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Jamie Dixon: “I think the ranking isn’t about where we are now, but what we can be.”

The Frogs are ranked in the preseason for the first time in forever, but Coach Dixon isn’t impressed.

TCU Basketball vs West Virginia, January 22, 2018 (Fort Worth, TX)
TCU Basketball vs West Virginia, January 22, 2018 (Fort Worth, TX)
Melissa Triebwasser

In light of recent football news, who can blame fans for looking ahead to TCU’s upcoming season on the hardwood? And with the Frogs ranked #20 in the preseason, there’s plenty of reason to be excited.

As such, Jamie Dixon’s first press conference of the year was a welcome reprieve, and the Frogs’ third year head coach had plenty to talk about heading into a season of high expectations. But before fans get too excited about what may be, Coach Dixon wants everyone to know that his guys haven’t arrived - yet. “We start in 15 days. We’ve got work to do. Made some progress the last few days. It’s exciting, the ranking is exciting, but we still have to get better.”

The Frogs do have a lot of work to do, a product of losing two of the most productive players in their recent history and welcoming eight new guys to the fold. With an unusual roster last year, one that saw TCU redshirt nearly a full lineup worth of freshmen, there’s experience - but not much in the way of game minutes played. Dixon returns a pair of budding stars in sharpshooter Kouat Noi and human spark plug Desmond Bane, as well as a savvy veteran point guard in senior Alex Robinson. They have a defensive stalwart in JD Miller, who, as the only other senior, will be counted on to not just be the best defender on the team - but the leader on that end of the floor. Jaylen Fisher will be looking to play a full season of games for the first time in his injury-ravaged career, and if he does, will be counted on to open up scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates as one of the best creators in the country.

After those five players though, we don’t know much. “I don’t know what everybody else looks like. We’re a team that’s interesting because we’ve got five returning guys, and eight new guys. That’s not a team that screams of experience.”

The accolades and hype is there for a true freshman class that features a high-flying, dynamic forward in Kaden Archie, a flashy point guard with excellent handles in Kendric Davis, and an enforcer in Russell Barlow - who might have a little Kenny Hustle to his game. Add to that Lat Mayen - a pure shooter who can stretch the floor, Angus McWilliam - a big kid who plays much like a European, and a promising center in Kevin Samuel who will be expected to provide rim protection and rebounding in his redshirt freshman campaign. Yuat Alok is one of the lesser known prospects, but the New Zealand native has an intriguing skillset that can have him defending the paint and stepping outside to shoot from deep. It makes for a very skilled and flexible roster that should have the depth and talent to compete in a loaded Big 12 Conference - but, according to the head coach, there is still one major missing ingredient. “We’re not even close to where I want to be defensively. My last couple of years at Pitt, we weren’t very good defensively, and our roster here was built more offensively. Our goal is to get to being the best defensive team in the league.”

That will be what makes or breaks the Frogs hopes and dreams - this team will absolutely light up the scoreboard, and could be one of the top teams in the conference, if not the country, in that regard. But without the rebounding of Kenrich Williams and the shot-blocking of Vladimir Brodziansky, there’s less room for error on the defensive side of the ball - and with a lot of youth on the roster, that could spell trouble. But Coach Dixon believes he might have a few options to try and make up at least some of the production of his departed seniors in the form of Archie and Mayen, a pair of dynamic athletes with size that could wreak havoc for opponents. Both players have been banged up to this point, and Dixon mentioned that he would like to see them run with Fisher and Robinson to get a feel for what they can do with the ones.

One other big help for Dixon and his team this year is the addition of Scott Cross, the former head coach at UT Arlington who brings a wealth of experience and a long history of fielding tough-minded teams. Dixon jumped on a chance to bring on Cross, despite having never had a former head coach on his staff. “Scott Cross has been great. I hadn’t thought about getting a former head coach on staff, but with everything going on in college basketball now, I wanted a high-character guy.” Cross is exactly that, a guy who, according to Dixon “had no NCAA violations and not a bad word said about a guy that had been at a school for 20 years -- that’s hard to do.”

TCU Basketball opens their season on November 7th, against Cal State Bakersfield. The Frogs have sold out their season ticket allotment, but single-game tickets will go on sale next week.