A tale as old as time around these parts, the USF women’s basketball program is projected to finish at or near the top of the American Athletic Conference in their preseason coach’s poll and the men’s basketball team is projected to finish in the bottom half.
Women’s Basketball Stays on Top
This year is no different, as the AAC women’s basketball coaches voted Jose Fernandez’s team to finish first collecting nine of the possible 11 first place votes and 99 overall points. In second is Houston, who collected the two remaining first place votes (one of which is Jose Fernandez, who is not allowed to vote for his own squad) and 89 overall points. The rest of the top half included SMU in third (73 pts), Tulsa in fourth (66 points), and Memphis and Tulane tied fifth (56 pts).
Bringing in more preseason honors for the women’s team, USF guard Elena Tsineke was chosen as the preseason player of the year while also picking up a first team preseason all-conference selection alongside Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu.
While the offseason looked perilous for the Bulls after finishing with a disappointing 2nd place finish in the AAC and a first round exit in the NCAA tournament, two seniors also played their last season of collegiate basketball with Shae Leverett and Bethy Mununga rounding out their time in green and gold.
In addition to graduating players, the program was met with an exodus of players departing in the transfer portal. In all, six players left the team including cornerstone players Elisa Pinzan and Sydni Harvey. But, as we all know, the portal taketh away and the portal can also giveth.
In comes three stud transfers; Caitlin McGee from Ole Miss, former McDonald’s All-American Sammie Puises from Florida State, and former McDonald’s All-American Priscilla Williams from Syracuse. McGee played in 56 games for the Rebels, including a stunning upset of the Bulls that saw her come off the bench to suffocate the Bulls offense with her defensive intensity. Puisis wrapped up her career in Tally as the team’s leader in 3 point shooting, making 44 3s during the 2022 season. Williams, who redshirted during the 2022 season due to injury, was in instant impact freshman during the 2021 season after starting in 20 games and scoring in double figures in 9 of those contests.
Of course, Jose can’t resist adding international flavor to his roster as well, bringing in five players with extensive FIBA experience. Janette Aarnio (Finland), Maria Asensio (Spain), Carla Brito (Spain), Daniela Gonzalez (Colombia), and Emma Johansson (Sweden) all made the pilgrimage to Tampa.
In all, Jose Fernandez continues to keep the high expectations for his team as they look to bounce back into conference championship contention.
Men’s Basketball: #NotLast
On the flip side, the USF men’s basketball program is in desperate need of a resurgence under head coach Brian Gregory. The preseason coach’s poll placed the Bulls at 9th with a paltry 33 points, but well clear of 10th place Tulsa at 21 points and nearly unanimously selected ECU in last with 13 points.
Gregory’s previous teams have been met with highs and lows, setting a program record in wins in a season and winning a CBI championship, to scandal’s involving racist allegations against an assistant coach and mass exodus of players.
Last year’s team stayed towards the bottom during the season, finishing last in the AAC and few highlights to show forth (upsetting Central Florida was pretty fun though). The offseason brought changes similar to the women’s team. Javon Greene (who grad transferred in from George Mason) finished up his last year of eligibility, and cornerstone player Caleb Murphy entered the transfer portal alongside Jaylyn McCreary (transfer from South Carolina).
However, portal take, portal give, etc.
Brian Gregory went after pieces in the portal to address major issues that plagued his team last season.
First, with the team being the literal worst (ranked 358 out of 358) at 3-point shooting, he brought in Tyler Harris, a transfer from Memphis who sank nearly 40% of his threes last season for the tigers.
Second, the team needed another dynamic guard to help bring the ball up the court, especially in a full court press that teams continued to push last season on USF, so in comes Selton Miguel from Kansas State. Miguel also brings a knack for defensive intensity averaging a steal a game for the Wildcats.
Third, the Bulls needed an athletic forward who isn’t afraid to get into the paint offensively or defensively, and they made the call to bring in South Carolina transfer Keyshawn Bryant, who...well just watch:
In addition to the three transfers, Brian Gregory’s staff brought in two three-star players from the high school ranks. Combo Guard Ryan Conwell heads to Tampa after collecting many accolades at Pike High School in Indiana including Marion County Player of the Year, MIC All-Conference, and a finalist for Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana. Joining Conwell is 6’11 center Dok Muordar from Huntington, WV, who averaged a double-double in high school.
The Bulls had a scare in the offseason, with star center Russ Tchewa, who competes with the Cameroonian National Team, was having some visa troubles getting back into the US. Thankfully, the government was able to get this resolve on September 1st and he immediately flew back to meet his team in time to continue the Fall workouts.
Both teams begin their season in early November with an exhibition matchup, the men’s team will tip off against University of Tampa on Nov 1 at 7 pm at home, and the women’s team will welcome Morehead State on Nov 7th at 5:30 pm.
The regular season begins shortly thereafter for both teams as the men’s team will play Southeast Missouri State after the women’s exhibition on Nov 7th at 8 pm, and the women’s team will face Florida A&M on November 11th at 6 pm.