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UCF Women’s Hoops Set For Double Showdown with USF

Knights can take #1 conference seed and make serious case for NCAAs with two wins

UCF Women’s Basketball Photo: Derek Warden

The War on I-4 in Women’s Basketball has never had as much at stake as it does this week. The UCF Knights and USF Bulls will play a home-and-home this week to decide The American’s regular season championship.

The Knights come in winners of eight straight, playing perhaps their most complete game of the season on Saturday when they dominated Temple, 61-37.

UCF got some help from Houston on Saturday, who knocked off No.13 South Florida, 67-49

As a result, UCF is now 11-1 and a half game behind South Florida, who is 12-1 in the AAC, with a home-and-home starting on Tuesday night at South Florida (5:30 p.m., ESPN+) followed by a game at UCF on Thursday night (5 p.m., ESPNU).

Both UCF and South Florida have been knocking on the door of winning The American championship only to be denied by UConn. But of course, the Huskies are no longer in The American, which means that the road to the AAC title now runs through the Sunshine State.

The American is headed for a potentially controversial finish to the regular season, as one of South Florida’s wins was a forfeit win for USF against Memphis for conference standings purposes only, as a result of a scheduled game from Jan. 17 that was not played. So if USF and UCF split the two games this week, the Bulls will win the league with the difference being the forfeit win. That’s because if UCF-USF woul have finished with identical records in conference. UCF would win the tiebreaker as a result of going 2-0 against Houston, while South Florida split the two meetings with Cougars, according to AAC tiebreaker rules.

Regardless, Thursday is potentially the biggest UCF Women’s Basketbal home game in program history as the regular season AAC Championship will be on the line, as well as having possible NCAA Tournament ramifications.

Top Three Teams in The American

Team Overall Conference NET RPI Best Wins (NET Ranking)
Team Overall Conference NET RPI Best Wins (NET Ranking)
USF 14-2 12-1 23 37 Mississippi St. (#38), Houston (#47), Tulane (#56)
UCF 13-2 11-1 45 25 Houston twice (#47), Tulane twice (#56), @LSU (#56)
Houston 15-5 12-4 47 30 USF (#23), Tulane (#56), Oklahoma (#67)
Info as of 2/28/2021

A case can be made that The American should get three teams into the field of 64. ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme had UCF and Houston among his first four teams out earlier this week. The American is the 8th-best conference according to the NET rankings.

UCF can take a huge step into NCAA Tournament with at least a split this week against South Florida, as it would give them another marquee win on the resume to go along with two wins over Houston, Tulane and a win at LSU.

The UCF/USF matchup is between contrasting styles with the American’s #1 offense in South Florida (69.2 ppg) against The American’s and NCAA’s #1 Defense in UCF (49.5 ppg allowed). One thing both teams do share in common is defending the opponent as both teams are top 2 field goal defense in American. UCF’s defense ranks 4th in Field goal defense (33.3%) while the Bulls ranks 10th in NCAA (34.4%).

It will be the ninth and tenth meetings between two great head coaches in South Florida’s Jose Fernandez and UCF’s Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who have made this the marquee rivalry of The American in Women’s Basketball.

USF Vs UConn Huskies
Jose Fernandez Has Been Head Coach at USF for 20 seasons
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Fernandez has been in Tampa for 21 seasons and has turned the Bulls into a top-25 program. The Bulls only had five winning seasons prior to his arrival. Fernandez’s system includes a wide open, up-tempo offense that shoots from long range. This season, South Florida averages eight threes a game, which is among the nation’s best.

Coach Abe
Coach Abe has won over 102 games at UCF
Photo: Derek Warden

Abrahamson-Henderson took over a UCF Women’s Basketball program that was at the bottom of The American and instantly turned them into a contender. Under Coach Abe, UCF has posted four straight seasons of at least 20 wins, with the program’s first NCAA Tournament at-large birth in 2019. To put that in perspective, UCF had just seasons of 20 wins or more since joining Division I in 1984. Since Coach Abe arrival, UCF has won five of eight meetings against the Bulls, including the last four.