The best team that no one is talking about right now may very well be the ladies of TCU Women's hoops. The Frogs have now beat two ranked opponents and sit at 7-7 in conference play, good for third place in the standings. Playing in the friendly confines of the campus rec center, TCU has fostered one of the best home court advantages in the country, lending to their 12-3 home record. They have played #5 A&M and then ranked OU close, and had the comeback of the year against Iowa State back in January, coming from 24 points down in the second half to beat the Cyclones by two.
The Frogs have a balanced offensive attack, with four players averaging double digits. Let by junior guard Zahna Medley, who fills it up with 15.5 ppg and a solid 37% shooting from behind the arc, the Frogs score 70 points per game, hold opponents to 68, and you will all appreciate this - they make 76% of their free throws. Seniors Seniors Chelsea Prince and Natalie Ventress, and junior Veja Hamilton all score 10+ per contest, and Prince is also a beast on the boards, averaging almost seven per game. This is a good, veteran, exciting team, who have the ability to beat any team on any given day. Though they got blown out by #3 Baylor at home last month, their bounce back win against Texas in the next game shows that they have the mental toughness to go along with their skill to do some serious damage in March. They will have a chance to turn some heads tomorrow night against the #3 Lady Bears on the road, fresh off their demolition of WVU in Waco.
For even casual fans of the sport, the top spots are currently occupied by familiar names - Connecticut, Baylor, Notre Dame, and Tennessee find themselves among the top 6. The Big 12 currently has just one ranked team, the Bears at #3. But OU, Texas, and Oklahoma State are receiving votes and could find themselves back among the rankings prior to seeding. Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas appears to be locks for March Madness, while Oklahoma State and the Iowa State are both sitting squarely on the bubble, with the Frogs having spent plenty of time on the last four out list this season as well. With their showdown against Baylor and a trip to Austin looming, the Frogs will have two chances against tourney teams, as well as two very winnable games at home against West Virginia and Kansas State, before the Big 12 tournament begins. Getting to nine, or even ten wins, heading in to the tourney would go a long way towards cementing their status as a bubble team, and two wins in the post season could get them off the bubble and in to the dance.
TCU is led by coach Raegan Pebley, a Colorado grad who had a stellar playing career for the Buffs before spending two seasons in the WBNA. Pebley got her coaching career started as an assistant at George Mason, then Colorado State, before taking head coaching positions at Utah State and Fresno State. In two years at Fresno, Pebley led her team to two MWC tournament championships and two NCAA tourney appearances. Though she has had short stops at each of her previous schools, that can be credited to her accession up the coaching ladder, as she has moved up to a power five conference in short order. Chris Del Conte brought her to Fort Worth to replace Jeff Mittie, who spent 15 years with the Frogs before leaving for Kansas State this past spring. Pebley's teams have been known for their defense, and while the Frogs do give up points in bunches, they have certainly improved in that area over the course of the season. The work they did against the twin towers in their upset over the Longhorns is testament to that, and as Coach Pebley has the opportunity to recruit the right types of athletes for her system, there will certainly be an even more notable improvement. Pebley has been another slam dunk hire by CDC - she is young, hungry, and incredibly knowledgeable as a coach, and that is already beginning to pay dividends on the recruiting trail. While TCU doesn't have the history of a Tennessee, UConn, or Stanford, per se, there is a winning tradition among the women's program, with four C-USA titles, 11 post season appearances, and a string of six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances among their accolades over the past 15 years.
The ladies will need at least a split of their final four games to remain in contention for a coveted March Madness spot, and a win against either Baylor or UT on the road (or both) would go a long way to moving them in to contender status. Nine or ten regular season Big 12 wins, coupled with two in the conference tourney might be enough, but a prolonged run or a win against a ranked opponent would certainly help. And if the NCAA Tournament doesn't come calling, the women should be looking at a single digit seed in the NIT, where they could make a long run. With home games coming up Tuesday and Saturday at the rec center, be sure to get over to campus and support the other hoops team... one that has a shot to get us all dancing!