TAMPA, Fla. – The BIG EAST Conference has determined the home and away league schedule of opponents for the 2008-09 women's basketball season, as announced by the conference office this afternoon, with 2008 Women’s Final Four participant Connecticut highlighting the University of South Florida’s home slate.
The format for league play is a 16-game schedule. Each team will play 16 conference games - seven opponents home only, seven opponents away only and one opponent both home and away, a repeat opponent. Each member will have a total of eight home and eight away games.
The conference has opted to maintain the same repeat opponents from the 2007-08 season for the upcoming year, balancing the home and away cycle.
USF’s repeat opponent for the second consecutive year is Marquette. This past season the Bulls split the two-game series with the Golden Eagles dropping a 79-66 decision in Tampa on Jan. 26 and defeating them in Milwaukee, in the regular season finale for both teams, 61-56 on March 3. Marquette advanced to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) where it won the championship defeating Michigan State 81-66.
In addition to the Huskies and the Golden Eagles, USF will also face Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Seton Hall at home.
On the road, in addition to Marquette, the Bulls will take on DePaul, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Syracuse, Villanova, and West Virginia.
Dates and times for the 2008-09 BIG EAST Conference schedule will not be announced until the end of August.
The BIG EAST landed eight teams in the 2008 NCAA Championship, tied for the most in NCAA history. In addition to Marquette and USF, St. John’s and Villanova all participated in the 2008 WNIT. The 12 teams combined, playing in the NCAA and WNIT postseason tournaments, marked the highest postseason total in conference history. Connecticut returned to the Final Four for the first time since 2004 and the ninth time overall. The league had a record five teams advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 – Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
This past season, USF recorded a 16-16 overall record and advanced to its fifth consecutive postseason tournament where it took part in the WNIT.
The Bulls will return their leading scorer – and All-BIG EAST Conference second team selection – Shantia Grace for the 2008-09 campaign. Grace, who will be a legitimate candidate for the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the best senior guard in America under 5-8, averaged 19.1 points per game during the 2007-08 season. She finished the year on a tear scoring better than 25 points in six of USF’s final 11 games and averaged 25 points per game in her last four outings including 34 points against Florida Gulf Coast in the Bulls’ WNIT game.
In addition, the Sarasota native also led USF in assists. Grace handed out 124 on the season, or 4.0 per game, which was good enough for eighth in the BIG EAST this year. She finished the season with 435 career assists which is tops on the Bulls’ all-time ledger.