guard and 2022-23 American Athletic Conference newcomer of the year Sammie Puisis. 

Puisis was ruled out for the season on Dec. 13 due to a left ACL injury.

Navigating these injuries has presented a challenge for the Bulls throughout the first 16 games of the year. The team still has some time to figure things out as the end of the season approaches on March 5. 

Here’s an overview of USF’s performance at this point in the season.

Best Midseason Performance – USF versus Gardner-Webb 

USF’s most dominant offensive display so far came against Gardner-Webb on Dec. 10. 

The Bulls beat the Bulldogs (1-13, 0-1 Big South) in a 105-75 blowout, marking the 18th 100-point game in program history. It was the first since the 2018-19 season.

The game opened with a 20-4 Bulls scoring run and it led by as many as 31 points in the third quarter.

Freshman guard Vittoria Blasigh scored 31 points on 12 field goals. She became the first player to score 30 or more since forward Dulcy Fankam-Mendjiadeu during the 2022-23 season.

Puisis scored 21 points In her lone appearance in the Bulls’ lineup this year.

Midseason Heartbreak –  USF versus Alabama

Last season, USF beat Alabama 67-59. This year’s rematch played out a lot differently. 

The Roll Tide (14-3, 1-1 SEC) beat the Bulls 70-41 on Nov. 16. The game got out of hand in the second quarter when Alabama outscored USF 16-6. USF as a team shot 24% from the field.

USF was unable to garner a lead at any point in the matchup. Blasigh was the only player to score in double figures with 18 points in her first career start.  

Midseason MVP – Vittoria Blasigh

Blasigh has been the Bulls’ most consistent offensive player, totaling a team-high 13.9 points per game.

She has scored in double figures 10 times this season and 20+ points on four different occasions.

Blasigh has also shown tremendous shooting ability, making 38.9 % of her threes this year. Her 44 three-point field goals ranked 12th in the nation this season and second among freshmen. 

She was named American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week on three separate occasions. 

Her performance will be crucial to the team’s success during the second half of the season.

Related: USF tests its depth, extends winning streak to three against Grambling State 

Midseason Surprise – Romi Levy

Redshirt junior forward Romi Levy has upped her play dramatically since becoming a consistent starter for the Bulls in December.

Levi’s averaged 18.2 points over her last six games and started in all of them. During the first 10 games of the season, she averaged 6.6 points.  

In the Bulls’ most recent game, Levi scored a career-high 32 points against Tulane on Jan. 6th.

If Levi maintains this level of play, it would give the Bulls another consistent scoring presence throughout their conference schedule. 

Looking ahead

USF still has a chance at its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament, though it might not qualify through an at-large bid like in previous years.

During its notably tough non-conference schedule, the Bulls could not record wins against teams like Alabama, then ranked No. 3 NC State, No. 10 Baylor and No. 12 Texas.

Wins against any of these teams would have helped bolster the team’s season resume for tournament seeding.

Blasigh and Levy have given the Bulls consistent offense without Puisis in the lineup, but they also need other players to step up as well. The team averages 65 points per game and shoots 39.7% from the field.

Last year’s USF team, which made the second round of the NCAA tournament, scored 70.1 points per game and made roughly 44% of their field goals.

Another area for improvement is limiting its turnovers. The Bulls average 15.1 per game, which ranks 112th in the country.

With 15 games left in the season, the team will most likely have to qualify by winning the AAC and dominating its conference schedule.

Grade: B-

USF will continue its conference schedule in a matchup against Tulsa on Wednesday in the Yuengling Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and BullsUnlimited.