Most Frog fans are firmly planted in the cautiously optimistic phase of following TCU Basketball, but as the conference wins pile up, it’s time to allow yourselves to believe a bit. The rest of the country sure seems to. And it helps that the administration in Fort Worth is firmly behind their new coach, especially where it counts:
That means chartering flights -- which TCU will do for all but one trip this season, and that's never happened before. And though TCU is a private institution that's not required, and is also unwilling, to provide budget numbers, a source told CBS Sports TCU's investment in basketball now ranks well within the Big 12, and that the school committed to Dixon in ways that it had never previously committed to any coach.
"They've given Jamie everything he needs," another source said.
Though the Frogs have won big in the preseason before, we are in rarified air when it comes to Big 12 conference play.
TCU’s 14-3 record under first-year men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon matches the fastest start by any Horned Frogs’ team in program history. The Horned Frogs (14-3, 3-2 in Big 12) are one of eight teams in school history to begin a season with a 14-3 mark through its first 17 games.
No team has posted a better mark through 17 games than 14-3.
Getting Kenrich Williams back, adding Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher to the fold, and changing the whole energy of the program have all dramatically impacted the win-loss column. But the play - and buy in - of holdovers like Brandon Parrish and Vlad have been key as well.
“It’s early but I think we’re exceeding our expectations from a fan perspective,” Del Conte said of Dixon, “but not mine or his. You can see the improvement he’s been making. They feed off his energy.”
Beyond the wins and losses, Dixon measures progress in small but integral parts of the game plan.
He force fed his team adjustments Thursday, Friday and even early Saturday on handling Iowa State’s traps against guards and low-post double-teams.
“I wondered early how long it would take them to pick things up and make adjustments,” Dixon said. “I’ve been real impressed with what they’ve done.”
Yes, the kicking game could use some improvement. But calm down everybody, help is on the way in the form of Jonathan Song.
Missed kicks in crucial moments helped swing the outcomes of TCU’s overtime losses to Arkansas and Texas Tech in 2016. Imagine how differently the Horned Frogs' season might be viewed if they’d gone 8-5 instead of 6-7. We’ll see how Gary Patterson and his staff address that place-kicking situation after Brandon Hatfield and Ryan Graf shared the duties in 2016. The solution might be fairly simple: go with Jonathan Song. He was supposed to be the starter in 2016 but ended up sitting out the entire season with a toe injury.
What will the offense look like without Doug Meacham and with Sonny Cumbie calling the plays? Probably not much different - but hopefully with more running plays. Many more running plays.
“I don’t foresee that much changing in terms of input, as we’ve done the last three years. A lot of it’s been together, as a unit. Coach has allowed me to be the one that organizes it all and to be the voice for the unit. I think it helped to hopefully establish the culture on this side of the ball and to do that with the help of the guys we have on staff who have a lot of experience. I’ve been in the midst of trying to call every offensive player and just talk to them, let them know what’s going on. The offense is not going to change, but we got to get better. We’ve got to figure out what we’re good at and play to our strengths. That’s the biggest thing I see.”
There are more questions than answers when it comes to the college football programs across the state of Texas, including TCU. And the biggest question seems to come from the most important position on the field.
TCU quarterback quandary: The digits in TCU quarterback Kenny Hill’s touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio (17-13) were too close together for success in a spread offense last season. Veteran backup Foster Sawyer has transferred to FCS Stephen F. Austin in search of a starting job. Shawn Robinson, a four-star prospect expected to enroll in January, joins the mix for next season, although coaches would prefer to have him redshirt.
TCU’s best option would be for Hill, a transfer from Texas A&M, to follow the blueprint of former West Virginia QB Skyler Howard and make significant off-season strides heading into his senior season.
This is certainly a situation to watch, as the long-time TCU pledge, who opened his recruitment last month, has not ruled out the Frogs. But with the Horns and Bears in the mix, it may be an uphill battle to win him back over.
Ebner does not hold an offer from the Longhorns at this time, but that could change. Texas is still looking to add to wide outs to its 2017 class. A three-star prospect, Ebner backed out of his verbal pledge to TCU a few weeks ago and is exploring other options. He will officially visit Baylor this weekend. At 6-foot, 180 pounds, Ebner is ranked as the No. 26 athlete in the country and No. 60 overall prospect in the state, according to 247Sports Composite.