TCU Horned Frogs
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REGION: West SEED: 6
COACH: Jeff Mittie CONFERENCE: Big 12
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
After working very hard on her low-post and face-up games, Sandora Irvin is having the best year of her career. TCU is also playing very well, running some really nice sets and pushing the ball to find the right shooters. And because of a solid offense and sound stats, TCU's team defense is often overlooked. That defense -- and the Horned Frogs' ability to prevent a game from turning into a track meet -- might mean the difference for TCU, which must make some key defensive stops to advance.
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Three years ago, she might have been better known as "the niece of former Cowboys star wide receiver Michael Irvin." But the 6-foot-3 junor forward has made a name for herself. A two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, Irvin averages 4.1 blocks (113 total) and 1.8 steals per game. Offensively, Irvin is just as steady, averaging a double-double with a team-high 16.5 points and 12.3 rebounds. Irvin also shoots 52 percent from the field and rides a streak of 13 consecutive double-double performances into the Dance.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Remember last season when the eventual national champion UConn Huskies were given a run for their money in the second round of the NCAA Tournament? Well, the team that almost took the Huskies to task was TCU, and the Horned Frogs are a whole lot better this time around.
Jeff Mittie's team pushed through a volatile Conference USA season to finish second in the regular season behind Houston. In nonconference action, TCU challenged Tennessee and defeated a hefty talent in DePaul by 20 points.
All-time TCU leader in blocks, junior center Sandora Irvin, knows what she needs to do for the Frogs to capitalize -- continue to drop 16 points, 12 boards and bring four blocks to the table. This drastically improved sensation is a huge reason TCU is one of the sharpest-shooting teams nationally with a field-goal percentage floating in the mid-40s. And as all good shot blockers, Irvin has figured out how to deny shots while keeping the ball in play. Besides TCU's quickness, this is one reason the Frogs swipe more than 12 steals a game.
With a good 10-player rotation, Mittie is able to push a fast tempo and equally intrusive defense. The catalyst for this is senior guard Ebony Shaw, who is the only other player averaging double-digits scoring with 11 points. A good rebounding guard, Shaw has improved her outside range to 39 percent accuracy.
TCU's prime distributor is freshman Natasha Lacy, who, despite five assists per game, also has a tendency to give away the ball away like many overeager freshmen. Still, her upsides are tremendous and her potential is soaring.
Having failed to advance past the second round of the tournament for the past three years, Mittie's club has serious motivation to further the adventure. The Horned Frogs showcase a balanced scoring attack from the inside-out and do a fantastic job on the boards.
The big Achilles' heal this year has been turnovers. With nearly 22 per game to just 17 assists, TCU must take better care of the basketball in the tournament.