A sweep of the Eers? It won’t be easy.
Three weeks ago in Fort Worth, after TCU beat West Virginia for the first time in 12 tries, students lifted the Dixon onto their shoulders. That signature victory featured WVU going nearly 10 minutes without a basket, a rare stretch of pesky guarding by the Frogs, who KenPom rates only 128th defensively.
It seems as if Dixon has accepted that his team must score in the mid-70s to have a chance, especially with point guard Jaylen Fisher lost to a season-ending knee injury.
“It’s still not good enough, but we know what our deficiencies are,” he said. “You have seven guys, and there’s never been a good defensive team playing seven guys. We play 40, 40 and 38 minutes on the perimeter (vs. Texas), so you’re not going to be as good as you need to be defensively.”
Opposing coach Bob Huggins isn’t sure from game to game whether “Press Virginia” is a lethal weapon or a liability. Despite being ranked sixth nationally in forced turnovers (18.2) and 10th in steals (8.7), the Mountaineers repeatedly have backed off into a 1-3-1 zone when the defensive gambles led to easy buckets and foul problems.
This is a really great read on how winning hasn’t just changed the way the basketball program is perceived, but the players as well. They take so much pride in being a part of the tradition of success at TCU.
Kenrich Williams was second in the Big 12 in rebounding last season as a junior, but it was only a year earlier when he was almost ashamed to call himself a TCU basketball player.
“I remember walking around campus with my head down,” Williams said during Big 12 media day. “No one wanted to talk to me. There really wasn’t anything to be happy about.”
Dixon, too, remembers the beginning and what exactly he had stepped into when he was hired on March 22, 2016.
Not long after, TCU was set for its annual sports banquet.
“When I talked to one of the players, he was embarrassed and didn’t want to go,” Dixon said. “Every team in our athletic department pretty much wins at a high level, so at that point, I sort of realized where we were at.”
It’s a tight race as teams battle for a single digit tournament seed.
“It’s always going to be in the back of your head. It’s always going to be something you think about,” TCU sophomore Desmond Bane said about the bubble situation after scoring 17 points in the win.
TCU shot 54.8 percent from the field, knocked down 10 of 20 3-point tries and had 23 assists to six turnovers in an efficient offensive performance. Making his second start of the season, redshirt freshman Kouat Noi knocked down three early 3-pointers, opening up things inside for center Vlad Brodziansky (25 points).
”We know we’re good. We know we’re lost some close games. We’ve had an interesting season,” Dixon said.
Much-needed win is an understatement.
The Horned Frogs really couldn’t afford their second three-game losing streak in the Big 12. Now last season’s NIT champions have a chance to get within a game of .500 again in conference following a 1-4 start. TCU had reached that point before consecutive losses to Texas Tech and Kansas.
TCU’s lone freshman has learned a lot from watching her brother play football at Texas.
“Her work ethic is tremendous,” she said. “If you’re a freshman coming in and want to build your identity off of work ethic, then that is going to help your confidence.”
Heard has shown signs of this confidence all season. In her first collegiate game, a preseason scrimmage against Texas Wesleyan, Heard led the team in scoring with 16 points. She also chipped in six rebounds and four assists.
While she has transitioned to a smaller role during the season, only starting two games and mainly serving as the backup point guard, her aggressiveness is felt every time she is on the court. Heard has scored in double-digits six times this season, including a season-high 18 against Texas last weekend.