Basketball was my first sporting love. I was a TCU kid growing up, so I went to all the football games and as many of the basketball games as I could, but my attention would always drift during the football games (until I got to high school, really) while basketball games were always amazing- even though my favorite teams almost always lost. In a land where the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls, I was cheering for the Mavericks- who won maybe ten games a season. I knew big time college basketball, because I watched teams like the UNLV runnin' rebels, the 40 minutes of hell Arkansas Razorbacks, the Duke blue devils and the Kansas Jayhawks in basketball. TCU wasn't great at basketball, but would put on decent shows against teams like Texas A&M, Rice, SMU and Baylor in the old SWC, and when we moved to the WAC and CUSA the basketball team flourished... for a little while. Before long we fell into the deepest depths, and no number of new coaches were able to drag the Frogs out of it. For years, the TCU basketball program felt like an anchor weighing down the football program- as it kept people from talking about TCU in the offseason. Eventually my heart was hardened, and I didn't believe that TCU would be able to field a competitive team in the Big East or (eventually) Big 12. And I was right. Until the impossible happened.
TCU had never won a Big 12 game. Winning the first one was a Big deal. But this is bigger than that.
TCU had never won a game against a top 5 team. Beating a top 5 team is a HUGE deal. But this is bigger than that.
TCU beat Kansas. Not a Texas program which was having a great year, not Baylor when their NBA talent puts it together, not Kansas State in an amazing year, or Oklahoma State trying to reclaim past glory. This was Kansas, the bluest of the blue bloods, the team whose first head coach was the guy who invented basketball. And TCU beat them. Soundly. At home.
TCU has been a program that hasn't had a defining win, and in the first year of the Trent Johnson era, suddenly we have it. Any lingering disappointment that Jamie Dixon didn't end up back in Fort Worth was dispelled tonight, as the Frogs got a fantastic game from Garlon Green, solid contributions from Nate Butler and Connell Crossland, but generally put together what we've expected from the Frogs on offense this season. The difference? The TCU defense was good enough that it didn't matter. The Frogs were outrebounded, made just one more three pointer than the Jayhawks, and had yet another unhappy night from the free throw line and yet the TCU defense stood strong again and again. The Trent Johnson defense works, and if he can recruit the kind of players who can put the ball in the basket (and early evidence leads toward the affirmative in that) it might actually be safe to care about TCU basketball again. The players that have suffered through beatings at the hands of the entire conference (except OU and Kansas) ended tonight surrounded by the student body, chants of "TCU, TCU" booming from the rafters. And that's the kind of thing that can make all the difference for a team, a program, a university. Tonight was impossible. And yet... it happened. And to think that it could happen again is incredibly exciting. I will never completely write off a TCU basketball game again.