TCU isn’t exactly known as being a powerhouse basketball program. The majority of the school’s notoriety has come from the success of the football program, which counts LaDanian Tomlinson among its alums and has experienced a major run of success under coach Gary Patterson.
That said, things have begun to turn around in recent years for the basketball program thanks in large part to the hire of former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. In Dixon’s first two seasons, the team has compiled a 45-26 record and won the NIT championship in 2017. This year, they secured their first bid to the NCAA Tournament in 20 years. Here’s how they got there.
Coming off the NIT tournament win, expectations we higher than they’d been in some time for the Horned Frogs. They were selected to finish third in the preseason poll, behind Kansas and West Virginia. That expectation was understandable considering the fact that TCU returned every starter from that team and added impact freshman forward Kouat Noi from Australia. Senior forward Vladimir Brodziansky was named to the first-team all conference pre-season team while senior guard Kenrich Williams was an honorable mention.
With a ton of experience and an impact newcomer, the Horned Frogs looked to be a dangerous team and potential contender for the Big 12 title entering the season.
November 24-25th 2017
TCU ripped off four straight wins to start the season, but they came against fairly low-level competition in Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee Tech, South Daktoa and Nebraska-Omaha. Following those games, the Horned Frogs headed to the Emerald Coast Classic to square off with New Mexico and St. Bonaventure. In back-to-back nights, TCU won both games, first 69-67 against the Lobos, and then 89-79 over the Bonnies.
For context, New Mexico finished 3rd in the Mountain West this season behind Nevada and Boise State. St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament and then beat UCLA in their First Four match-up on Tuesday night. For the Horned Frogs, these weren’t huge wins, but definitely showed the quality play they were capable of.
December 5th & 9th, 2017
The winning streak continued for the Horned Frogs as they beat Belmont and Yale before welcoming 2017 American Conference champ, SMU to Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena. In a high-scoring affair, TCU came out on top 94-83 in large part because of their hot shooting from deep (12/24 3PT). Kenrich Williams stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. He also hit five of his six three pointers in the contest. However, despite the big win, TCU didn’t have much time to celebrate as they had to hop on a plane out to Los Angeles for a date with #22 Nevada at the Staples Center on Saturday.
Bill Musselman’s Wolfpack entered the season considered to be one of the strongest mid-major teams in the country. They’d shown it to this point starting the season 8-1 with the lone loss coming in overtime against Texas Tech. This time, it was sophomore guard Jaylen Fisher who lit up the scoreboard for the Horned Frogs, pouring in 20 points and adding six assists as TCU earned an 84-80 win to push their record to 10-0. They would push it to 12-0 before things started to fall apart.
January 22nd, 2018
The start of conference play was brutal for TCU. They went 2-5 in their first seven games with the average margin of defeat in those five losses being 3 points. Going even further, three of those five losses came in overtime (one in double OT). Needless to say, things weren’t looking great with #7 West Virginia coming to town.
But, the Horned Frogs pulled themselves together and pulled off the upset. Alex Robinson, Vladimir Brodziansky, Desmond Bane and Kouat Noi all scored in double figures as TCU won 82-73 over Bob Huggins’ squad.
February 17th-27th, 2018
Another tough stretch followed the West Virginia game as the Horned Frogs went 2-4 with losses to Vanderbilt, Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia. They beat Oklahoma State and Texas during that stretch, but still, heading into the final couple weeks of the season they sat just 5-8 in conference with some work to do to try and secure a tournament berth.
The team seemed to know that as they proceeded to rip off wins against Oklahoma State (90-70), Iowa State (89-83), Baylor (82-72), and Kansas State (66-59) over the course of this ten-day stretch to improve their conference record to 9-8. Their final game came against a tough Texas Tech team on the road, and they put up a good fight, before falling 79-75.
After falling in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, 66-64, to Kansas State in overtime, TCU had a long wait until Selection Sunday. As we saw, the committee had them safely in the field, placing them as a 6-seed in the Midwest region, with a match-up against Syracuse slated for the Round of 64.