The University of South Florida women's basketball team is once again playing in the NCAA Tournament, but there's some disappointment with the circumstances.
Coach Jose Fernandez was not pleased his team was seeded sixth in their region and is playing in Tallahassee for the second year in a row.
"It looks like the tournament, for one reason or another, it's becoming regionalized," Fernandez told the Tampa Bay Times. "And I think you're only hurting the student-athletes by doing that."
The Bulls (26-7) finished second in the American Athletic Conference with three of their losses coming to #1 ranked Connecticut (32-0). They lost in the conference championship game for the fourth year in a row to UConn, 70-54, on March 6.
USF was ranked 19th in the final AP top 25 poll, which Fernandez hoped would help his team get rewarded with hosting the first weekend of games.
Instead, they'll take on Buffalo (27-5) at 1:30 Saturday in Tallahassee. If they win, they will face the winner of the third seeded host team, Florida State (25-6), and fourteenth seeded Arkansas-Little Rock (23-9).
Ticket information will be released by FSU, and USF season ticket holders and Bulls Club donors will receive an email Tuesday with information on requesting tickets.
It's the fourth straight year the Bulls have made the tournament and also the fourth straight time they're playing in a first round game pitting a six seed versus an eleven seed. The Bulls won the two previous times as the higher seed, beating LSU 73-64 in 2015 and Colorado State 48-45 in 2016. They lost as an eleven seed, 66-64 to Missouri in 2017.
Seniors Maria Jespersen and Laia Flores will be the program's first seniors to make four trips to the NCAA Tournament.
It's the fifth appearance for USF in the last six seasons, and the sixth overall - all under Fernandez's guidance. With a first round win, the team will tie the 2008-09 and 2014-15 teams for the most wins in a single season with 27.
The Final Four will take place March 30 and April 1 in Columbus, OH.