The Frogs are much-improved from a season ago, but will it be enough to get them dancing in March in an even tougher Big 12 than last year?
TCU’s resurgence back into the national college basketball scene has been triggered by several factors, including former coach Trent Johnson’s recruiting prowess, Dixon’s return to his alma mater, the renovations to Schollmaier Arena, and, of course, the move into the Big 12 six seasons ago.
The last, however, is the current sticking point. Playing in arguably the toughest conference in the nation is both good and bad for the No. 24 Horned Frogs, who are likely to fall out of the Associated Press Top 25 Monday morning, hours before they host their first ESPN Big Monday game in nearly two decades.
They play No. 6 West Virginia (16-3, 5-2), currently a game behind Kansas atop the Big 12. TCU (14-5, 2-5) is tied with Baylor and Iowa State for last in the league.
Despite losing to an unranked opponent, Gary Parrish still believes in the Frogs.
The Horned Frogs’ resume features three top-40 KenPom wins and zero sub-45 losses. They’re 1-1 so far without Jaylen Fisher.
The Frogs are 0-11 all time against WVU Hoops, but the atmosphere for BIG Monday should give them a shot tonight.
But life in the Big 12 is no easy task and West Virginia won’t have much time to celebrate getting off a two-game slide because a quick turnaround trip to TCU is on deck Monday night.
There isn’t any time for mental lapses or letdowns with a team that while struggling losing four out of five games, is 10-2 at home and has been nationally ranked for almost the entirety of the season.
“Just focus on TCU, come in and practice and listen to what the coaches have to say and execute,” junior forward Esa Ahmad said.
Former Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon has transformed his alma mater in his two seasons atop the program leading them to a 38-20 mark. Like his teams in the Big East, the Horned Frogs pride themselves on tough defense and rebounding the basketball.
“We know they play hard,” senior guard Jevon Carter said.
The Mountaineers are a conference title contender, while the Frogs are hoping to turn another close game into a win.
After winning their first 12 games and rising to No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Horned Frogs have lost five of their last seven games and four of their last five. They entered Monday No. 24, but will undoubtedly tumble completely out after losing 73-68 at Kansas State on Saturday.
Yet before you begin to discount 14-5 TCU, which indeed is tied for last place in the Big 12 at 2-5 in league play, check out the scores of those losses.
None have been higher than five points. The K-State defeat and the 102-97 overtime loss to Oklahoma tie for the biggest point spread.
What has yet to be seen, however, is how TCU will fare long-term after sophomore point guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery this past week on a torn meniscus in his right knee. Fisher not only ran the team’s offense, he averaged 12.3 points a game.
“We’ve had to remake our team a couple times this year,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon. “Starting this summer, Jaylen was out [during an Australian tour] and then came back. Then [fellow point guard] Alex [Robinson] was out. Now, Jaylen is out.
“It’s the team we are going forward. Some guys are going to be in different roles. But all are roles we practice, so it’s not too much different.”
This kid is a super athlete off the edge, who has a little Ben Banogu to his game.
While most of Texas was getting ready for bed Saturday night, Izaih Filikitonga was nearly 4,000 miles away in the middle of the Pacific.
The 3-star defensive lineman from Euless Trinity was playing in the 2018 Polynesian Bowlat Aloha Stadium in Hawaii.
During a break in the action, Filikitonga announced his commitment to play for Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs. He also considered Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.