Pinned to the fridge inside Raegan Pebley's home is a piece of orange construction paper, covered in red crayon.
Although that would seem like the work of kids -- and Pebley does have two, a daughter and a son -- this masterpiece was actually created by the Texas Christian coach and her husband, Keith.
They divided the paper into columns with the crayon:
Favorites we need to win. Teams we need to jump. Mid-major upsets that hurt us.
Each column was then filled with school names -- essentially a road map outlining Championship Week, and, if all went according to this plan, a path for TCU to arrive at the promised land: the NCAA tournament.
So, yes, having kids explains Pebley's choice of colorful materials. ("My daughter's supplies were called upon in the moment," the coach explained.) But the inspiration behind this informational art is a little more complicated.
As in, that precarious place where, every March, a handful of college basketball teams find themselves. Last week, TCU lost to Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, an outcome that landed the Horned Frogs right, smack in the most stressful location in college hoops: NCAA tournament purgatory.
Not out. Not in. Just stuck between.
In fact, in espnW's Bracketology, Charlie Crème has TCU as the No. 66 team -- the second squad left out of the NCAA tournament field. The Horned Frogs' resume is the definition of tricky: with a record of 17-13, 9-9, they technically finished third in the Big 12, via tiebreak, but their RPI (No. 71) is lower than most teams in consideration. Still, the team had an impressive strength of schedule (No. 31) and played in the nation's most difficult conference, to which the NCAA selection committee historically awards between five and seven at-large bids.
So, if TCU technically finished third in the conference, it should be a cinch for the tourney. But then again, the Horned Frogs don't have a "defining" win to point to.
An endless back and forth -- good luck, NCAA selection committee!
On Monday night, ESPN will unveil the field for the 2015 NCAA women's basketball tournament (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Horned Frogs will gather to watch at Pebley's home -- she has a theater room -- and there they will either wildly celebrate a berth in the NCAAs, or calmly regroup and focus on the WNIT.
So what has this week been like for Pebley, for her team?
What's it like having little control, the potential for endless anxiety, and a full week during which you have enough time to talk yourself into, or out of, pretty much anything?
"The only thing I can compare it to, in real life, is when I was carrying my son and he was nine days overdue," said Pebley, who in her rookie year at TCU has her team wildly outperforming preseason predictions where they were slated to finish seventh in the Big 12 alone. "It's like that moment when you hit your due date, but then you're waiting and waiting and there's nothing you can do. Every day feels like not 24 hours, but like 48."
This whole "bubble" thing actually started in the locker room inside American Airlines Arena. The Horned Frogs had just lost to Texas at the Big 12 tourney, and the players were upset -- some of the seniors were crying.
They just couldn't help wondering: Have we just blown our chance for the NCAAs?
"I understood their emotions, but I told them, 'We can't do this; our season is not over; amazing things are still going to happen to this team,'" Pebley said.
That night, upon returning home to Fort Worth, the assistant coaches went over to Pebley's house for dinner -- and to regroup. "We walk in the door and Keith is there, and he has it all mapped out, everything that needs to happen for us to get into the tournament, cross-comparisons, mid-major outcomes, everything," assistant coach Hanna Howard said. "Of course, then we have confidence again, because we see it all laid out for us.
"And now in the notes section on my iPhone, I have the scenarios of who we want to win, so as we watch these mid-major tournaments, I know who all of a sudden I'm rooting for."
But still, how would the coaching staff get the players through the week?
"I couldn't let that loss define us," Pebley said. "It started from that moment after the Texas game, not letting that loss change who we have been this year. So we met with the team and we said, 'Here's what this week will look like ...'"
The players were on spring break, so there was little going on other than practice. At the gym, without a specific opponent on which to focus, the team would go back to basics: the kind of fundamental drills executed during preseason. But away from the gym, they had a specific plan. The coaches and players would spend time in the community: going to retirement homes, homeless shelters, schools. "And each of those things reminded us of how special our situation actually was," Howard said.
On Thursday, Pebley met with the captains of the team. She had a smart message for them: "This is such a good experience for us, because next year when we're in preseason practice, and we talk about the little things, we'll know exactly what they mean, we'll know the stakes. We'll know they either got us in, or left us out of, the tournament."
Junior guard-forward Veja Hamilton has already pictured the moment on Monday night when "Texas Christian" is revealed on the NCAA bracket. "I've seen it in my head: Everybody jumping and hooting and hollering," she said. "The feeling is awesome."
Of course, Keith Pebley has already built a bracket -- all 64 teams, all seeded.
On his, TCU is a No. 11.