Texas Christian University, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has one of the more interesting mascots that Purdue fans will encounter this 2002-2003 season: the Horned Frog. Thanks to the official website of TCU, I got an education about a lizard that has a pineal gland that looks like a third eye and has the ability to squirt four-foot-long streams of blood from its eyes when afraid or angry. The TCU website also has a lot of information about classes and organizations, but you'll be pulled in by the link "What The Heck is a Horned Frog, Anyway?" These four-inch-long insectivores (red ants are a delicacy) are much more interesting than libraries, departments, grants, and student financial aid packages. Be the Frog at http://www.tcu.edu/
The Horned Frogs women's basketball team has exploded onto the national scene the past few years: they advanced to the NCAA tournament the past two years, won the C-USA championship their first year in the conference, and have set or tied school records for wins two of the past three years. The Big Ten is no stranger to TCU, as the Horned Frogs have defeated both Penn State and Indiana in the past two NCAA tournaments. All of this success coincided with the hiring of Jeff Mittie, who is one of the brightest young coaches in the nation. At age 36, Mittie already has more than 200 career wins and seems to excel at taking programs with no or little success and turning them into giant-killers immediately. His Missouri Western squad advanced to the Division II Final Four; the first Arkansas State squad he coached defeated ranked teams from Kansas and Virginia and advanced to the WNIT; and his TCU teams have had success in the NCAAs, including giving Duke a scare last year in the 2nd round. Now in his fourth year at TCU, Mittie seems to be entrenched at the program that has seen its average per game attendence rise to almost 3000 and its national prominence raised as some of the top teams in the country (Purdue, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas) are expected to battle the squad from Fort Worth. Learn more about Coach Mittie at http://gofrogs.ocsn.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/mittie_jeff00.html
Now ranked #21 in the nation, the Horned Frogs seem to have established an offensive mindset for themselves: both last season and this season, the 3-point shot has been a major part of the offensive scheme. 18 of their 63 shots against Utah were from behind the arc, as were 16 of their 56 shots in a 10-point loss at #17 Arkansas. The percentage was even higher in their first-round victory against Holy Cross on Thursday: 21 of their 55 field goals attempts were taken at 3-point range. Another key to their offensive philosophy is getting a lot of players involved in the scoring: as many as 9 or 10 players could end up averaging 10 minutes of playing time per game and anywhere from 4-13 points per game. Having such balance will make the Horned Frogs a potent offensive team because the defense can't key on just one or two players. And the player that a lot of teams may want to focus on isn't one of the perimeter stars at TCU. She's sophomore center Sandora Irvin from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Irvin did not play in Friday's game against Holy Cross, instead serving a 1-game suspension for violating team rules. Had she played, Irvin would have been an incredible defensive presence for the Frogs. The niece of former Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Irvin, Sandora Irvin currently averages 4 blocks per game and 9 rebounds per game in her two contests. This year isn't much different from Irvin's freshman campaign in which she averaged 10.8 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game, and 2.7 blocks per game. She smashed the single-season school record in rebounds and blocks last year. Already with nine career double-doubles in college, Irvin's defensive skills may surpass her offensive skills at this point: she shot 42.6% from the field her freshman year and has made only seven of 22 field goals this year. Offensive skills for collegiate centers, however, seem to develop more slowly than their defensive skills. One needs only to look at the roster of some of Purdue's greatest centers: Crista LaCroix, Rhonda Mateen, Stacey Lovelace, and Camille Cooper were all limited offensively in their freshman and even sophomore years. Yet by the time they were seniors, Mateen was named 2nd team All-Big Ten and the other three had been named to the first team. Lovelace was even a Kodak All-American her junior year. Expect Irvin's offensive skills to mirror such a trajectory in her career at Texas Christian: she has solid players all around her, a coach who is willing to spread the wealth evenly with his offensive schemes, and almost three years to develop in one of the better conferences in the nation. To learn more about Sandora Irvin from a different perspective, that of potential WNBA material, check out the following address: http://www.cometscourthouse.com/Draft%20Day/IRVIN.htm
Look for Friday's game against TCU to be the first major challenge to the Boilermakers this season. The Horned Frogs are on a roll from last season and expectations are high for the #21-ranked team in America. With the offense scheme of balance and three-point shooting and Sandora Irvin's defensive presence inside, the Boilermakers will need to stay on their "A" game to remain unbeaten in 2002-2003. I just hope no one squirts blood from their eyes.
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