With only 16 teams left in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, March Madness is well under way. But for the Horned Frogs and Lady Frogs, basketball season fizzled out in a most disappointing fashion.
Early in the season, the men’s team appeared to find new life under the guidance of new head coach Jim Christian. The team jumped out to a 13-6 record, just one win shy of the 14 wins it accumulated during the 2007-08 season.
A 4-1 start in Mountain West Conference play had the Horned Frogs sitting in first place in late January. But the team proceeded to lose 11 of its last 12 contests, all against conference competition.
Reasons for the late collapse most likely center on the team’s youth and inexperience. Only four players from the previous year’s team returned for Christian’s first season at the helm.
With four out of five of the team’s usual starters returning for next year’s campaign – senior forward Kevin Langford departs after three great seasons with TCU – there is a chance the team’s play will be more consistent as players get more comfortable in Christian’s system.
It’s for that reason that optimism should remain high as the team moves toward the future. Christian has an entire offseason to mold the current roster and add to the talent pool. Improvement next season isn’t just a distinct possibility. It’s a certainty.
The Lady Frogs had another fantastic season under long-tenured head coach Jeff Mittie, winning 20 games for the eighth time in nine seasons. The team finished in third place in the MWC after posting a 12-4 record.
The Lady Frogs showed early in the season that they would be a force to be dealt with when they beat a then-third ranked Maryland team 80-68 in the season opener in November. A month later they topped California, another No. 3-ranked team.
These wins propelled the Lady Frogs as high as No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
But when the team needed to win big games later in the season, it just didn’t happen.
A second-round loss to UNLV in the Mountain West Conference Championship, a team the Lady Frogs defeated twice during the regular season, quickly ended the team’s hopes of claiming a title.
But thanks to the overall success of the season, the team had a chance at redemption when it was granted a berth into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed. Seventh-seeded South Dakota State pummeled the Lady Frogs 90-55 Sunday night in Lubbock. The game was over before it even started.
The future looks bright for the Lady Frogs, however. The team will lose just one player in senior center Micaela Younger. A core of Emily Carter and Helena Sverrisdottir, who will be juniors, along with senior-to-be TK LaFleur will have one more season to learn and grow together. Throw into the fray guard Eboni Mangum, who missed about half of the season after knee surgery, and things suddenly appear to be in great shape for this talented squad as it moves forward.
Basketball season came to an end much sooner than many of us would have liked. Each team had its moments of brilliance, but ended up fading down the stretch. Through all the highs and lows during the year, we discovered one thing: each of these teams’ futures appears to be bright.
But in the world of sports, potential means nothing and success means everything. Hopefully next season we will see what the basketball programs are truly capable of.
Sports editor Michael Carroll is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Coppell.