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Women’s Basketball Doesn’t Have A UConn Problem, But USF Does

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Being stuck in the same conference as the sport’s 800-pound gorilla is holding USF’s entire program back.

NCAA Womens Basketball: AAC Conference Tournament-USF vs Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

OK, after this latest NCAA Tournament seeding travesty, I think we can conclusively say that while women’s basketball does not have a UConn problem, USF absolutely does. I don’t begrudge their success, and it’s not like UConn is doing this maliciously or going out of their way to do it, but by their mere existence they’re holding back Jose Fernandez and his team in a lot of ways.

They’re in the same conference

This is obvious. Without UConn in the American, USF would surely have won conference titles (plural) and trophies by now. They’re almost always the second-best team in the league, and this year it wasn’t particularly close. But then there’s UConn at the end to suck up all the honors and the awards and the oxygen. I don’t think there’s another conference in Division I that USF would have less of a chance of winning than the one they’re actually in.

USF plays UConn more than any other team

Counting conference tournament meetings, USF has played the Huskies 14 times in the last five seasons. Most of the rest of the league, and obviously everyone on UConn’s non-conference schedule, only has to play them once a year. That means the Bulls have three times as many losses, usually big losses, to UConn on their NCAA Tournament resume as anyone else.

The Selection Committee holds all these UConn games against USF

There’s no way the Selection Committee is giving USF a fair shake here. They don’t seem to consider what the Bulls’ resume would look like if they only had to play UConn once. They don’t seem to consider how other teams in USF’s class would fare if they had to play UConn three times. (Probably just as badly.) They don’t seem to understand that a game where you lose to the Huskies by 20 would be good enough to beat almost any other team.

This leads to the Bulls being chronically underseeded at tournament time, while teams with similar or inferior stat profiles get better seeds and hosting privileges. Look at how much of a boost it was for USF to host a subregional in 2015. Those were the biggest and loudest crowds either USF basketball team has seen in a long time, and it’s had a meaningful long-term impact on the program. Could USF step up to another level if the school ever got to host again? Maybe become a regular Sweet 16 team? It’s possible.

No one else can beat UConn, either

Spare me the WELL MAYBE THEY SHOULD JUST BEAT THEM ONE OF THESE TIMES retort. If UConn was losing a few games a year, then sure, USF would do themselves a world of good by winning once in a while.

But they aren’t, and they have a lot of company. Would you like to know UConn’s record over the past five seasons? It’s 184-2. That’s ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-FOUR WINS AND TWO LOSSES. During that stretch, the Huskies won 111 games in a row. This is an unprecedented dynasty in college basketball. (Even during John Wooden’s five best years at UCLA, from 1968-69 to 1972-73, his Bruins lost a total of four games.) In the last five seasons, which coincide with the formation of The American, the Huskies have won 98.9% of their games. So don’t tell me USF should try beating UConn one of these times, because basically no one can.

Apparently travel is a consideration now, and guess who’s in the neighborhood

Now this is some absolute garbage. I’m pretty sure the last two years, USF has been “procedured” down a seed or two from where they would have been objectively ranked so they wouldn’t have to travel as far. They ended up as an 11 seed last year, and a 6 this year, and both times they were sent to Tallahassee. (Never mind that in 2016 the Committee sent them to FREAKING LOS ANGELES.)

I’ve written about how regionalizing NCAA tournaments screws USF in Olympic sports. Well, the same thing’s liable to happen in women’s basketball too, because guess who’s always a #1 seed in the East region? That’s right, it’s UConn! So now, if the Bulls get on a roll and make it all the way to the regional final, the Huskies will be waiting for a fourth meeting, where they will see to it that USF has no chance of reaching the Final Four.

And if that’s not what’s happening here, then the Selection Committee needs to try harder with their pairings. It’s the third time in the last four years USF has been a #6 seed, and every one of those times they’ve been stuffed in UConn’s locker, err, region. These are the only two teams from The American in the field of 64. How hard could it possibly have been to keep them apart?

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I don’t write here much anymore and I don’t spend much time on social media either, but I’ve seen the movement by UConn fans to return to the Big East. Based on what sharing a league with them has done to USF basketball, my only question to UConn is: Do you need help packing?