With only a short few weeks until the Jamie Dixon era tips off at Schollmaier Arena, it’s important to look forward and set a realistic set of expectations. There is no doubt that since Dixon was hired, the buzz around the TCU basketball program is at the highest level it has been in years. Dixon and his staff have hit the recruiting trail hard since they arrived on campus, securing impressive commitments such as Jaylen Fisher (2016), Kevin Samuel (2017), and RJ Nembhard (2017).
The new coaching staff also has the benefit of returning the 5th most experienced Power-5 lineup, including Malique Trent, who led the Big 12 in steals last season, and Brandon Parrish, the team’s top three-point shooter. The team will also enjoy having Kenrich Williams back on the court, who led the team in rebounds two years ago but sat out last season with an injury.
With the return of such an experienced lineup and the addition of talented recruits like Fisher and Josh Parrish, here are a few reasonable expectations for the Frogs’ first year under Dixon:
Last season, TCU finished dead last in rebounding in the Big 12 and were 3-16 when getting out-rebounded. There are two main reasons to expect an improvement when it comes to rebounding. The first, as mentioned before, is the return of Kenrich Williams. Now, it may be hard to match the intensity Williams brought two years ago after coming back from a knee injury, but no one put forth the effort in rebounding like Kenrich.
The second reason to expect better rebounding is Jamie Dixon. Last season, Dixon’s Pitt team was near the top of all rebounding categories in the ACC and he has a reputation for developing great rebounders like DeJuan Blair and Steven Adams. Although the Big 12’s style of play is much different from the ACC’s, I expect Dixon to continue to put an emphasis on crashing the boards.
Better Offensive Production
Last season, the Horned Frogs finished 299th in the nation in scoring per game. The team also finished 286th in the nation in assists per game and 315th in the nation in shooting percentage. Many of the struggles came from a stagnant offense that did not allow for players to be creative and to effectively attack. Although the Frogs will have to overcome the loss of leading scorer Chauncey Collins, the team does return some key offensive players such as Malique Trent and Brandon Parrish.
Trent creates great fast-break opportunities from steals and Parrish at times becomes automatic from three-point range. TCU will also benefit from the addition of offensively-talented recruits Jaylen Fisher, Josh Parrish, and Desmond Bane. Fisher, an ESPN 100 recruit, is a playmaker at point guard and will help guide Dixon’s new offense. Bane and Parrish are both electric scorers and should be able to provide depth off of the bench.
Additionally, if Dixon can help develop the inside games of Shepherd, Washburn, and Brodziansky, the Frogs will be able to have a balanced offensive attack and to increase their offensive production this season.
Not Being Last in Big 12 Play
TCU is returning the most experienced roster in the Big 12 this year, while also adding a few stellar freshmen recruits. Additionally, the lower end of the Big 12 will be wide open due to key losses and coaching changes. There are three teams I believe TCU could and should finish ahead of this season: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.
Kansas State was a young team last year and is returning a good amount this year, but they have lost leading scorer Justin Edwards and big man Stephen Hurt. This team has great potential, but has underachieved in the past couple of years under Bruce Weber.
Oklahoma State made a great hire in the offseason bringing in Brad Underwood from Stephen F. Austin. They also return a star point guard in Jawun Evans and somehow Phil Forte hasn’t graduated yet. However, TCU was able to beat the Cowboys in Fort Worth last year, showing that they are capable of matching up with their impressive roster.
Lastly, Texas Tech is also breaking in a new head coach, Chris Beard, and will have to deal with the loss of Toddrick Gotcher, last season’s leading scorer for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech will also have to deal with figuring out how to use all of their new transfers in their rotation. TCU should be able to beat all of these teams and find a couple other conference wins at home in order to finish 7th in Big 12 play.
Playing in a Postseason Tournament
Now, I’m not going to come out and say that I expect TCU to 100% make the NCAA Tournament. I’m not going to say that they aren’t going to make it either since I do believe they could finish as high as 7th in the Big 12, a conference that usually sends 7 teams to the tournament.
However, I do expect that TCU will be playing in one of three postseason tournaments: either the NCAA, the NIT, or the CBI. In 2015, TCU turned down an opportunity to pay to play in the CBI. I think the team might consider it this year in order to help sustain the momentum the new staff has brought in and to give fans a taste of the postseason.
The most likely landing spot will be the NIT. TCU has a decent non-conference schedule with games that could become marquee wins and help their postseason resume. TCU will be competitive in the Big 12; however, the conference is still so deep that it is hard to see the Frogs making that leap to the top this season. Given Dixon’s resume and the expected improvements in rebounding and offense, they will have a chance to be on the bubble, so either the NIT or a First Four spot in the NCAA Tournament would be a reasonable expectation.