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Full 2016-2017 TCU Women’s Basketball Preview

The Horned Frogs lost the program’s all-time leading scorer in Zahna Medley. Find out who we expect to step up and fill that role and what we think this team is capable of this season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Texas Christian Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

TCU’s women’s basketball team is coming off a 18-15 season which saw them make it to the third round of the WNIT, where they were knocked out by UTEP. The Frogs this season will be faced with the tough task of replacing the most prolific scorer in the history of the program, Zahna Medley. Check out our breakdown of what to expect this season in terms of the roster and the schedule and my prediction for how this season might play out.

The Roster

Guard play will be pivotal this year, especially since they have to replace a star like Medley, but the Frogs have some good depth returning from last season mixed with a very talented freshman class. Senior Jada Butts, along with juniors AJ Alix and Toree Thompson will be responsible for providing experience on the outside for a team loaded with freshman guards. Alix and Thompson can light it up from the outside and Butts, a guard-forward combo player, is an effective finisher when driving. Their leadership will be critical to the team’s chances of success this season.

Joining them in the backcourt are four freshman guards, headlined by McDonald’s All-American 3-point shootout champion Amber Ramirez. Ramirez, along with the other freshmen, come into the TCU program as the #8 recruiting class in the nation. Ramirez, a five-star prospect, joins the Frogs from San Antonio’s Wagner High School and comes in confident that she can help lead the Frogs to compete for a Big 12 title and even a national championship. Joining her in the freshman guard class are Kianna Ray from Bowie High School in Austin and Mikayla Christian and Danielle Rainey, both of whom helped lead Round Rock’s Vista Ridge High School to a 34-5 overall record and state semifinal appearance as seniors.

TCU will benefit from having some good height in the frontcourt, as all of the forwards and centers on the roster come in at above six feet. Senior Carol Willie and sophomore Jordan Moore should see a lot of playing time this season and provide a real impact on the boards for the Frogs. Moore also has the ability to score in the post for TCU, which should ultimately draw help defenders in, freeing up the Frogs’ sharpshooters.

TCU also will likely rotate in junior Sydney Coleman and sophomores Amy Okonkwo and Adeola Akomolafe in the frontcourt, allowing all to see significant minutes for the Frogs this year. With the depth at guard, TCU will likely want to have at least three guards on the floor at all time, so it’ll be very important for the forwards and centers to crash the boards and create second-chance opportunities. Rebounding is a strong suit of Akomolafe, as she recorded over 2,000 career rebounds in her high school career. The final member of the frontcourt for the Frogs is Australian freshman Ella Hellessey, who has experience playing for the Australian U18 National Team.

As far as the starting five is concerned, I expect the Frogs to come out with an offensive lineup, starting Ramirez, Alix, and Thompson in the backcourt with Butts and Moore in the frontcourt.

The Schedule

TCU’s women’s basketball team’s schedule this season will put them to the test but could seriously pay off and put the team in a great position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

The Frogs’ non-conference schedule is a great balance of incredible matchups and winnable games. TCU opens with a four-game homestand, hosting Incarnate Word, Sam Houston State, SMU, and Grambling State. TCU beat both SHSU and SMU last season. The Frogs then face what will be there biggest challenge of the season, traveling to face preseason AP #1 Notre Dame in Indiana. Notre Dame came to Fort Worth last season, then ranked #3, and beat the Frogs 88-72 on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. After facing the Irish, TCU will host Butler, who beat the Frogs 65-53 last season at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

After playing the Bulldogs, the Frogs will take on back-to-back SEC opponents. TCU first will travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU in the women’s version of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. TCU then will host Texas A&M at Schollmaier Arena. The Frogs have lost to the Aggies each of the past two seasons, including a narrow 82-78 defeat in College Station last season when A&M was ranked #12. TCU will then finish their non-conference schedule with three consecutive home matches against McNeese, Texas Southern, and Alcorn State.

The Big 12 did TCU no favors this season in terms of conference scheduling. The Frogs will have to be ready to go once conference play starts, as four of the team’s first five games are against teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. If the Frogs can get through this stretch and remain confident, they’ll then face only one ranked team in their next seven games. Five of those seven games will be against Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Kansas, all of whom finished below the Frogs last season.

Over the last six games of the year, TCU will play three teams ranked in the preseason, including home games against Baylor and Oklahoma. The Frogs will then head to Oklahoma City for the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship, and hopefully, follow that with another trip to a postseason tournament.

The Expectations

TCU will be entering their third season under head coach Raegan Pebley, seeking their third straight trip to the postseason after making it to the WNIT each of the past two seasons. The Horned Frogs will also be hoping to return the program to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. There will be high hopes this season as Pebley continues to make an impact on the program and the fruits of her recruiting efforts will start to be made visible in players like Ramirez and Moore.

Pebley’s efforts and the program’s recent improvements have been noticed by other coaches in the Big 12, as TCU was picked to finish 6th in the conference, a spot that usually gets a team into the NCAA Tournament. However, Horned Frog fans should know that conference positioning doesn’t always carry much weight as TCU got left out in Pebley’s first year despite finishing 3rd in the conference by tiebreakers.

With a stronger non-conference schedule this season and if the Frogs can live up to the expectations placed on them by other school’s coaches, the Frogs should almost surely be in a postseason tournament, with a slight lean to making the NCAA Tournament due to the impressive depth of the Big 12 Conference.

The Prediction

TCU should be able to start the season off hot, going 4-0 before their trip to Notre Dame. TCU gives the #1 Irish all they can handle, but come up short in a tough environment. The Frogs come away with a ton of confidence after hanging with the best team in the country in a tough environment. The Frogs then come home and get revenge on Butler for the game last season, beating them handily and improving to 5-1.

TCU then travels to Baton Rouge and continues the Horned Frog tradition of winning Big 12/SEC Challenge matchups with a victory against LSU. The Frogs return home and come away with a close, exciting win over their second consecutive SEC opponent, Texas A&M. After getting their revenge on the Aggies, the Frogs are vaulted into the Top 25 with a record of 7-1. TCU continues their hot streak with three blowout wins over McNeese, Texas Southern, and Alcorn State. The Frogs are at this point into the Top 20 nationally and sitting pretty at 10-1 going into conference.

Pebley and company continue the hot streak into conference, knocking off West Virginia at home to improve to 11-1. TCU cools off a little, dropping a road game to the Sooners before returning home to beat Oklahoma State handily. The Frogs will then run into a little bit of trouble as they are forced to play at Texas and at Baylor in back-to-back games, dropping both and falling to 2-3 in Big 12 play and out of the Top 25. The Frogs then bounce back and win three consecutive games against Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas, improving their conference record to 5-3 and overall record to 15-4.

While sitting on the cusp of re-entering the Top 25, the Frogs come away with their biggest win yet, upsetting Texas in Fort Worth. TCU is back in the Top 25 and continues the hot streak, going on to win their next three games, bringing their conference record to 9-3. Next up, TCU welcomes Baylor to Schollmaier Arena. The Frogs give it all they have but come up short against one of the top teams in the nation. TCU bounces back with two wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State, but then runs into another set off tough back-to-back games, losing to West Virginia on the road and Oklahoma at home.

The Frogs finish the regular season strong with a blowout win over Texas Tech and finish 4th in the Big 12 with a 12-6 conference record and a 22-7 overall record. Amber Ramirez is honored as the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year after leading the team in scoring and the conference in three-point shooting. TCU then heads to the Big 12 Tournament, where they win a close game over 5th-seeded West Virginia. The win helps the Frogs improve their resume, which at this point is almost a lock for the NCAA Tournament. TCU advances to the semifinals where they run into Baylor yet again, losing a heartbreaker to the Bears after leading at halftime.

Being ranked just inside the Top 25 with a record of 23-8, TCU makes the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Raegan Pebley. The Frogs, awarded a 6-seed by the committee, win their first game and go on to upset the host 3-seed to move the team into the Sweet Sixteen. TCU’s great run comes to an end in the Sweet Sixteen, narrowly losing to the 2-seed in their bracket. The fantastic season sets up the team and the program for future success and lets everyone around the conference and country know that Pebley has created a giant that has finally been awoken.