Buffalo, South Florida feel differently about seedings

With a 27-5 record after a loss in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament, Buffalo was anxious to see its name in the NCAA Tournament field after being left out last year despite a 22-10 record.

When the Bulls saw their name on the screen as a No. 11 seed facing No. 6 South Florida, they broke into chants of "We going dancing! We going dancing!" The first-round battle of the Bulls is Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.

While Buffalo is elated to get in the tournament, South Florida (26-7) is feeling slighted by its seeding. It is ranked No. 19 in the AP Top 25 and 14th in the RPI.

The winner between Buffalo and South Florida will likely be forced to play third-seeded Florida State on the Seminoles' home court in the second round. That does not sit well with South Florida.

"I was disappointed," senior forward Maria Jespersen said. "I definitely was."

Also fueling its disappointment over the No. 6 seed: South Florida was 13-3 in the American Athletic Conference and was one of only four teams to come within 16 points of Connecticut, which defeated them 70-54 in last week's AAC tournament final.

"It looks like the tournament, for one reason or another, it's becoming regionalized," South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. "And I think you're only hurting the student-athletes by doing that."

Buffalo, making its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament, is simply happy to be there. In 2016, the Bulls secured the automatic bid after winning the MAC championship.

Buffalo fell short of a title this year, a goal it had to alleviate the fear of not making the tournament field.

"In order for you to have success, you cannot leave it in somebody else's hands and hope that success will come," Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. "I thought in order for us to be reassured 100 percent (of an NCAA bid) that we would have to go out there and reclaim the MAC conference title and advance.

"When the opportunity didn't happen for us to do that, I thought we were in a precarious position again. I looked at all the results of what we've done. I've said we've done the work."

Buffalo's strong finish helped it get into the tournament. The Bulls won 11 consecutive games before losing 96-91 to Central Michigan in the conference tournament championship game. It's the first time since 1996 that the MAC got an at-large bid into the NCAA field.

Starting point guard Stephanie Reid went down with a sprained ankle injury with about five minutes left against Central Michigan. She is undergoing rehabilitation on it this week leading up to the game.

Asked if she will be ready to play against South Florida, Reid said, "I will be by Friday or Saturday."

Legette-Jack said her team is trying not to make the game against South Florida bigger than what it is, which will be a difficult task with it being an NCAA Tournament game.

"We really think this game is a microcosm of life and it's not about the end result of a game, it's how we position ourselves for the rest of our lives," she said. "We take that very seriously. Our young ladies are very determined to become phenomenal women and they want to show their progress and their prowess through the game of basketball."