Seemed like Frogs have been up and down after a really strong start, what's been the main storyline(s)?
The Frogs got off to a great start, like you mention, giving some top teams (Notre Dame, A&M) all they could handle on their home floors. But they struggled in conference - which is understandable when you look at just how good the Big XII has been - and really had issues on the road, winning just four games away from home. They had a win against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, but went 0 for the big dogs, and just couldn't quite get over the hump against ranked opponents. Part of that is youth - only two of the regular five starters are seniors, and a lot is expected of true freshman Jordan Moore as the starting center. This team has shown flashes of special in Coach Raegan Pebley's second season, and has grown to not be as reliant on superstar Zahna Medley. But they are certainly still growing into their roles, and that's hard to do in the meat grinder of conference play.
Zahna Medley looks like a dead eye shooter, but who else can give UTEP problems scoring wise?
Medley is a very special player who is setting records by the game it seems, and has really made her mark as an all-time great for the Frogs. But as the season has gone on, it's been less about relying on her to give TCU a scoring punch, and more about how her abilities have opened things up for her teammates. Against Eastern Michigan, it was the AJ Alix show, as the sophomore guard dropped seven threes en route to a great shooting night. Veja Hamilton is the third double digit scorer for TCU, and center Jordan Moore could have a big day if UTEP has to overplay the shooters on the perimeter.
TCU has been in some close calls with some pretty good teams this year, what gets them over that hump against a capable team like UTEP on the road?
TCU seems to play its best against the best teams, the hallmark of a young, hungry team, who just hasn't quite reached its potential. But we have certainly seen some encouraging signs in the NIT, and it may very well be that they have put it together in post-season play. But UTEP, at UTEP, is a different animal, and it will be interesting to see how this group responds to not only the skill of the Miners, but the atmosphere of the Don. I think it's going to take a third guard stepping up - Jada Butts or Toree Thompson can hit consistently from deep and take some of the pressure off of AJ and Z, it could make things a lot harder on the Miners defensively. It will also come down to turnovers - the Frogs just can't afford to let UTEP dictate the pace and play in the open court based off of their mistakes.
Give me a quick strength and weaknesses scouting report on TCU....
The Frogs shoot almost 40% from three... as a team. They can really stretch a defense when they are shooting well, and know how to take advantage of a defense as they adjust. They score a lot of points, over 72 per game, and play an opportunistic defense that allows their big athletes inside to rotate over and block a lot of shots. But they are prone to allowing runs, especially if their shots aren't falling, and turn it over a little too often in the half court. In late game situations, the ball can stick a bit, as they let their stars do most of the work. But it will be crucial that they get the ball moving and make the defense work if they are going to keep playing. Rebounding could also be an issue - TCU isn't particularly strong on the boards and second chance points could come back to bite them.
Whats TCU's recent postseason history been like?
In Pebley's first season, TCU got to the Round of 32 in the NIT before in a close one at Southern Miss, which was one game deeper than the team made a season ago in Jeff Mittie's last season before he left for Kansas State. Mittie led them to nine NCAA Tournament appearances and 12 post season berths in 14 years, though the last time they made it past the second round was 2006. The deepest the team has played into March in recent history is an NIT quarterfinals appearance in 2008.
Do you think losing to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament after sweeping them in the season series sort of light a fire for a WNIT run?
That's a pretty strong theory. Pebley is an incredible coach and a great motivator, and I'm sure that loss stung really deep, especially for the seniors. I think this team felt they could make a serious run in the Big XII Tournament, so getting smoked in the first round by a team that they beat by 26 on the road was very humbling. Medley is an absolute legend at TCU, and I can pretty much guarantee she will put this team on her back and try her best to carry them to a victory.
UTEP could have a pretty large, and rowdy as hell 8-thousand-plus crowd on Thursday, what is the toughest place in the Big 12 to play, and how do you think TCU will respond?
While TCU played in front of 9,000+ at Iowa State, and almost pulled off the win, I doubt they have faced anything like what they are going to see Thursday night. But, no team in the Big XII is a stranger to large, raucous crowds, as the conference regularly leads the country in attendance. Iowa State, Baylor, and Oklahoma are all in the top 12 nationally in game attendance, and K State, Texas Tech, and Texas all average well over 3,000 fans. The Frogs are no stranger to the big stage, but this will be a totally different kind of test. That being said, I think Pebley will have her squad ready, and her seniors will shine bright.
TCU wins if...
They shoot the lights out from deep, Zahna Medley has one of those special nights, and AJ Alix continues her torrid shooting pace. If they have more assists than turnovers and can control the defensive glass, they have the scoring punch to win a close one.
UTEP wins if....
They dictate the pace of the game and get the second chance points that can deflate a defense. If the Frogs can't control the guard play of the Miners and keep them out of the paint, it could be a long night. The forwards can be a bit foul-prone, and if Moore picks up a couple early trying to rotate over into help, it could spell trouble for TCU.
Best BBQ spot in Fort Worth?
There is a little food truck that sets up shop in the parking lot of a bar called Heim BBQ. It's run by a really great couple and a dude named Rowdy, and the brisket will change your life. They also have quite possibly the greatest menu item in BBQ history (yes, that's a bold statement): BACON. BURNT. ENDS. It's meat candy, and it's delicious. They will have a brick and mortar by summer, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Oh man, that's all I can think about now... bacon burnt ends... yummmmmm.
Special thanks to Melissa Triebwasser from Frogs O' War for taking time to preview the Frogs.