The University of South Florida comes into 2021-22 ranked 21st in the nation; they brought everyone back from an NCAA tournament team a year ago, yet they are under scrutiny. The NCAA has just finished their investigation on the Bulls, and they found that there were extra people at practices. As a result, USF will be on probation for the next three seasons and lose 12 hours of practice time.
USF Women’s Basketball Under Scrutiny
USF has two of the best returning players, Elena Tsineke and Bethy Mununga, in the country, but Tampa has a distraction. The loss of practice time is a massive story because USF has one of the most demanding non-conference schedules in the country. On November 15th, USF has to go to 15th ranked Tennessee. Then the Bulls will be shipped out to the Bahamas, where they will play Syracuse, possibly Connecticut or Oregon, or SC and Stanford. If USF is distracted by the outcome of this investigation or struggles from fatigue with no cohesion, then this stretch may be impossible to overcome. The Bulls must play at their best if they want to compete with the top teams.
The USF women’s program has been under scrutiny for 18 months. This scrutiny focused on allegations of impermissible staff members at practices and events. This terminology means that there were not supposed to be present at practices and other school-sanctioned team events. USF tried to help their case by self-reporting the violations to the committee. When a school performs, this action one knows they are in deep trouble. During COVID, there were strict rules on how many people each school could have at practice. Only essential personnel was allowed in, not media or other staff members from the school. Having more people could put the students and staff at higher risk of contracting the disease. As a result, USF went on pause for 31 days during the conference season.
Practices: Under Scrutiny
Last year this was a team that struggled to score at times. Losing twelve hours of practice will make it more challenging for Jose Fernandez to get his team ready for these games. Twelve hours accounts for about six days of training. This time doesn’t seem like a lot in a long season, but if USF starts sluggish, they will falter against the stiff competition they face. Coach Fernandez will miss 15 hours of practice. Fernandez is under scrutiny for the program’s actions; he was awarded a show-cause order in addition to missing practice time. This penalty complicates their situation more because USF loses about 27 hours of training with their head coach.
This substantial gap will affect their play on the court and cohesion on offense. USF may struggle to run plays correctly since they do not have experience at the guard position. Their point guard Sydni Harvey will have a challenging task trying to get her team to play with fluidity early in the season. USF also had a lot of international players who were unable to make the journey to the US for last season. USF has five freshmen or transfers on their roster, which will be difficult to integrate because of shortened practices.
Theory on what they were thinking
USF had a plethora of injuries last season that was highly challenging for them to endure. These injuries included four out of the five players in the starting lineup. They lost a lot of their scoring punch with Maria Alvarez, who was off to a good start as a freshman last year. They could have used the extra staff members to create more competition in practice. When athletes play against better competition, they are more motivated to succeed. These different bodies may have helped rehab players faster and improve their situation; unfortunately, this conduct is not allowed. Hopefully, the Bulls can recover from being under scrutiny and have a good season. They have great talent this year and deserve a chance to compete. I am excited to see how this story will affect their play and overcome the distractions.
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