March Madness is only a few weeks away, and one TCU hoops program appears ready to make the leap into the NCAA Tournament this season. Here’s a hint: It’s not the men.
While the Horned Frog men were battling to the finish against No. 1 Kansas on Wednesday, the TCU women were busy throttling Oklahoma with a season-best offensive output. Behind a dominant 29-11 third-quarter performance, the Horned Frogs cruised over the Sooners 96-71 and reached 21-7 overall this season.
TCU has one regular season game remaining before beginning the Big 12 Championship as the No. 2 seed behind only Baylor. Regardless of how the final stretch of the 2019-20 campaign unfolds, the Horned Frog women are looking ready to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. ESPN’s Charlie Creme currently has TCU as a No. 7 seed in the Fort Wayne Region, and a few more wins could potentially raise that projection.
The Horned Frogs have competed in the Women’s NIT Championship four times over the last five seasons under head coach Raegen Pebley. TCU’s women’s program has taken a notable leap in the last two years, going 47-24 while reaching the NIT semifinals twice. Earning an NCAA Tournament berth would be a significant accomplishment, however, as TCU hasn’t made the Big Dance during Pebley’s tenure with the program.
RPI and Strength of Schedule are two key criteria when determining tournament teams, and TCU has strong numbers for both categories, currently ranking 20th in RPI and 21st in SOS. In a 64-team field, those numbers are difficult to overlook.
It’s also noteworthy that the Horned Frogs are 12-5 in the Big 12 Conference this season. That puts TCU in second place, which would not only be the program’s best finish under Pebley, but also the program’s best finish since entering the conference in 2012. If the Horned Frogs can win their season-finale, make a strong run in the Big 12 Championship and add a postseason victory (or more), they’d be in line to potentially tie or even surpass TCU’s school record of 25 wins in a season, achieved in both 2001 and 2004.
Barring an incredible run in the Big 12 Championship, the TCU men are likely bound for the NIT, but let’s take some time to appreciate what the women have accomplished this season. By beating Oklahoma on Wednesday, the Horned Frogs have won at least 21 games in three straight years, something that hasn’t been done in the history of the program. TCU guard Lauren Heard also made history recently, becoming the 21st player to reach the 1,000-point mark and the seventh-fastest player to do so.
Two free throws from @laurenheard_ !!! She becomes the 21st player in school history to eclipse the 1,000 points mark. Heard nets her 1,000th point in 98 games - the 7th fastest player to get to 1K.#GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/MOxghiN95i— TCU Women’s Basketball (@TCUWbasketball) March 1, 2020
TCU has played well enough to where Creme doesn’t even have the Horned Frogs listed as a bubble team, meaning back-to-back losses to end the season would likely not bounce them out of NCAA Tournament contention. Moreover, RealTimeRPI even has the Horned Frogs projected for a No. 5 seed, while NCAA.com’s Mitchell Northam predicted one month ago that TCU would also receive a No. 5 seed.
Ultimately, bracket experts appear to be in consensus that TCU’s women’s hoops program will break a decade-long NCAA Tournament drought this month. Where the Horned Frogs will be seeded remains to be seen, but with the possibility for more historic achievements in the future, it will be exciting to see where Pebley, Heard and the TCU women wind up.