New York, NY - Since the University of South Florida women’s basketball team joined the BIG EAST Conference prior to the 2005-06 season, one thing has pretty much been a constant. USF has finished in at least eighth place in the league in three of the past four years, and they have advanced to the second day of the conference tournament every season. So there is no reason to think that this year will be any different, despite the Bulls being picked to finish 11th by the BIG EAST coaches at this year’s annual media day held at ESPN Zone in New York City.
“I’m not to concerned about the preseason coaches poll,” said USF head coach Jose Fernandez. “We have been extremely fortunate to have been successful playing in the best women’s basketball conference in the country. We have been in the top eight of the league on a regular basis and have won games in the conference tournament. I really think that we have the personnel and the talent to do that again this year.”
USF was picked 11th with 86 points just two points ahead of 12th place St. John’s.
Defending National Champion Connecticut – who the Bulls open BIG EAST Conference play with on Jan. 4 in Hartford - picked up all but one first place vote. Notre Dame was picked second while DePaul and national runner-up Louisville share the No. 3 spot in the poll. Pittsburgh was picked to finish fifth.
Rutgers, Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia and Marquette round of the top 10.
USF lost two of its top three scorers off of last seasons Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) championship team, in leading scorer Shantia Grace and second leading scorer Jazmine Sepulveda.
The Bulls, however, return two of its four scorers from last year’s team in Janae Stokes and Jessica Lawson.
Stokes was second on the team in scoring averaging 12.6 points per game and was one of the top three-point shooter’s in America hitting 39.7 percent (116-292) of her shots from behind the arc, ranking her 37th in the nation.
Lawson finished the year fourth on the team in scoring netting 10.6 points per contest, and was tied for second in rebounding grabbing 6.7 per game. In addition, the sixth-year senior shot 55.9 percent (151-270) from the field on the year which was good enough for fifth in the BIG EAST.
Last season, the Bulls posted a 27-10 record – the best in school history – and an 8-8 eighth place finish in the BIG EAST Conference. USF finished the year winning five consecutive games en route to the WNIT postseason title – including three consecutive on the road. After a first round bye, the Bulls took care of Florida Gulf Coast (88-81 in overtime) on March 21 and Mississippi (74-57) on March 26, both coming at home. USF then hit the road, for 10 straight days, to defeat St. Bonaventure (80-66) on March 29, Boston College (82-65) on April 1 and Kansas (75-71) on April 4 in the title game.
The championship game with the Jayhawks was played in front of a USF, Kansas and Big 12 women’s basketball record crowd of 16,113 at historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse. It was also the eighth largest crowd to see a women’s basketball game in Division I this season.
USF will kick its season off on Nov. 13 against Florida A&M. On that night, the Bulls will also raise their WNIT Championship banner.
Complete 2009-10 BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll
2. Notre Dame
9. West Virginia
12. St. John’s
14. Seton Hall