The TCU women’s basketball team was picked to win the Mountain West Conference with junior Starr Crawford raking in preseason all-conference accolades.
But that was more than a week ago.
Now, what seemed like a smooth flight to a conference title has turned into a strategic struggle to keep the plane in the air for the Lady Frogs, even after an 80-52 win Nov. 1 versus Cameron University.
The team’s turbulence began with Crawford. She sustained a concussion this past spring that led her to miss three postseason games. This year, another concussion means that she will be out for the season, according to a press release issued by TCU media relations.
Crawford was cleared to play in September, but coach Jeff Mittie said her symptoms came back after a fall during practice in which she hit her head on a teammate’s leg. The Lady Frogs will be losing their top returning rebounder, only double-digit scorer and lead scorer on six occasions this past season.
Then the oxygen masks fell from the ceiling. Briesha Wynn, a sophomore and one of the team’s main contributors off the bench in her freshman season, has been suspended due to academics. While coach Mittie said Wynn should be back this season, it was up to her as to when that will be.
“It is a situation where if she does what she’s supposed to do, she’ll be back,” he said. “I’m hoping that she’ll get back on track, get her priorities in line, and then she’ll be back.”
The main source of stress for Mittie as he tries to pilot his team? Their age.
Eight of 12 players are either freshmen or sophomores, including Wynn.
Only two starters from this past season’s squad would be returning this season — junior Delisa Gross and lone senior Antoinette Thompson.
“It hasn’t been the smoothest of starts,” Mittie said. “This is our youngest team going in, and it’s gotten younger, and that presents some challenges.”
Mittie added that he would be relying heavily on Thompson, Gross and freshman guard Natalie Ventress to emerge as strong leaders this season.
A rough patch Mittie said the team has had to overcome in its flight to the season opener was the shift in roles it experienced as these changes occurred.
“They’re going into different roles than they were going back to [the exhibition date on Nov. 1],” Mittie said. “I thought they were progressing ahead of pace, and now, based on where we need them to be on Nov. 11, they’re not anywhere close.”
Because of this shift in roles and need for players to step up, Mittie said he would not be redshirting any players this season.
“Everybody has got to find their way to play to their strengths and grow up as fast as they can,” he said. “We’ve got to get this group further along.”
He also said that this year’s roster contained the most speed and athletic ability the Lady Frogs have had in four years.
This young team would look to keep its engines running against one of the top schedules in the country this year with games against six opponents who reached a postseason tournament in the past season, including five who made the NCAA Tournament. The season opener will be Nov. 11 at the University of Georgia with tipoff set for 5 p.m.
Women's Basketball Schedule
11/01 vs. Cameron (exh.) Fort Worth, Texas W 80-52
11/11 at Georgia Athens, Ga. 5 p.m.
11/14 vs. UTSA Fort Worth, Texas 6 p.m.
11/17 at SMU Dallas, Texas 7 p.m.
11/20 vs. North Carolina State Fort Worth, Texas 1 p.m.
UCF Thanksgiving Tournament
11/25 vs. Hartford Orlando, Fla. 11 a.m.
11/26 vs. Fordham Orlando, Fla. 11 a.m.
12/01 at Houston Houston, Texas 7 p.m.
12/04 vs. Lamar Fort Worth, Texas 1 p.m.
12/11 vs. Texas A&M Fort Worth, Texas 2 p.m.
12/18 vs. Sam Houston State Fort Worth, Texas 5 p.m.
12/20 vs. Tulsa Fort Worth, Texas 6:30 p.m.
12/28 at Oklahoma Norman, Okla. 7 p.m.
12/31 vs. Texas Southern Fort Worth, Texas 2 p.m.
01/05 vs. Texas-Pan American Fort Worth, Texas 6:30 p.m.
01/07 vs. Harvard Fort Worth, Texas 6:30 p.m.
01/11 at San Diego State San Diego, Calif. 10 p.m.
01/14 vs. Colorado State Fort Worth, Texas 3:30 p.m.
01/18 vs. UNLV Fort Worth, Texas 6:30 p.m.
01/21 at Boise State Boise, Idaho 8 p.m.
01/25 at Air Force USAFA, Colo. 8 p.m.
01/28 vs. New Mexico Fort Worth, Texas noon
02/01 at Wyoming Laramie, Wyo. 8 p.m.
02/04 vs. San Diego State Fort Worth, Texas 2 p.m.
02/11 at Colorado State Fort Collins, Colo. 5:30 p.m.
02/15 at UNLV Las Vegas, Nev. 9 p.m.
02/18 vs. Boise State Fort Worth, Texas noon
02/22 vs. Air Force Fort Worth, Texas 6:30 p.m.
02/25 at New Mexico Albuquerque, N.M. 3 p.m.
02/28 vs. Wyoming Fort Worth, Texas 6:30 p.m.
Conoco Mountain West Championships
03/07 Mountain West Quarterfinals Las Vegas, Nev. TBA
03/09 Mountain West Semifinals Las Vegas, Nev. TBA
03/10 Mountain West Finals Las Vegas, Nev. TBA