TCU

TCU women’s NCAA Tournament hopes lie in conference prestige

Coach Raegan Pebley believes the strength of the Big 12 should be enough to help TCU receive an NCAA Tournament invitation.
Coach Raegan Pebley believes the strength of the Big 12 should be enough to help TCU receive an NCAA Tournament invitation. Star-Telegram

TCU women’s basketball coach Raegan Pebley knows the best things in life are worth waiting for.

When she was pregnant with her son Joseph, he was nine days overdue.

“He was born 10 1/2 pounds and it was about a 25- or 26-hour labor and I begged my OB/GYN to induce me,” Pebley said Saturday after her team’s 67-61 Big 12 tournament loss to Texas.

That loss put TCU on the clock — nine days until Selection Monday when the Horned Frogs (17-13, 9-9 Big 12) will know their postseason tournament fate.

“I think these next nine days are probably going to feel like that last nine days of carrying him,” Pebley said. “But it was worth it, absolutely was worth it and it will be worth the wait here because I just really think I trust the committee.”

After back-to-back losses to Texas to close the season, including Saturday’s Big 12 tournament elimination, TCU saw its RPI ranking fall from 61 to 74.

The Horned Frogs are fighting an uphill battle to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA. Only 15 teams with an RPI of 60 or below have earned such a bid since 1997, according to RPIRatings.com.

But a team finishing .500 or better in Big 12 conference play hasn’t been left out of the big dance since the 2006 season, and Pebley knows that playing in the No. 1 RPI-ranked conference is TCU’s best argument.

“We’ve gone out and we’ve challenged ourselves in the nonconference as a conference,” she said. “I don’t think we really have any bad losses right now. We have good wins. We swept Oklahoma State. We beat Iowa State. We beat Texas.”

TCU won three games on the road (including a neutral-site win over Missouri State at the Omni Classic) but one of those victories was in Stillwater against an Oklahoma State squad that spent much of the nonconference schedule ranked in the Top 25.

That road win that gave TCU the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament ahead of the Cowgirls, Iowa State and Texas, which pushed its way into the Big 12 Championship from the No. 6 seed.

“I’m biased, but I don’t know how you leave out a team that had the most wins amongst those teams that were tied for third,” Pebley said.

Home-court advantage was a huge part of this season’s Big 12 play. Only Baylor and Oklahoma finished with a winning record on the road and Oklahoma State and second-to-last Kansas were the only two teams below .500 to post more than two road wins.

“The parity in our conference right now, it’s because of the home crowds,” Pebley said.

Still, TCU might be left on the outside while the three teams that finished with the same conference record and lower tournaments seeds get the national tourney nod. ESPN’s Charlie Creme has TCU as the first team left out of the tournament in his latest edition of “Bracketology,” posted Monday.

Oklahoma State is proceeding accordingly.

“We’re proceeding forward like we are in the tournament,” Cowgirls coach Jim Littell said. “I don’t think there’s any other way that you can do that, but we need to give some days off.”

Said Pebley: “I told them at the end of the game in the locker room, their season’s not over. I trust the committee and special things are in store because this team is still so engaged, so extremely engaged and eager to continue to play and they’re quality. They’ll be a quality product.”

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