The Bulls Radio Sports Department provides coverage of all home USF Athletic events on WMNF 88.5 HD2 Tampa and 1620 AM around the Tampa campus. Our mission is to provide the best possible broadcasts and content for our listeners and fans, whether on-air or via our website, while also providing learning opportunities for students interested in sports broadcasting or journalism careers. During the 2011-12 USF sports calender, be sure to check out our coverage of USF football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball.
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Last year, USF Softball coach Ken Ericksen said it would take 35 wins to get the lady Bulls into the NCAA tournament. They ended up getting up to 34 regular season wins, and then lost to Louisville in the first round of the Big East tournament. Last night, the #21 ranked Bulls traveled to Florida and grabbed a quality victory over the 4th ranked team nationally. Now, they sit at 30 wins before the end of March, and they still have a month and a half of Softball to go. They're looking at an impending top-20 ranking heading into the serious part of the Big East schedule.
USF is riding its ten-game winning streak to Pitt this weekend in hopes of remaining undefeated in Big East play against an average Panthers team. But behind the now veteran arm of Sara Nevins, who leads the country in ERA at 0.57, and new ace Sam Greiner, USF's defense has made a habit of keeping teams down. USF has gone 20 straight game allowing two or less runs. If they can get the bats going consistently, which they have been doing well lately, this team has very little standing between them and a Big East championship.
The ladies return home next Friday for a series against St. John's, followed by a Wednesday doubleheader against Providence. If you're a real USF athletics fan, I strongly suggest that you do yourself a favor and go catch a softball game. This may just be a special year for them.
USF Baseball has been playing well lately. Ever since I posted that article complaining about the ineptitude of the team, they've gotten much better fundamentally. Errors are relatively down. Hits are up. And wins are up. It's good to see the team making a turn for the better at the beginning of conference play. This weekend, the Bulls hosted Georgetown for a three-game Big East opener and dominated the series. Pitching was great, and the hitting was better than it's been all season. It's been a good weekend.
But I'm not backing off what I said a few weeks ago. I'm still not convinced that this is a good team. Georgetown is not a good baseball team. You're supposed to sweep them. The fact still remains that we've been pounded by UCF twice and we fail to show up for games that could get us a little respect. I still believe that the defense needs to improve. We've still had errors in too many games this year. Hitting has been solid lately, but it needs to stay consistent if we're going to have a chance at the postseason. This past weekend, we saw something from the Bulls that we've been dying to see all year: Manufacturing runs. A majority of the runs scored this series have been a result of collecting a couple hits in a row. But these guys are still the kings of runners left on base. We won 7-2 today, and I know this sounds strange, but we only scored seven runs. USF loaded the bases on four occasions, but never scored more than two runs in a given inning. Good baseball teams get singles in those situations. In the final stat line, USF left 13 runners on. The guy who is going to carry this offense in C Andrew Longley. In every game I've seen, Longley has always had the best at-bats. Even when he falls behind in the count, Longley fouls away a handful of pitches to work his way back and level the count. You'd be hard pressed to find a better batter on this team. We don't even need everyone to hit like him, but if we could get our guys to sit on pitches and make the pitcher toss him something different, we'd have a much better lineup.
Don't take this the wrong way, though. I am very pleased with the improvement I've seen in this team. I'd rather be leaving guys on base than not getting on base at all. And pitching has been great. Matt Reed, Joe Lovecchio, and Andrew Barbosa each pitched awesome games. Barbosa was unstoppable, striking out 13 batters. Lovecchio only gave up one earned run in 7.2 innings. Reed made some mistakes, but he made them at very opportune times. He have up a hit here and there, and even a home run, but it was all in non-threatening situations. I am still not absolutely turned around by this series, but I am now just a little bit more optimistic about the rest of the season.
If you're a part of the college sports world, you no doubt are aware that the USF Bulls will be competing in the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament for the first time in 20 years. The Bulls built a national reputation for themselves with their painfully low-scoring contests and a habit of frustrating opponents who are seemingly far superior. Now it's time for USF to take the progress they've made throughout this season and turn it into a Cinderella run in the tournament. And I'm about to tell you exactly how USF can succeed in its quest for glory.
1. Keep playing your game - USF's style of offense is built for this time of year. Their low-scoring, high-defense play does two things: It allows USF to build rhythm and momentum on its own time, and it prevents players from getting exhausted or injured. Both of these things are integral to a team who needs to win a bunch of games in a row. The other teams with more high-scoring offenses are going to look nicer in the seeding, but they are more susceptible to losing a player or two down the road.
2. Drive to the basket - The only thing lower than USF's opponents' field goal percentages is USF's own field goal percentage. A large part of that is the fact that the Bulls don't have a guy who can drive through the defense for a layup. Last year, we trusted Anthony Crater to make the moves and put it up. We don't expect the same from Anthony Collins, but we need someone to step up for that. Our lack of ability to drive results in a lot of outside shots as the clock is running down, which results in low FG%.
3. Guard the three - In both games of the Big East tournament, USF saw a lot of three-point shots taken against them. Luckily, not many of them went down. But these teams in the NCAA tournament didn't make it on just two-pointers alone. USF's defense in the paint is solid, which results in the opposing team passing the ball around the outside. If USF can get a guy on the arc just to put a hand in the faces of the shooters, they can only add to the success of the defense.
4. Be more conservative with the ball - We saw it against Villanova last week. They sort of got sloppy with the ball. Much of that may be credited to the fact that the Bulls were leading and decided to try and get fancy with the ball. But that isn't going to work here. No alley-oops. No full-court heaves. No fake-layup-no-look-passes. A large part in succeeding against the top teams in the nation is limiting turnovers. If we hold onto the ball better in these games, it could translate to more points for an offense that is going to rely on close victories.
5. Leave the tough teams to everyone else - Just like I said in the Big East tournament, I'd be willing to bet that USF will not meet a top-three seed in this tournament. They don't call it "Madness" for nothing. In my experience, #1 seeds never make it very far. North Carolina may not even get past the round of 32. And there's no guarantee that Michigan will even get past Ohio (Who beat #2 seed Georgetown last year in round 1) in the first round. In an ideal bracket, USF could be a #12 seed and make it to the Elite Eight without encountering a top-five seed.
Everyone who has filled out a bracket knows that there's always that one team that's still hanging around even though no one knows how. Why not USF? I think Stan Heath understands how his team's style of play can succeed in a tournament setting. But before we start putting USF in our Final Four, let's beat Cal first.
Still unshaven, still winning. Wednesday is becoming my favorite day of the week in the Spring. There's a basketball game, usually a baseball game, and, if you're lucky, a softball game or two as well. Yesterday, all of the above applied.
The day began at 4:00 PM when USF Baseball took on Jacksonville to cap their two-game home series (sorry if you read my last post and got there at 7. That was my bad). After the previous night, you would have thought the Bulls would have come out pumped that they're back in the win column and get on the field with a bit of life in them. If you did think that, you clearly don't know USF Baseball. Kyle Parker, who inexplicably still has a scholarship to play baseball, got tagged for five earned runs on six hits and four walks in 3.1 innings. Not a good day. But what really made this a USF Baseball game is the two runs. Not just that, but those two runs were off nine hits and three errors (there were probably more errors, but the scorekeeper probably just left some of those out again). THIS IS A REAL QUOTE FROM LELO PRADO: "You're not going to pitch a shutout every time". It'd be nice if we could at least give ourselves a chance.
But the day did get better. USF women's tennis beat Boston College in dominant form, snapping a slump they've been going through lately. Then, at 5:00, the softball team started a doubleheader against Central Michigan. The pitching wasn't outstanding, and the hitting only came alive for one inning, but the ladies got the job done, winning 5-2. The highlight of the game was Janine Richardson's two-run homer to cap a great 4th inning that gave USF the lead, which it held onto for the rest of the game. The nightcap started around 7:20, and Sam Greiner took the mound. I have no idea how she did it, but starting pitcher Sam Greiner saw a whole lot of batters, loaded the bases a couple times, gave up seven hits, only struck out two, but still managed to give up only two runs in four innings (one earned). Once again, a fourth inning rally pushed USF up over CMU, giving them a 5-2 lead after trailing 2-1. The highlight of that game was definitely left fielder Ashli Goff, who hosed down a runner at the plate to end the second inning. USF ultimately won the game, 6-2. They play again Friday at the USF Softball Stadium, where they host Penn State at 2:00 PM and Virginia Tech at 4:15.
And then came the real reason we're here. The Louisville-Seton Hall game turned out to be a little closer than expected, but Louisville ended up taking the quarterfinal matchup and will play Marquette at 7. The game ran a bit longer than expected, so USF tipped off around 9:40. Right out of the gates, USF made it their game, never trailing for the duration. In fact, the last time they were tied was when the score was 0-0. I think they set a good pace for the game, but they defintely got sloppy and had a lot of things that aren't going to fly when they play Notre Dame tonight. The stat of the night: USF had more turnovers than baskets. That's something that will have to change fast. I believe in the playoff beard, though, and I'll be looking forward to not shaving tomorrow morning as well.
Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/nascyUSF
In the late part of last football season, I decided that I wasn't going to shave until USF football lost. It was December, and their only game was the bowl game against Clemson, which they dominated. So I decided to keep it going and not shave until the Jets were out of the playoffs. They ended up making it all the way to the AFC championship game. Sadly, I had to part with the facial growth, but I decided that it would definitely become a recurring thing. So what better time to do it than whan USF has a chance to make some magic? I'll catalog my playoff beard days until the next time USF basketball loses.
Freshly shaved, I got out of bed with only two responsibilities for the day: Watch Big East basketball and go to the USF Baseball game. The day started off as expected, with Seton Hall beating Providence and Connecticut beating DePaul. Then things got awesome. USF Men's Basketball coach Stan Heath won the Big East Coach of the Year award yesterday after improving a dismal 10-23 team to one that has a shot at the NCAA tournament for the first time in two decades. Personally, I think the award is well-deserved, but there are many people I've talked with (mostly Cincinnati fans) who believe Cincy coach Mick Cronin was more deserving of the title. At least we can all agree on one thing: It isn't Jim Calhoun. Anyway, things took a turn for the even better when #15 seed Villanova demolished #10 seed Rutgers in the late game. I had said just before the game that I was hoping not to play Rutgers because they were currently hot and our game against them was too close to be confident about.
Confident in my playoff beard so far, I entered the USF baseball stadium to see the Bulls take on Jacksonville University. And if you've read my past posts, you know how I feel about USF baseball. I wasn't expecting much, but I was hoping maybe USF could pull together and finally beat a team from the state of Florida. What I got was an 8-0 thrashing of the Dolphins, thanks to a large set of JU errors that I'm pretty sure I could have played properly. The only complaint I have from the night is that whoever is the USF scorekeeper for these games should be fired immediately because that person clearly does not understand baseball.
So not a bad first day for the playoff beards. But tonight is where it counts. USF Softball plays a doubleheader against Central Michigan, beginning at 5; Baseball plays the last of this two game series against Jacksonville at 7; and of course USF Basketball takes on Villanova at 9 PM. If anyone needs me or my facial hair, we'll be at World of Beer or Lee Roy Selmon's tonight watching the Bulls make their run for the tournament.
Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/nascyUSF
If you're reading this, you were probably there. One of the thousands who made it downtown to see the Bulls in what was named "The Biggest Game in 20 Years". And you witnessed a good basketball game with some of the worst officiating in basketball history (And USF fans are definitely not the only ones who think that). USF came up a few baskets short and eventually dropped their season finale, their first home loss since losing to Connecticut by three in their Big East opener. Not too bad. After coming off a big win at Louisville, one would probably think USF was in solid shape to make the NCAA Championship Tournament. Now, some are not so sure.
But I'm remaining optimistic. I still think the Bulls are going to make it. In late January, I posted an article to The Bull Rush saying that USF could end up with very favorable seeding in the Big East tournament if they don't get a double bye. I chose the 6 seed as the best shot at a run in the Big East tournament, simply because they'd get a beatable first game and go into the bottom half of the double-bye seeds. And they'd not have to play against the #1 seed until the championship, no matter what. Luckily enough, USF did end up grabbing the #6 seed for the Big East tournament. They'll play against the winner of the Rutgers-Villanova first round matchup. Both teams that USF has handled (Villanova twice).
I'm not saying USF is going to shock the world and win the Big East tournament. I do think that they just need that one second round win (By the way, it's on Wednesday night at 9:00 PM), and they'll have enough to boost themselves into the tournament. I'm not on the selection committee, though, so there's going to be plenty to watch on Selection Sunday next weekend. And Wichita State losing in their conference championship game is definitely not a good thing.
Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/nascyUSF
I don't know about you guys, but I came into this USF baseball season pretty excited and optimistic about USF's chance for improvement. Of course I knew there would be holes to fill both offensively and defensively with the losses of Junior Carlin, Jonathan Kocsco, and Sam Mende, but I thought some new blood would be good for a team trying to get back on its feet after another disappointing season in 2010-11. How wrong I was.
After sweeping the first three games of the season in the Big East/Big 10 baseball tournament against formidable opponents Ohio State, Michigan State (who won the conference last year), and Minnesota, Bulls fans were feeling pretty good. I was at that first home game of the season. You know, the one where we were all pumped for baseball season to be here, and then we got thrashed by North Florida? It was after that 9-1 beatdown that we USF fans sort of pumped the brakes. We were still optimistic, though. After all, 3-1 is still a pretty good record, right? We turned around to play Bethune-Cookman over the weekend, and took game one. Not bad. But then we dropped the next two to drop our record to 4-3. Nevertheless, against my better judgment I made the drive all the way over to Orlando to see the Bulls take on #19 Central Florida. I figured even a decent showing for USF would restore at least a little confidence in this team. Instead, USF got handed a 12-1 bulldozing and a long drive back for me and my friends.
Now, USF is 4-4 on the season after a 3-0 start. All four losses are to teams in non-major conferences. All four losses are to teams from the state for Florida. In these four losses, the Bulls have been outscored, 30-5. They've been outhit 52-23. They've committed seven errors. I'll continue to watch the games, but as of now I am officially off the optimism train.
USF visits the New York Yankees' spring training squad today for a leisurely exhibition at 1:00 PM. I'll be there again. I'd like to think I'm not a bad luck charm for this team, and somehow I think they'd be doing just the same no matter where I am.
Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/nascyUSF