TCU Basketball is set to begin a new era a week from today when the Jamie Dixon-led Horned Frogs face off with St. Thomas in their season opener. Ever since Dixon has returned home to Fort Worth, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the program. While a lot of the buzz has come from the recruits that the new staff has been gaining commitments from, there is also a lot of interest in what this team will be able to accomplish this year. Check out the predictions and expectations of some of our Frogs O’ War writers.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding TCU Basketball this year due to the hiring of Jamie Dixon. Dixon has an impressive resume, taking the Pitt Panthers to the NCAA Tournament 11 times in 13 years, but is coming home to a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998. What do you think would constitute a successful first season for Dixon at TCU?
Chris Conaty: I mentioned a few of my expectations in my Realistic Expectations article a couple weeks ago. To recap, I think this season will be successful if the team improves their rebounding and offensive production. Both of those in combination should help the Frogs get out of the Big 12 cellar and into a postseason tournament.
Andrew Felts: I’m hesitant to define a successful season with any concrete measures because I’m a pretty firm believer that a coach needs at least a couple of seasons to settle into a new program. However, Dixon’s cupboards aren’t totally bare. The Horned Frogs have showed gains over the last couple of seasons, and if the team can continue to improve both on the court and on the recruiting trail, TCU will be dancing in no time. I don’t think an NIT bid is outlandish at this point, so at least being in the conversation come March would be impressive.
Jamie Plunkett: Postseason play would be a great first-season accomplishment. Considering how deep the Big 12 is, plus the fact that TCU has been oh so close to a tournament the past few seasons, if Dixon can get the Frogs over that hump it would be great. When I say tournament, I mean either the NIT or NCAA. I feel like NIT is reasonable, while the NCAA is quite a reach.
JT: I have been a fan of Jamie Dixon for quite a few years. My sister graduated from Pitt in 06’ and I have watched many a dixon teams since then. He gives us a great opportunity to be successful. I also think Trent Johnson did a lot of groundwork that will probably be unrecognized here. When we entered the Big 12 we were so far below our competitors that it was pretty brutal. While we didn’t win a lot of games in the Johnson era, I do believe our level of play increased significantly, I expect us to continue that streak, and I think we will be in a tournament in the next two years. A tournament bid this year would mean success, but even to be in the conversation I think would mark dramatic improvement.
TCU has a solid group of returning players as well as some talented newcomers who are expected to take this team and program to the next level. Who do you think is going to be the most important player for TCU to be successful this year?
Chris: The team should actually have some good depth at guard and on the wings, but not as much in the post. Therefore, it will be important for Karviar Shepherd to continue to improve and to really assert himself as a post presence. He will need to be a force on the boards and finish around the rim. He also can help stretch defenses with his mid-range jumper.
Andrew: I think I’ve said this all four years now, but Karviar Shepherd has to live up to his potential if the Frogs are going to find success this season. Shepherd came to Fort Worth as the highest-rated recruit in the program’s century-old history, however his first three seasons have been underwhelming to say the least. If Shepherd can take the next step in his development during his senior year, that will go a long way toward TCU hanging some wins on their Big 12 counterparts this winter.
Jamie: Kenrich Williams coming back from an ACL injury is a huge “addition” to the 2016-17 team. He was far and away TCU’s most dynamic player before his injury, and if he can rediscover that ability, TCU instantly gets better. Plus, when you look at how improved TCU potentially is at the guard positions, there will be less pressure on Williams to create for himself, opening him up to cause problems without the ball.
JT: I am going to cheat and then answer correctly. I think the depth is actually going to be the most important player. We, at times, only had 8 possible options last year making depth a real issue. Within that answer, I think either Alex Robinson or Malique Trent will help to make our team competitive this year.
TCU brought in arguably its best recruiting class ever, headlined by Jaylen Fisher, who was the #34 overall recruit in the nation last season according to ESPN. What kind of production do you expect from this freshmen class?
Chris: A few of these freshmen should be able to come in and make a huge impact for the Frogs this season, especially Fisher. According to Dixon, Fisher might have been the best true point guard in the entire 2016 class. He should be able to come in and run the offense effectively and create opportunities for TCU’s scorers. Having him, along with senior Michael Williams and Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson, will provide depth at point guard and should create competition to push each other to get better. Freshmen Desmond Bane and Josh Parrish, younger brother of senior Brandon Parrish, should be able to provide scoring off of the bench. A wild card will be Kouat Noi, who reclassified late and joined the team in August. It will be interesting to see if they use him or redshirt him.
Andrew: It is going to be very interesting to see how Dixon manages playing time between the veterans who are familiar with the program and the circumstances and the seemingly loaded freshman class. I think we’re all in agreement that Fisher will at least get the minutes to leave an impact, but overall, I expect this team’s veteran presence to carry the bulk of the load this season.
Jamie: Fisher should have an immediate impact on the Frogs, especially with the departure of Chauncey Collins. Bane and Parrish add desperately needed scoring depth, and Alex Robinson, while not a freshman, should have a big impact in his first season on the court. Essentially what this freshman class does is provide the depth and scoring ability that has been lacking for the Frogs to this point. And, if you think about it, if TCU had one or two more adept bench scorers over the past two seasons, things may have played out much differently.
JT: I think our freshman will have the ability to come in and have an immediate impact on this team. We had a team that did not have hardly any depth and at times struggled to score last year. This has been one of our best recruiting classes in the last few years and they should step right into positions of success on the court.
Kenrich Williams is returning to the lineup after sitting out last season with a knee injury. In his first season with TCU, he led the team in rebounding and was one of the team’s most consistent players. What will it mean for this team to have him back?
Chris: Kenrich WIlliams was a huge reason TCU was able to crack the Top 25 for a week two years ago and why they went 13-0 against non-conference opponents. His ability to attack and finish at the rim was critical to the offense and he was the team’s leading rebounder. Having someone like Kenrich who can bring in that type of energy to every game should be a huge asset for the Frogs this season.
Andrew: The big rumor last season is that Williams was fully healthy toward the end of conference play, so there’s no reason to think he isn’t 100% heading into the 2016-17 campaign. His presence on both ends of the court will be a tremendous asset to the Frogs this season. He was nothing short of brilliant in his first season in Fort Worth, so I expect he’ll put on a show this season after having to watch from the sidelines last year.
Jamie: Like I said above, it’s a massive addition. His energy alone should push this team to better play, and when you consider his ability to create scoring opportunities for himself, plus his ability to rebound from the small forward position, you get a guy who is arguably the best player on the team making an impact in several facets of the game.
JT: HUUUGGEEE. We desperately need people on the glass and with his return we have that. He has the capacity to fill in numerous roles and it will be beneficial having him in the line-up.
Rapid-fire Predictions: Who do you think is going to win the Big 12?
JT: Bill Self
Who is going to be the Big 12 Player of the Year?
Chris: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Andrew: Monte Morris, Iowa State
Jamie: Monte Morris, Iowa State
JT: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State - He balled out last year, expect to see more of the same this year with a new direction for the pokes.
How many Big 12 teams make the NCAA Tournament?
What will be TCU’s starting five on opening day?
Chris: Michael Williams, Malique Trent, Brandon Parrish, Chris Washburn, Karviar Shepherd
Andrew: Michael Williams, Malique Trent, Brandon Parrish, Chris Washburn, Karviar Shepherd
Jamie: Michael Williams, Malique Trent, Brandon Parrish, Chris Washburn, Karviar Shepherd
JT: Alex Robinson, Malique Trent, Brandon Parrish, Kenrich Williams, Vladimir Brodziansky (small ball)
Who will be TCU’s leading scorer?
Chris: Malique Trent
Andrew: Malique Trent
Jamie: Kenrich Williams
JT: Alex Robinson
Will TCU be playing a postseason tournament? If so, which one?
Chris: Yes, NIT
Andrew: NIT or bust!
Jamie: Yes, NIT
JT: NCAA - Elite 8 - you heard it here first.