TCU women enter selection show squarely on NCAA bubble

TCU coach Raegan Pebley and Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, right, will be waiting for the NCAA bracket to be revealed Monday night. Iowa State is projected into the field by ESPN, TCU is not.
TCU coach Raegan Pebley and Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, right, will be waiting for the NCAA bracket to be revealed Monday night. Iowa State is projected into the field by ESPN, TCU is not. Star-Telegram

Last fall, TCU football fans became all too accustomed to several buzzwords — strength of schedule, head-to-head, eye test — to name a few.

Words that still might sting after TCU just missed the cut for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

A few months later those words have most associated with the TCU women’s basketball program sweating out Monday night’s NCAA Women’s Tournament Selection Show.

The Horned Frogs have a .500 record (9-9) in the nation’s top conference in RPI. They finished with the third seed in the Big 12 tournament by way of round-robin tiebreaker over Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas.

The selection process encompasses each team’s entire body of work, including strength of schedule, RPI, conference RPI and key wins.

For ESPN bracketology analyst Charlie Creme — not unlike the TCU football team, when you have to split hairs with other bubble teams — it comes down to one game, a 79-45 season-finale loss to Texas in Austin.

“That game was set up to be the biggest win against a Top 25 RPI team,” Creme said. “It was going to give them a road win. It would have given them a three-game winning streak heading into the postseason. All of those things lined up, and it didn’t happen, and all of those things took a hit.”

In his latest prediction of the field of 64, Creme has TCU at No. 66, two spots out of a tournament bid.

The Horned Frogs do have a few black eyes. They only won two games away from the University Recreation Center this season. They’re overall record, 17-13, leaves something to be desired, Creme said.

“What did they do when things weren’t quite as easy? They didn’t do much. They didn’t win a number of those,” Creme said.

Inside TCU coach Reagan Pebley’s office lies a stack of papers, hundreds of sheets deep, that spell out a different story, she believes.

Around 10 pages are bookmarked with neon yellow tabs — those schools in NCAA Tournament purgatory, also known as the bubble.

With those yellow tabs Pebley quickly can flip through each team’s résumé and see how they stack up to her Horned Frogs.

Out of those bubble teams, TCU has the second-highest strength of schedule, ranked 33rd, and is the only team from the Big 12. Only Arkansas, from the second-highest RPI conference, the SEC, boasts a higher strength of schedule at 7.

TCU is tied for the second-most wins over teams with RPI rankings from 1-25 with one, a 64-59 win over Texas on Feb. 1. TCU has two wins over teams ranked 26-50 and three wins over schools ranked 51-100.

Of the eight schools Creme has in the last four in and first four out, TCU is tied with Arkansas with most wins against programs ranked 1-100 with six. Only Gonzaga has more with seven, four of which are in the 51-100 range.

“When the committee goes in the room and they’re trying to decide TCU between Gonzaga and San Diego, or whoever, you put us up to them and I don’t think it’s a question,” Pebley said.

TCU has spent the past week practicing on those things they can control — their system on the court, conditioning and academics.

She and TCU’s player leadership have talked some on what things will look like should they get in or not, she said.

“Their leadership response will be a lot of how the rest of the team responds,” Pebley said. “We just have really stressed that we are not just participants in whatever tournament we’re in. We are in it to compete and to win. We really talk about habits we need to have to be good on the floor.”

As a group, they’ve spent more time focusing on the things that really matter — giving back to the community. Throughout the past week of spring break, the program visited a homeless shelter and a retirement home.

Monday, they will gather together as team as they learn the fate of the bubble, where they have sat for nine days.

“We’re going to have a team dinner and we’re going to watch the selection show and be excited to hear our name,” Pebley said.

NCAA Women’s Tournament bubble teams

Conference records include tournament games

Arkansas (17-13, 7-11 SEC)

SOS 7, RPI 44, SEC RPI 2

Overall: 9-6 home, 5-6 away, 3-1 neutral

2 wins 1-25 (Iowa, Oklahoma), 0 wins 26-50, 4 wins 51-100

SEC: 4-6 home, 2-6 away, 1-1 neutral

Arkansas State (21-9, 17-4 in Sun Belt)

SOS 103, RPI 47, Sun Belt RPI 13

Overall: 21-1 home, 8-8 away, 1-0 neutral

1 win 1-25 (Chattanooga), 1 win 26-50 (UALR), 0 wins 51-100

Sun Belt: 10-0 home, 6-4 away, 1-0 neutral

Duquesne (21-10, 13-5 in A10)

SOS 71, RPI 48, A10 RPI 6

Overall: 11-2 home, 8-7 away, 2-1 neutral

0 wins 1-25, 1 win 26-50 (Pittsburgh), 2 wins 51-100

A10: 8-0 home, 4-4 away, 1-1 neutral

Gonzaga (24-7, 17-3 in WCC)

SOS 81, RPI 40, WCC RPI 9

Overall: 12-2 home, 11-2 away, 1-3 neutral

1 win 1-25 (Dayton), 2 wins 26-50 (BYU), 4 wins 51-100

WCC: 8-1 home, 8-1 away, 1-1 neutral

Miami (19-12, 9-9 in ACC)

SOS 51, RPI 67, ACC RPI 3

Overall: 15-3 home, 2-8 road, 2-1 neutral

1 win 1-25 (ND), 1 win 26-50 (Syracuse), 3 wins 51-100 (LSU, GT, UCLA)

ACC: 6-2 home, 2-6 away, 1-1 neutral

San Diego (23-6, 15-5 in WCC)

SOS 202, RPI 55, WCC RPI 9

Overall: 12-2 home, 10-3 away, 1-1 neutral

0 wins 1-25, 2 wins 26-50 (Gonzaga, BYU), 2 wins 51-100

WCC: 8-1 home, 6-3 away, 1-1 neutral

TCU (17-13, 9-10)

SOS 33, RPI 73, Big 12 RPI 1

Overall: 14-3 home, 2-8 road, 1-2 neutral

1 win 1-25 (Texas), 2 wins 26-50 (Oklahoma State), 3 wins 51-100 (ISU, KSU, WV)

Big 12: 7-2 home, 2-7 away, 0-1 neutral

Tulane (22-10, 13-8 in AAC)

SOS 57, RPI 53, AAC RPI 8

Overall: 11-4 home, 8-4 away, 3-2 neutral

0 wins 1-25, 1 win 26-50 (UALR), 4 wins 51-100 (LSU, Miami, ECU, NCST)

AAC: 6-3 home, 5-4 away, 2-1 neutral

NCAA Women’s Tournament Selection Show

6 p.m. Monday, ESPN