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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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USF women ready to learn NCAA fate

TAMPA — University of South Florida women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez said he has been in this position before — too many times. USF is hoping for positive news Monday night when the 64-team NCAA women’s tournament field is announced.

“Waiting, seeing what’s going on in the other conference tournaments, waiting some more,” Fernandez said. “We’ve been on the wrong side of the bubble. It’s out of your control. I would say we’re definitely deserving. No question.”

The Bulls (19-12, 13-5 American Athletic Conference regular season) were the third-best team in a league where the top two — Connecticut and Louisville — were ranked in the top five nationally.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said “there should be an investigation’’ if USF isn’t selected for the 64-team field. Louisville coach Jeff Walz, whose team defeated USF 60-56 in the AAC tournament semifinals, said the Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the country.

The Bulls were hampered by a 5-7 start, but their lineup was riddled with injuries to key players, a factor that sometimes is considered by the selection committee.

USF played well down the stretch, getting a key road win at then-No. 24-ranked Rutgers to close the regular season.

“We’re hoping we have done enough to get in the tournament,’’ Bulls senior guard Inga Orekhova said. “Once you get in the tournament, you want to get back.’’

Last season, USF secured the second NCAA tournament bid in the program’s history. The Bulls won a true road game at Texas Tech, then took California, an eventual Women’s Final Four team, to overtime in the second round before getting eliminated.

“We did what we needed to do at the end of the season — finish strong,” Fernandez said. “I think we have a lot to offer. But right now, all you can do is sit and wait.”

It’s a familiar position for Fernandez’s program. This time, he’s hoping the Bulls are on the positive side of the NCAA tournament bubble.

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