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March 19, 2013
TAMPA-After a long and tedious wait, the USF Women's Basketball team is going to the NCAA tournament for just the second time in program history. The trip will be the first for the Bulls since the 2006 season.
The Bulls will head to Lubbock, Texas this coming Saturday as the No. 10 seed to take on the No. 7 seed Texas Tech Raiders in the first round.
There wasn't much doubt from members of the team regarding whether or not they'd get in. The Bulls notched two consecutive wins against ranked teams late in the season against Louisville and Syracuse to propel them into the field of 64. USF also gave the committee a good show in their Big East tournament matchup with Notre Dame; USF held a second half lead before falling 75-66.
The Bulls and their fans who gathered at the Sun Dome didn't have to wait all that long to find out their fate. USF was the sixth team to be announced.
"I was looking over at my sister and my hands were sweating after they announced the first bracket and we weren't in there," senior and leading score Andrea Smith said. "I didn't even look at the other team, I just saw South Florida and knew that everything we had worked for had paid off."
While it might take awhile for the emotions of making the big dance to sink in, the Bulls know they have to focus on preparing for Texas Tech.
"It will sink in probably when I go to sleep, I'll be thinking about Texas Tech, thinking about making it to the tournament," Andrell Smith said. "We say every day, March, March, but now it's here. It's real."
Head Coach Jose Fernandez is taking a bit of a different approach. He and his staff are enjoying the tournament berth, but he knows it is all about business from here.
"I'll know a lot more about them (Texas Tech) after tonight," Fernandez said. "My assistants are already working on that. We'll get to know them a lot tonight in order to get our kids ready for practice, film, and scouting."
The women's team has made the postseason in nine of the past ten seasons under Jose Fernandez, including a WNIT Championship in 2009.
"I'm very proud of this team," Fernandez explained. "This is a great group. I'm very happy for them and this is something they are going to remember for a lifetime."
Tipoff from Lubbock is set for 6:50 PM on Saturday. The winner will move on to face the winner of the No. 2 vs No. 15 matchup between Cal and Fresno State.
Josh Appel is the Senior Writer for RunningtheBulls.com. He is a student broadcaster at the University of South Florida. You can contact him at Josh@RunningtheBulls.com. Follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshAppel.