Now that baseball has finished its season with a resounding thud all of the big 3 men's sports have completed a full season in the Big 12, and it's safe to say that no TCU team quite met its expectations this year- with the possible exception of the basketball team, which had the luxury of having no expectations in the first place. Off years do happen though, as if you look back over the 12 full seasons that Patterson has been coach once every four years there's a significant drop off. From 2001-2004 we had the 2004 bowl-less season, which saw the debacle in Lubbock, the OT loss to South Florida (in their fourth year of existence) and a season ending home loss to Tulane which ensured the end of our bowl streak. Then mixed in a score of 11 win seasons from 2005-2008 we had 8-5 2007 season which was the only MWC campaign for the frogs that saw us lose to a Mountain West team not named Utah or BYU- dropping games to both a good Air Force team and an average Wyoming team. Then came the swathe of destruction we cut through the MWC which led to our Big 12 invitation- 12, 13 and 11 win seasons, capped off with the middling 7-6 Big 12 debut season which saw us plagued with injuries, suspensions, drugs and Skye Dawson as returner. Still, the Big 12 is worlds above the Mountain West in all three of TCU's big sports, which means that some adjustment of expectations is to be expected- even the most die-hard TCU homer (probably me, sadly) it's unlikely that TCU is going to go on a run of 3 consecutive seasons without a conference loss in the Big 12 as we did in the Mountain West. Teams can vary wildly in quality year to year, so we'll widen the gaze to expectations over a four year period- what any recruit coming in to the program today should expect over the next four years.
The crowned jewel of any university in Texas (excepting Rice's academics and SMU's sense of entitlement) is the football program, and under Gary Patterson TCU's football team has soared to the stratosphere and taken expectations along with it. As a result, even though the conference is difficult I have (possibly unreasonably) high expectations for four years of football at TCU. One thing that you can feel good about as a frog fan though is that coach Patterson has similarly high expectations, and will do everything in his power to deliver on them every year. With that said, here is what I expect from TCU football over four years, with anything less likely to come as a disappointment.
1 Big 12 Championship (4 available)
1 BCS game (4 available)
2 (total) top 3 Conference finishes (4 available)
2 top 25 finishes (4 available)
4 Bowl appearances (4 available)
3 Bowl wins (4 available)
9 wins over Baylor/SMU/Tech (12 available)
3 wins over OU/UT (8 available)
2 winning records in conference (4 available)
Wins over Baylor, SMU and Tech are singled out as they're our primary rivals from both a historical and a recruiting perspective, so beating them more than they beat us is absolutely key for our long term success, while wins over Oklahoma and Texas are singled out as they are the marquee programs of the Big 12 and will play a big roll in poll position when we have big years. There may be instances where we win more than half of the available games against the Big 12's Big 2, particularly if the Mack Brown era drags on for a few more years, but 3 strikes me as a reasonable expectation- it's not .500, but I won't be disappointed with it.
Here we come to a more difficult nut to crack, as TCU's basketball team has lacked consistent success for pretty well my entire life. Compounding those difficulties is the fact that the Big 12 is one of the premier basketball conferences, with Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma being regular postseason mainstays, Baylor having a serious upswing under Scott Drew and Kansas being one of the four biggest programs in basketball history. That doesn't even mention that Iowa State and West Virginia have both had a good deal of recent success and Tech isn't too far removed from making the tournament under coach Bob Knight. For those not keeping count, that's all 9 of the other basketball teams in our conference having a great deal more success than we have. For reasons of my own mental health, I've moved away from expecting anything from TCU basketball, but I think these are reasonable expectations for coach Trent Johnson to shoot for to ensure he is still the TCU basketball coach in four years.
1 NCAA tournament appearance (4 available)
1 NIT/CBT appearance (4 available)
2 overall winning records (4 available)
1 winning record in conference (4 available)
7 wins over Baylor/Tech (16 available)
1 win over Kansas (We own Kansas)
5 wins over top 25 teams
3 winning home records
I may be a bit optimistic, but basketball is a funny game where turnarounds tend to happen fairly quickly if they happen at all. Current coach Trent Johnson has stayed four years or more at three schools in his career to date, and all three of them ended up in the NCAA tournament in at least one of those years, giving us a good goal to shoot for. Baylor is actually a good measuring stick for the basketball program as well, considering that the Bears were in a deeper hole in 2003 than TCU has ever been after the Patrick Dennehy murder scandal, but still managed to crawl up to the NCAA tournament in just five years under Scott Drew. Four years for the Frogs to make the tournament (or at least come close enough where one more year ) seems reasonable enough to me if Trent Johnson is the right man for the job.
In my opinion this was the most disappointing unit this year, as I have the utmost respect for coach Schlossnagle and believed that even a jump in competition would simply provide a better strength of schedule for the Frogs as they made their way to the NCAA regionals for the tenth year in a row. Things went sour early though, as the Frogs were pounded in the non-conference season (even losing to Arkansas-Pine bluff) and stumbled through the Big 12 season in a roller coaster of uplifting series wins and deflating crushing losses. With all that said, though, my expectations for Schloss are still probably the highest of the three men's programs.
4 NCAA tournament appearances (4 available)
4 combined Big 12 regular season/tournament championships (8 available)
4 winning conference records
7 series wins over Baylor/Tech (8 available)
4 series wins over OU/Texas (8 available)
2 regional host roles (4 available)
1 Super regional appearance (4 available)
2 records above .500 against top 25 teams (4 available)
It's not a long list, but it is certainly a daunting one- making it to the NCAAs every year, winning at least one of the two conference titles every year and dominating Tech and Baylor in the in-state series are all things that would challenge any elite team. And that, of course, is my point. Under Jim Schossnagle I expect TCU to not just be a very good team, but an elite one, and my expectations reflect that.
Even with all of those expectations laid out for all three sports teams laid out, I'm still just one guy- what do you expect from TCU's teams over a four year period? Do you want more from your football team? Are you happy if your basketball team just doesn't get blown out? Is it unreasonable to expect to win a share of the Big 12 title every year in baseball and only once in football? Let us know in the comments!