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USF soccer: Both Bulls teams tourney-bound

USF freshman Evelyne Viens (right) has 16 goals this season, tying the program's single-season record.

Photo provided by USF

USF freshman Evelyne Viens (right) has 16 goals this season, tying the program's single-season record.

The American Athletic Conference has removed some rungs from its men's and women's soccer tournaments, reducing them to four- and six-team events, respectively.

But both USF squads still figure into this new, narrow bracketology.

The men (8-6-2, 5-1-0 AAC) clinched the league's regular season title in Saturday's double-overtime 1-0 triumph at SMU, and host the AAC tourney starting Nov. 11.

Senior D Liam McNally scored his first goal of the season, on a loose ball following a corner kick in the 103rd minute, to clinch Saturday's triumph. The Bulls have won three in a row, all by 1-0 margins. They host Temple in Saturday night's regular season finale before hosting the league tourney.

Not to be outdone on the dramatic scale, the Bulls women (12-3-2, 4-3-2) slipped past Tulsa 3-2 on Sunday in a de facto conference elimination match. The Bulls, in seventh place in conference play with 11 points, got two goals from freshman dynamo Evelyne Viens to earn the win and the accompanying three points.

Viens now has 16 goals, tying the program's 18-year-old season mark held by Kristine Edner. USF is the fourth seed entering Wednesday night's conference tourney opener against Cincinnati in Storrs, Conn.  The match can be seen on the American Digital Network at www.theamerican.org/watch.

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Taggart says Bulls defense must learn to finish

USF safety Nate Godwin (36) takes down Navy quarterback Will Worth (15) in the first  half of the Bulls' 52-45 victory Friday night.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF safety Nate Godwin (36) takes down Navy quarterback Will Worth (15) in the first half of the Bulls' 52-45 victory Friday night.

After approving a handful of successful major defensive adjustments Friday night for Navy's triple-option, Coach Willie Taggart said one more significant modification is in order.

The Bulls' second-half mindset.

Speaking Monday on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference, Taggart said he was a little disappointed in how his defense -- which held the Midshipment to 21 points through three periods -- took its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter of the Bulls' 52-45 triumph.

Trailing 45-21, Navy amassed 286 yards in the final 15 minutes, scoring touchdowns on all four of its possessions including a 9-yard TD pass on the game's last play.

"Part of it is human nature, but it can't be that way if you want to be great and you want to make a change in the perspective of what people think of you," said Taggart, whose defense is ranked 113th nationally (466.3 ypg) through nine weeks.

"You've got to step on people's throat and keep it that way, and having that killer instinct, I think that's what makes any good defense."

USF, which has a bye this weekend, will practice three days (Tuesday-Thursday) before adjourning until Sunday.

GOOD-HANDS BULLS: Taggart indicated he was very pleased with one of the more overlooked units of Friday's win -- USF's good-hands team on Navy's late kickoffs. The Bulls recovered all three of the Midshipmen's fourth-quarter onside attempts, with TE Kano Dillon getting two.

"It was great," Taggart said. "All that work (in practice) paid off. ... Not a lot of people talk about that, but that was huge in this ball game."

NIGHT KICKOFF FOR USF-MEMPHIS: The AAC announced Monday the Bulls' Nov. 12 game at Memphis will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU. It marks the fourth consecutive 7 p.m. kickoff for the Bulls.

ODDS AND ENDS: QB Quinton Flowers, who posted the second-highest yardage total (395) of his career Friday night, was named the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) National Performer of the Week. He also made the Davey O'Brien Award's "Great 8" weekly national list and the AAC's weekly honor roll. Flowers ranks 14th nationally in total offense (318 ypg) through nine weeks. ... USF is seventh nationally in rushing offense (272.9 ypg) and ninth in scoring (43.4 ppg). The Bulls are 106th in run defense (218.6 ypg). ... The AAC is the nation's only Division I conference in which every team has at least three wins.

AUDIBLE: "Absolutely. I think he's one of the better football players in the country. He's just one of those kids that hasn't gotten as much attention, and not a lot of folks are paying a lot of attention to him, but you watch the last two games (on national TV), I think he showed a lot of people what he's capable of doing." -- Taggart, when asked Monday if it's time for Flowers to receive some Heisman consideration

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Early-season suspension to sideline USF's McMurray

USF sophomore Jahmal McMurray led the Bulls in scoring (15.2 ppg) and assists (2.5 apg) last season.

ZACK WITTMAN | Times

USF sophomore Jahmal McMurray led the Bulls in scoring (15.2 ppg) and assists (2.5 apg) last season.

USF sophomore PG Jahmal McMurray, the team's top returning scorer, will miss the first six games for an undisclosed violation, Coach Orlando Antigua confirmed Monday afternoon.

"Jahmal will continue to practice with the team, and if he meets all of my expectations, will return to competition Dec. 3 (at George Washington)," Antigua said in a statement released by USF.

As it stands, McMurray will miss a half-dozen non-conference games, none against a Power Five opponent. The news perpetuates an abysmal seven-month stretch for the Bulls, trying to rebound from an 8-25 season.

PF Chris Perry and PG Roddy Peters were dismissed this past spring for repeated violations of school policy. Assistant Oliver Antigua -- Orlando Antigua's younger brother -- resigned in July amid an NCAA probe into possible academic-related violations in the program. …

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Full disclosure: My latest AP ballot

At various points Saturday, this week's ballot seemed on the brink of upheaval, with upset alerts more prevalent than political ads. Another blissfully bizarre day in college football.

And at the end of it, stability mostly reigned.

Michigan, Clemson, Washington, Louisville and Ohio State all survived their respective jolts. As a result, the top seven on my ballot remains unchanged.

The real movement's in the middle, with four previously unbeaten teams (Baylor, Nebraska, West Virginia, Boise State) taking modest dips. Why modest? Because all lost on the road to opponents ranging from decent to downright good. …

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Navy-USF: Click here for coverage

A Navy ROTC cadet does a push-up for each of USF's 42 first-half points during the Bulls' win against Navy on Friday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

A Navy ROTC cadet does a push-up for each of USF's 42 first-half points during the Bulls' win against Navy on Friday.

We think our word total Friday evening exceeded the yardage total (1,245) amassed by USF and Navy, but we're not certain.

Count if you wish. Start with our game story from the Bulls' 62-45 triumph, which keeps their American Athletic Conference East Division title hopes percolating. Then give a read to Jeff Odom's look at a few things you might have missed from the ESPN2 broadcast.

And don't forget our notebook, which focuses on how USF's staff took a cue from Tulane in its effort to neutralize the Navy triple-option.

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Navy-USF notes: Bulls take cue from Tulane in slowing Midshipmen

USF's Khalid McGee (21) helps take down Navy quarterback Will Worth during the Bulls' 52-45 victory Friday against the Midshipmen.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF's Khalid McGee (21) helps take down Navy quarterback Will Worth during the Bulls' 52-45 victory Friday against the Midshipmen.

In their efforts to somehow neutralize Navy's trademark triple-option, USF coaches found inspiration in an unlikely place.

Temple's defense? Nope. Tom Herman's? Nada. Tulane's? Bingo

Bulls coach Willie Taggart said his staff studied the five-man front the Green Wave employed in their 21-14 loss to Navy last month, when the Midshipmen ran for 287 yards, their third-lowest total of the season. …

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Four ways to Friday: What USF's defense must do vs. Navy

USF safety Jaymon Thomas (18) goes down while trying to tackle Temple's Ryquell Armstead in last Friday's 46-30 loss to the Owls.

Getty Images

USF safety Jaymon Thomas (18) goes down while trying to tackle Temple's Ryquell Armstead in last Friday's 46-30 loss to the Owls.

Since USF's 46-30 loss at Temple last Friday, criticism of the Bulls defense has been upgraded from steady to scathing.

Depending on whom you ask, the Bulls can't tackle, fill gaps, shed blocks or all of the above. Everything and everyone, from the coordinator (Raymond Woodie) to the scheme (4-2-5 base alignment), have been skewered. In the unscrupulous dimension of cyberspace, the Bull Sharks have been repeatedly harpooned by anonymous critics.

So what must Woodie's unit do to redeem itself against No. 22 Navy? How can the beleaguered Bulls neutralize the most coldly efficient triple-option in America?

We don't profess to have the exact answers. If we did, we'd be calling plays instead of chronicling them. But based on what we've observed (often in repeated viewings) and have been told (by coaches and players), the following areas must be rectified.

1. Stay in the gaps. You hear the term "gap integrity" a lot when it comes to the Bulls, and for the most part, they possess it. The problem arrives when the Bulls get blown out of a gap (by a double-team, blocking fullback, etc.).

Check out the :40 mark of this USF-Temple highlight reel and watch how Owls FB Nick Sharga simply bulldozes his way through USF's second level. Bottom line: It's one thing to be in a gap, but another to stay there. Friday against Navy (which also employs a fullback), the Bulls must find a way to shed blocks or have someone in the gap.

How? Switching to a linebacker-heavy formation and loading the box are two options. We think they'll do both.

2. Don't lose on cuts. Few teams in the country subsist on cut blocking (taking a defensive player down at the knees), and no one does it as effectively as Navy. This poses an obvious problem to USF, and most everyone else for that matter: How do you replicate it in practice?

You can try to simulate it with your scout team, but can those guys really do it like Navy? And how much preseason practice time should be devoted to it when few opponents do it extensively?

"We don't allow guys to cut our starters," Coach Willie Taggart said. "But sometimes we've got to practice cutting, so we protect ourselves."

What Taggart and Co. likely have done is show tape -- ad nauseum -- of how to repel cut blocking: Eyes on the defender, arms extended, ground given to avoid the block.

3. Play with energy. The Bulls' collective listlessness was, by far, their most inexcusable deficiency at Temple. Players are guaranteed only 12 games a year, with anything beyond that gravy. Twelve games. Nothing short of a serious personal off-field matter pardons sluggishness. 

Credit MLB Auggie Sanchez -- the defensive captain -- for owning up to the shortcoming on behalf of his team ("We didn't play with passion, and that's on us," he said). Look for the Bulls to be juiced Friday, and look for Woodie to remain on the sideline (instead of the coaches box) to get in a face or two when needed.

4. Tackle, tackle, tackle. While the first three items can be effectively addressed, tackling has been a chronic issue for this team all season. Can the Bulls suddenly starting wrapping up and taking down with authority against the Midshipmen?

Yes, but a lot depends on how well they execute Item 1 on this list. "A lot of it comes with getting in position to make the tackle," Taggart said.

"But it is tougher now, but you can't make the tackle if you're not in position to make the tackle, or if you're not spilling to your teammate to where the help is coming from. So I think our guys can do a better job of filling their gaps and doing their assignment from that standpoint so we can all gang tackle and not have the one-on-one tackles."

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Know the Foe: Navy

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo exhorts quarterback Will Worth (15) during the Midshipmen's 42-28 win Saturday against Memphis.

AP photo

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo exhorts quarterback Will Worth (15) during the Midshipmen's 42-28 win Saturday against Memphis.

A look at No. 22 Navy, which plays USF on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium

Nickname: Midshipmen
Record: 5-1 (4-0 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: Fordham 52-16, Connecticut 28-24, at Tulane 21-14, Houston 46-40, Memphis 42-28
Loss: at Air Force 28-14
Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (ninth season, 73-38)

The breakdown: If the first six games have proven anything, it's that nothing -- not the triple-option or even the guys running it -- has been as critical to the Midshipmen's year-to-year consistency as the way this program goes about its business. "(The scheme) is not why we're winning," Niumatalolo said. "It's the culture of our football program." What does that culture entail? Flawless execution (watch how they cut block), minimal mistakes (Navy's 19.3 penalty yards per game are the nation's fewest), staff continuity and toughness. A year after losing 10 offensive starters, the new batch of Midshipmen has embodied all those qualities, and ranks fourth nationally with 293.2 rushing yards per game. Leading the way has been Newsome High alumnus Will Worth, the backup quarterback who was thrust into duty when starter Tago Smith tore up his knee in the season opener. A senior, Worth has run for at least 100 yards in three of his last four games -- including 201 in Saturday's 42-28 win against Memphis -- but has passed for 688 yards, showing the flexibility in Niumatalolo's offense. Worth's 62 passes in six games are 20 more than Keenan Reynolds attempted last season. Up front, Navy ranks second nationally in Adjusted Line Yards, a metric that essentially separates the ability of a running back from that of his offensive line. For good measure, there's 225-pound FB Chris High (55 carries, 392 yards, five TDs), the type of blocking back that has given USF nightmares recently. Defensively, the Midshipmen continue to operate out of an odd-man front that has been susceptible to the pass (256 ypg) and in the red zone (Opponents are converting 88.2 percent of the time). MLB Micah Thomas, a 249-pound junior who has started the last 19 games, leads the team with 46 tackles.

Odds and ends: Niumatalolo has lost only five assistants in his nine seasons. Six coaches, including Niumatalolo, have been in Annapolis at least 10 years. ... Keep an eye on senior slot back Dishan Romine, whose 28.4 yards per kick return ranks 12th nationally. Speaking of returns, Navy, which gave up a 97-yarder to Rodney Adams last season, surrendered a 100-yarder to Memphis' Tony Pollard on Saturday. ... Worth isn't the only local on the Midshipmen's roster. Sophomore Conner Dorris (CCC) and freshman Zack Quilty (Jesuit) are reserve linebackers. ... Navy is 60-4 under Niumatalolo when entering the fourth quarter with the lead.

Willie Taggart's take: "You watch (Niumatalolo's) football team, they play with discipline, they play with passion, great effort, great energy. Like I say, they're well coached, and Ken has created a culture that that's what you expect. They lost some guys and there hasn't been any letoff."

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Taggart: Flowers will start against Navy

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) suffered a mild hamstring injury late in Friday's loss at Temple.

AP photo

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) suffered a mild hamstring injury late in Friday's loss at Temple.

Bulls QB Quinton Flowers, who hobbled off Lincoln Financial Field with a tweaked hamstring late in Friday's 46-30 loss at Temple, is expected to start this Friday against No. 22 Navy, Bulls coach Willie Taggart said.

"Quinton will be good to go," Taggart said Monday on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference.

When asked if Flowers has been able to do everything in practice since Friday's game, Taggart said, "Yes sir."

Elsewhere, however, Bulls fans might see a new starter or two. …

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USF women 3rd, men 10th in AAC preseason polls (UPDATED)

In what may stand as a testament to Coach Jose Fernandez's foreign -- and domestic -- recruiting, the USF women have been picked to finish third in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll.

The Bulls, who lost No. 2 all-time scorer Courtney Williams and career rebounds leader Alisia Jenkins from last season's NCAA Tournament qualifier, received one first-place vote -- presumably from Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma.

The Huskies, four-time reigning national champs, got the other 10 votes. Temple was picked second.

Meantime, the Bulls men, in the wake of an 8-25 season followed by an equally discouraging offseason, were picked to finish 10th in the men's preseason coaches poll released earlier this morning.

The release of the polls coincides with the league's media day, being held today in Philadelphia.

Bulls 6-foot sophomore Kitija Laksa, a unanimous pick for AAC Freshman of the Year last season, made the women's preseason all-AAC first team, which can be found here. …

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AAC commish: 'We have to be the next JetBlue or Southwest'

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco spoke to reporters prior to USF's game Friday against Temple.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco spoke to reporters prior to USF's game Friday against Temple.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, who probably exhaled deeper than anyone when the Big 12 announced Monday it's not expanding, spoke to reporters prior to USF's game Friday night against Temple. Here are some excerpts.

On the Big 12 not expanding (Eight AAC schools reportedly were finalists in the expansion process):
"I was talking to a person in the office today and I said to them, 'Doesn't it feel like it happened six months ago?' Obviously a weight was lifted from our shoulders. I am really glad it is over. I am glad that the conference is intact. That is terrific. Now we have a lot of work to do and a chance to do it. It looks like we will have some stability to get it done. We are reviewing that (Power Six) narrative."

On whether the AAC's television contract with ESPN (which runs through 2020) can be renegotiated:
"It can be if ESPN is willing to sit down with us. We are going to meet within the next two or three weeks to talk. ESPN has been great to us. ... The TV landscape is complex, it really is. We want to do something with ESPN and we think that they recognize our value. We are far more valuable than we were 3 1/2 years ago. It is not even close. It is night and day. We were in disarray, nobody knew what we had. Nobody knew what we were going to do. Three years now, you can see what we have done in terms of winning those big bowl games and having two top-10 teams (Houston in '15, UCF in '13) two of the last three years."

On how the Big 12 expansion hubbub indirectly benefited the AAC:
"At points it was tough on everyone but it really did shine a light on our schools. It spoke volumes about the fact that our schools were the ones that everybody looked at in terms of being in a (Power) Five. ... The truth is that it really gave us the publicity and attention. A lot of it was good because our schools are good schools that played well. Houston had that big game in the meantime against Oklahoma (a 33-23 Cougars victory), that was priceless publicity. We probably wouldn't have gotten that type of branding and recognition nationally any other way."

On the conference having to remain creative to distinguish itself in the Power Five era:
"We have to do things different. We have to be the next JetBlue or Southwest. We want to be a major carrier but we know we aren't Delta. We have to be realistic. I wouldn't be credible if I didn't realize that. What we have got is really committed administrators. That is what you need, committed people. ... Our guys have hired outstanding coaches. Look at whom we hired. We hired (Houston's) Tom Herman (from) Ohio State. We hired (SMU's) Chad Morris. ... You look at (Tulsa's) Phillip Montgomery who was the offensive coordinator at Baylor. Then there is the incredible hire of Scott Frost at UCF who turned the program around immediately. It seems whenever we hired one of these assistant coaches they pan out. Bob Diaco is doing an outstanding job rebuilding UConn. You look at Memphis hiring Mike Norvell. Then you have Willie Taggart here tonight doing a great job (at USF). This is the way we have to continue to do it. When you have administrators that know what they're doing and are hiring the right coaches, you don't need waterfalls in the locker room, you don't need the Taj Mahal. What you need are good facilities, you need good practice facilities. You need branding. You need good coaches."

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Full disclosure: My latest AP ballot

This week's ballot appeared in danger of remaining disturbingly stable until the hysteria in Happy Valley that transpired late Saturday evening.

As a result of Penn State's 24-21 takedown of Ohio State, the Nittany Lions make their 2016 ballot debut, at No. 23. Navy also returns (at No. 24) following another offensive outburst (42-28 against Memphis), while I finally consume the Western Michigan Kool-Aid and put the Broncos at No. 25.

Meantime, Auburn and LSU both move up six spots -- to No. 15 and 17, respectively -- after convincing conference romps.

And the ballot bids adieu to Houston, Arkansas and USF. Honestly, I'm not sure which of those teams had the worst weekend.

1. Alabama
2. Michigan
3. Clemson
4. Washington
5. Louisville
6. Ohio State
7. Wisconsin
8. Nebraska
9. Baylor
10. Texas A&M
11. West Virginia
12. Utah
13. FSU
14. Tennessee
15. Auburn
16. Oklahoma
17. LSU
18. Boise State
19. Colorado
20. Florida
21. North Carolina
22. Virginia Tech
23. Penn State
24. Navy
25. Western Michigan

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USF hoops standout Laura Ferreira out indefinitely

USF women's basketball standout Laura Ferreira (20) remains sidelined indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury.

ZACK WITTMAN | Times

USF women's basketball standout Laura Ferreira (20) remains sidelined indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury.

USF junior F Laura Ferreira, the No. 2 returning scorer for the Bulls women's team, is out indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury that could force her to take a redshirt this season.

Bulls coach Jose Fernandez, whose team opens its season Nov. 15 against the University of North Florida, confirmed the injury to the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday.

"We continue to monitor her status," Fernandez said, "and at the present time we do not have a definite timeline on her return to practice, and if this foot injury is something that she is going to be able to play through."

Ferreira, a longtime member of the Portuguese national team, missed seven games last season with the same ailment. In 28 games, she averaged 9.6 points and 4.4 rebounds, creating matchup issues on the perimeter due to her length (5-foot-11) and long-range ability (33 3-pointers).

Her absence leaves 6-foot sophomore Kitija Laksa (12.6 ppg) as the only returning Bulls player to average more than six points last season.

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Changes forthcoming for Bulls defense?

USF coach Willie Taggart likely will consider some defensive shake-ups following Friday's 46-30 loss to Temple.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart likely will consider some defensive shake-ups following Friday's 46-30 loss to Temple.

His post-defeat mood has transitioned over time.

When Willie Taggart's inaugural Bulls teams were simply being overmatched, he often conveyed a somber tone steeped more in resignation than rage, as if to suggest those early lumps were inevitable, but brighter days beckoned.

Now that Taggart's roster is deep and victories are regular instead of rare, defeat elicits a more acute sense of anger.

And after Friday night's embarrassing 46-30 loss to Temple, Taggart was downright ticked.

"We got physically dominated on both sides of the ball," he said. "We got out-coached."

While the breakdowns were prevalent in every phase, few will argue that USF's maligned defense was primarily culpable in this nationally televised debacle.

For the second time this season, the Bulls allowed an opposing tailback -- this time sophomore Ryquell Armstead -- to run for 200 or more yards. Only four other Division I teams -- Akron, Buffalo, Fresno State and California -- have allowed a pair of 200-yard rushing efforts this year, according to ESPN.

And for those keeping track, USF hasn't forced a turnover in its last two games.

Afterward, Taggart suggested -- in not-so-subtle terms -- changes are forthcoming on that unit. With Navy's triple-option machine invading Raymond James Stadium in six days, it seems inevitable. So what might USF do?

1. Change the scheme. You can almost bet your reserved tailgate spot the Bulls will shift from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3 for Navy, and perhaps the foreseeable future.

They have little choice. Upcoming opponents will watch Friday's film -- where the Bulls did employ some 4-3 -- and see how effectively Temple gashed the Bulls with their power-based approach. From here on, USF is likely to see pulling guards, fullbacks, and motioning tight ends aplenty.

That means more Cecil Cherry (one tackle Friday), more Danny Thomas (four tackles), more Nico Sawtelle (two). Perhaps an end such as 255-pounder Josh Black steps back to the second level. We're spit-balling a bit here, but at this critical juncture, all options probably should be in play.

2. Change the play-caller. At least three times during his brief postgame press conference, Taggart alluded to his staff's failure to "put guys in the position to make the plays."

Three times. That suggests -- strongly -- of coaches not making proper adjustments.

While today's collective outcry in cyberspace is for Taggart to replace first-year coordinator Raymond Woodie two-thirds of the way into the season, we don't see that. But could someone else (safeties coach John Jancek, d-line coach Eric Mathies) be summoned to call the plays?

Again, it's crisis mode. Presumably, everything's on the table.

3. Change the lineup. We see this as more conceivable than No. 2. We also see Taggart and Co. challenging the fortitude of his players this week with open competition at several spots. 

"We're gonna go home, watch the film, we're gonna let 'em think about who they want to be and what they want to do," Taggart said. "Watch the film and be honest with themselves and see if the effort that they put out was good enough."

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Hoops media day: Bulls move on minus Williams, Jenkins

Bulls sophomore Troy Holston Jr. (seated) looks over the 2016-17 USF men's basketball media guide with freshman Michael Bibby.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Bulls sophomore Troy Holston Jr. (seated) looks over the 2016-17 USF men's basketball media guide with freshman Michael Bibby.

The question directed Wednesday at Jose Fernandez was telegraphed, which might explain how he was able to pick it off so effortlessly.

How does the USF women's basketball team move forward minus eighth overall WNBA draft pick Courtney Williams and Bulls all-time rebounds leader Alisia Jenkins?

"The programs that sustain the graduation and move forward and keep doing it are the ones that are very successful," said Fernandez, who enters his 17th season needing 15 victories to reach 300 for his career.

"Before Courtney and Alisia got here we had the same question: 'How are you guys gonna replace (1,000-point scorers) Andrell and Andrea Smith? How are you gonna replace (former 3-point specialist) Inga Orekhova?' That's the big thing. Our tradition and our program speaks for itself, and that kind of stuff doesn't graduate."

To be sure, Williams -- the program's No. 2 career scorer -- will be missed for her ability to create, especially late in the shot clock. These Bulls will have to manufacture more shot opportunities via screens to compensate. They'll also shoot more 3's, perhaps a lot more 3's. 

Six-footer Kitija Laksa, who set a Bulls freshman record with 74 treys, returns. The batch of newcomers includes Hungary native Dorottya Nagy, ranked Europe's No. 1 recruit by Blue Star Europe; and Jazz Bond, who helped guide Tennessee's Blackman High to a pair of Class 3A state titles.

Rebounding will have to come more via committee, as it did when Jenkins missed six games with an ankle injury last season. The Bulls out-rebounded or tied their opponent on the boards in five of those six games.

"I think our fans will enjoy a different style in some of the different things we're gonna do on the offensive end," Fernandez said, "because we are gonna shoot the 3 more and play with an extra perimeter player out on the floor. So it's gonna be definitely a new look on the things that we're gonna run offensively."

STILL GLOBAL: One of the nation's most successful European recruiters, Fernandez again will sport a team with a global reach. Eight countries and three continents are represented on the Bulls women's roster.

Most of those foreign-born players spent the summer competing internationally. Among them: junior PG Laia Flores, who hit two free throws with a second remaining to lift Spain past Italy, 71-69, in the finals of the FIBA under-20 women's European championship.

"You can't replicate that type of pressure and experience in the offseason," Fernandez said.

SUMMER STEAL? Men's coach Orlando Antigua might have managed an 11th-hour recruiting coup when G Michael Bibby, son of the NBA veteran and former Arizona star, signed with the Bulls in August.

Bibby led Phoenix's Shadow Mountain High to a pair of state titles in three seasons, but suffered torn knee meniscus twice in an eight month span as an underclassman. As a Shadow Mountain senior, he averaged 19.3 points, five assists and 2.7 steals. When asked how he'd describe his game, Bibby said, "Sneaky."

"Watching my dad play, being around the NBA for so long, I feel like my IQ's a little bit higher than some college players," Bibby said.

HOLSTON IS 'FULL GO:' Redshirt sophomore G Troy Holston Jr., who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, said he's 100 percent. Holston surged down the stretch of his freshman season, averaging 17.5 points over his last six games.

"Obviously early on, we're not expecting that (type of production), but we are expecting him to get to that point where he's playing with that same kind of fire, that same kind of confidence," Antigua said. "And as a staff and as a team, we know it will take a little bit of time, but he's way ahead of where I thought he would be at."

ODDS AND ENDS: Seven-foot junior Ruben Guerrero, 198 pounds when he arrived at USF, said he now weighs around 240. "The bigger guys that I used to play against, they'd just body me," he said. "I'm pretty good at holding them off (now)." ... The men's team has a player born on Christmas Eve (Bibby), the Fourth of July (freshman Malik Fitts) and New Year's Day (sophomore Jahmal McMurray). ... Fernandez, who has a vote in the USA Today women's coaches poll, said he ranked reigning four-time national champ Connecticut No. 1.

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