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How close was TCU to getting into the Big Dance?

The Horned Frogs were left out, but could have gotten in if a couple more games had gone their way.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Championship-TCU vs Iowa State Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Just over an hour ago, TCU learned that they will not be heading to the Big Dance in Jamie Dixon’s first season as head coach of the Frogs. They also learned that they were not one of the first four teams out, which means they will not be a #1 seed in the NIT. However, it is expected that they will be chosen during tonight’s NIT Selection Show (7:30 pm CT on ESPNU) and they will likely be a #2 or #3 seed.

The question remains though, how close was TCU to making it into the field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament? Below is a table comparing the last four teams in the field (Kansas State, Providence, USC, and Wake Forest) as well as the first four teams out (California, Illinois State, Iowa, and Syracuse) to TCU in some key selection metrics.

*Note: numbers are according to ESPN’s RPI.

NCAA Bubble

Team Conference Record Conference Record RPI Strength of Schedule Record vs. RPI Top 100
Team Conference Record Conference Record RPI Strength of Schedule Record vs. RPI Top 100
Kansas State Big 12 20-13 8-10 55 43 6-11
Providence Big East 20-12 10-8 54 49 8-9
USC Pac-12 24-9 10-8 42 76 6-8
Wake Forest ACC 19-13 9-9 38 21 8-13
California Pac-12 21-12 10-8 53 38 6-11
Illinois State Missouri Valley 26-6 17-1 35 158 2-4
Iowa Big Ten 18-14 10-8 81 55 8-11
Syracuse ACC 18-14 10-8 84 63 8-9
TCU Big 12 19-15 6-12 67 27 4-12

The two key data points that stand out when comparing TCU to the other 8 schools is the sub-.500 conference record and the lack of wins against the RPI top 100.

When looking back on the Horned Frogs season, it is easy to point to the 7-game skid late in the season as the reason that TCU did not make it, but there is more to it. Those games did hurt the Frogs, but it was mainly the narrow home losses to Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Kansas State that were the most crucial. If they had been able to come away with two of those three, they would have found themselves in the same spot as Kansas State, who did get into the field. It would have given them an 8-10 conference record, 6 wins over the RPI top 100, and would have raised their own RPI likely into the 40’s or 50’s.

Another reason that TCU may have been left out was a few non-conference opponents that did not pan out. One glaring team is Washington, who the Frogs beat in back-to-back games earlier in the season. The Huskies finished the season 9-22 overall and were 2-16 in Pac-12 play. Despite having superstar freshman Markelle Fultz, they finished ranked #205 in the RPI and only had one victory over an RPI top 100 team. If they had been able to put together a better season and finish within the top 100 of the RPI, that would have put TCU at 6-12 against the RPI top 100, on par with some of the other teams on the bubble.

Another team that didn’t have the season that Frog fans were hoping for was UNLV in the Mountain West. The conference as a whole had a down year and the Rebels finished dead-last. Although UNLV wasn’t necessarily expected to be an NCAA Tournament team, no one thought they’d finish 11-21 overall and ranked #238 in the RPI. If they had been able to do a little better, it might have been able to bump up their RPI at least a little. Although neither of these teams could have helped TCU with their conference record, they could have contributed to the resume.

We know now that TCU will not be dancing this season, but they should still be selected for the NIT and should likely get to host, so make sure to tune in to the NIT Selection Show tonight on ESPNU at 7:30 pm.