Now that we've looked at each of TCU's 31 games in depth, let's take a step back and examine the Frogs' schedule holistically. In our daily opponent previews, I included my best guess at a score prediction for each game. In total, I have the Frogs finishing 16-15 with a 6-12 mark in Big 12 play. Because I made my predictions rather conservatively, I do think that TCU can finish somewhere closer to the 20-win mark. Using the Preseason AP Poll as an indicator, the Frogs' schedule is ridiculously difficult. This season, 17 of TCU's 31 games are against teams ranked or receiving votes in the Poll. Seven of those 17 games are against teams currently ranked in the top 10.
Although it will be very difficult for TCU to replicate their perfect non-conference record from a year ago, winning games early in the season will go a long way toward determining future success. The Frogs must take care of business against the "cupcakes" on their schedule. TCU has seven games on their non-conference slate - Southeastern Louisiana, Houston Baptist, Colgate, Prairie View A&M, Abilene Christian, Bradley, and Delaware State - that should be relatively easy wins. Those games will be important in allowing the newer players to get accustomed to Trent Johnson's style of play, as well as allowing the returners to set the tone for the rest of the season.
My predictions for TCU's easier non-conference games:
Game 1: TCU 74 vs. Southeastern Louisiana 58
Game 2: TCU 80 vs. Houston Baptist 66
Game 7: TCU 80 vs. Colgate 56
Game 9: TCU 77 vs. Prairie View A&M 53
Game 10: TCU 77 vs. Abilene Christian 59
Game 11: TCU 74 at Bradley 54
Game 12: TCU 74 vs. Delaware State 61
The other six non-conference games present a bit tougher challenge. South Dakota State, Rhode Island, Maryland, SMU, Washington, and Tennessee are all opponents that could present matchup problems for TCU. In addition to the seven wins in the games listed above, a 3-3 record in these six games would constitute a successful non-conference season. If some of the young talent can step up and provide consistent scoring for the Frogs, I wouldn't be surprised if the team went 4-2, or maybe even 5-1 in this stretch.
My predictions for TCU's tougher non-conference games:
Game 3: TCU 73 vs. South Dakota State 70
Game 4: TCU 63 vs. Rhode Island 57 (Cancun)
Game 5: Maryland 80 vs. TCU 65 (Cancun)
Game 6: SMU 75 at TCU 65
Game 8: Washington 75 vs. TCU 72
Game 21: TCU 72 vs. Tennessee 66
Moving to Big 12 play, I think that a realistic goal is to build upon last year's 4-14 finish. With four teams ranked in the Preseason AP Poll, and another three receiving votes just outside the Top 25, conference play is going to be another tough grind for TCU. Fourteen of the Frogs' 18 conference games come against teams ranked or receiving votes in the Poll. If TCU can take care of business against Kansas State and Texas Tech - two of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the league - and find a way to beat a couple of the mid-tier conference teams at home, maybe an Oklahoma State, West Virginia, or Texas, the Frogs should be able to improve their Big 12 win total for the third consecutive season.
My predictions for TCU's low- and mid-tier Big 12 games:
Game 13: Oklahoma State 74 vs. TCU 68
Game 14: West Virginia 80 at TCU 68
Game 15: Texas 76 at TCU 68
Game 18: TCU 78 vs. Texas Tech 60
Game 20: Texas 82 vs. TCU 68
Game 24: TCU 72 vs. Oklahoma State 70
Game 25: West Virginia 85 vs. TCU 70
Game 26: TCU 80 vs. Kansas State 62
Game 28: TCU 68 at Texas Tech 59
Game 30: TCU 74 at Kansas State 60
While the Big 12 looks to be very competitive from top to bottom, the top of the conference figures to be especially strong. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State are all legitimate Final Four contenders this season, and Baylor has the talent to make a deep NCAA Tournament run of their own. Just one upset win in any of the eight games against those opponents would provide TCU with a signature win that could go a long way in determining if the Frogs are going to have a shot at postseason play. All things considered, I think the Frogs finish at a respectable 6-12 in Big 12 play.
My prediction for TCU's top-tier Big 12 games:
Game 16: Baylor 77 vs. TCU 66
Game 17: Kansas 80 vs. TCU 60
Game 19: Iowa State 70 at TCU 60
Game 22: Oklahoma 73 vs. TCU 60
Game 23: Kansas 77 at TCU 61
Game 27: Iowa State 77 vs. TCU 61
Game 29: TCU 71 vs. Baylor 69
Game 31: Oklahoma 73 at TCU 71
A 6-12 finish in Big 12 play would likely earn TCU a #7 or #8 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, meaning the Frogs would be favored over their First Round opponent. A win in the First Round would set up a date with either the #1 or #2 seed. With how tough the top third of the conference looks to be this season, it would be difficult for TCU to advance past the Quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
When Selection Sunday rolls around, I expect the Frogs to be sitting somewhere near 17-16 on the year, including Big 12 Tournament play. With a couple of big non-conference wins, and maybe a Big 12 upset or two, I could see the Frogs finishing as high as 20-13. Those three tossup wins will likely be the difference between going to the NIT and staying home. Wins that TCU picks up over the six aforementioned tough non-conference opponents, in addition to wins against Big 12 teams not named Kansas State and Texas Tech, will go a long way in strengthening the Frogs' resume.
When all is said and done, I think that it will take at least 19 wins for TCU to advance to their first NIT since 2005. A 19-win season is certainly achievable with this year's TCU team, but it won't come easy. The defense will need to continue to build upon the toughness that emerged last season, but more importantly, the offense will have to step up big time. Guys like Chauncey Collins, Malique Trent, and Karviar Shepherd all possess the talent and scoring ability to fuel TCU to a successful season.
Only six days remain until tipoff!