Here we go! It's TCU's first NIT appearance since 2005, ending a long drought of meaningful postseason play. Let's chat about the game as the Frogs take on Fresno State.
If you haven't, check out the 3 Things to Watch from Chris' game preview:
1 - TCU Size Advantage
One thing that stands out on paper coming into tonight’s game should be the Frogs’ size advantage. The Bulldogs are guard-heavy and lack a tall interior post presence to compete with guys like Vlad and Karviar. Given how those two played in the Big 12 Tournament, along with Chris Washburn, the Frogs should look to attack the post. However, the size advantage also is in the backcourt, where guys like Kenrich and Parrish have an advantage. It will be imperative for TCU that they use their size, and that everyone does their part in keeping Fresno State off of the glass.
2 - Uncharted Territory
Tonight will be interesting as this game marks the first postseason experience for all but one of TCU’s players. The lone exception is Alex Robinson, who played significant minutes in Texas A&M’s NIT run two seasons ago. They lost their 2nd game of that NIT, but Robinson played well in those two games, averaging 18 points and 6.5 assists in about 26 minutes per game. The Frogs will likely need to lean on him for experience tonight and this will be a great chance for him to emerge as a team leader for next season.
The other main person with postseason experience is Jamie Dixon. In every season he was at Pitt, he took the Panthers to a postseason tournament. In 2009, his team reached the Elite Eight, which was the furthest any of his teams went in the NCAA Tournament. In 2012, Pitt accepted a bid to the CBI and went on to win the whole thing. Dixon’s only experience in the NIT though came two seasons ago as well. In that tournament, Pitt was upset at home by George Washington. Despite that, Dixon is an experienced coach and this staff should have the team ready for the postseason.
3 - NIT Madness?
Although TCU will be the higher seed and the favorite tonight, yesterday’s action in the NIT shows that that might not mean much. In the eight First Round games played yesterday, only 2 higher-seeded teams, Colorado State and Illinois, won. Cal State Bakersfield, an #8 seed, led California, a #1 seed, by 25 at half and went on to beat them 73-66. Another trend from last night that affects the Frogs was the strong play of the Mountain West, as both Colorado State and Boise State won their games. TCU will be looking to buck both of these trends in their game tonight.
I expect the Frogs to come out and play the same way they did in the first couple games in Kansas City. This team seems genuinely excited to be playing in the NIT, especially in the seniors, and I think they understand how much this could mean for the program and the school. Look for Alex Robinson and Vlad to have big games tonight and for Kenrich to dominate the boards en route to a Horned Frogs’ victory.
Score Prediction: TCU 84, Fresno State 71