Rebuilding a program is hard. Trying to take a program that never finished higher than fifth in the Mountain West and turning it into a winner in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the nation is nearly an insurmountable task. But that's the job Trent Johnson was hired to do in April of 2012.
In his introductory press conference, Johnson made it clear that he is up for the challenge, one that might take years to complete. "I'm so comfortable about wanting to be here for the rest of my life and wanting to get this program to an elite level. It's going to be a journey and the process is going to be extremely hard," Johnson said.
At minimum, taking TCU from a doormat Mountain West program to even a competitive Big 12 program would take the better part of five seasons. The biggest goal for this team as Johnson enters season number four is to keep building. Kyan Anderson, Trey Zeigler, and Amric Fields helped to lay the foundation for success last season, and now it's up to this year's TCU team to build upon that foundation. If the 11 Frogs appointed to complete that task can stay healthy, this could be a very significant year in the development process.
The makeup of this year's roster is quite important. Every single key role player on the team is an underclassman. Chris Washburn, Karviar Shepherd, Brandon Parrish, and Kenrich Williams are all juniors. (Although, Williams will likely pursue a medical redshirt and have two years of eligibility remaining after this season.) The two guards appointed to run the offense in the future - Chauncey Collins and Malique Trent - are both sophomores. In fact, of the 11 players on the team, Devonta Abron is the lone senior.
Perhaps more importantly than the team's final win-loss record will be how these underclassmen develop. I'm not saying wins aren't important - they are, after all, the most commonly used indicator of success. However, when you have a program like TCU that is in the middle of a major rebuilding project, sometimes development is more important for the future than wins are for today.
TCU finished 18-15 last season. The Frogs did not advance to a major postseason tournament for the 10th consecutive season (sorry, College Basketball Invitational). TCU was picked to tie Kansas State for 8th place in the Big 12 this season. I think it's safe to say that the Frogs aren't exactly showing up on a lot of radars across the country.
With that being said, this is a team and a program riding a massive wave of momentum. TCU's 18 wins last season was tied for the most that the program has seen in a single season since 2005. The Frogs started 13-0, their best start to a season... ever. In Big 12 play, TCU picked up their first season sweep of an opponent, their first road conference win, and their first Big 12 Tournament win. The newly-renovated $80-million Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena will be the newest and nicest facility not only in the Big 12, but in the entire country when it opens in late December.
Trent Johnson has brought in four very talented scorers this season. His 2015 recruiting class was ranked 66th in the country, up 58 spots from a year before. He has already signed a four-star guard for the 2016 class, and the Frogs remain a finalist to land five-star center Marques Bolden. High school talent that wouldn't have thought twice about TCU two years ago are suddenly taking notice.
National exposure is a major factor in luring recruits to campus. The Frogs are about to embark on a tough schedule that will give TCU a massive amount of invaluable television exposure. TCU is set to make 20 appearances on national television this season, against some of the most talented teams in the country. Successful performances against teams such as Maryland, Washington, Tennessee, Kansas, Iowa State, and the like will go a long way toward building the national prestige of this program.
As the sun rises tomorrow, so too will the 2015-2016 college basketball season. The goal heading into this season is to keep building. If TCU can continue the development that the program has seen over the last two seasons, the wins will come. The Frogs will host the Southeastern Louisiana Lions tomorrow evening, thus beginning a five-month journey that could shape the future of TCU Basketball.