Fort Worth, TX - TCU Basketball won’t be going dancing for a second consecutive March, as the program was left out of the 68 team field announced Sunday evening.
The Frogs, who won 20 games and had a NET Rating of 52, felt they had done enough to earn an invite. But, the committee felt otherwise. Disappointed, Jamie Dixon questioned why the new system was put in place if they weren’t going to use it. “We’re disappointed, obviously. We saw the projections and pretty much every one we saw had us in. So I guess we are the team that’s the biggest surprise in the country, and no one wants to be that. It is troubling - you look at the NET and there’s six teams that have a lower NET than us. They created a tool, they talk about it, and there’s six teams below us that are in.”
It is troubling to see teams like St John’s (NET #73, #73 strength of schedule) and Arizona State (#63 NET, #70 strength of schedule) get in over TCU (NET #52, #36 strength of schedule) - programs with vibrant basketball history but not much in the way of success this season. It’s also troubling to see the conference rated the strongest in the country get just six teams in, while the Big Ten gets eight, the SEC and ACC get seven, and the Pac 12 (rated seventh!) gets three. Bid thievery had something to do with that, of course (looking at you, Oregon), but it still leads to asking the question (to quote our esteemed colleague Anthony North) “WTF ARE WE EVEN DOING HERE”.
Alex Robinson had that same question as he spoke to the media, clearly crushed to not take the Horned Frogs to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament in his final season in Fort Worth. “I feel like we do have the most competitive conference in the country, top to bottom. All year it was talked about that eight teams could get in, only get six in, I think it’s kind of a joke, honestly.” The conference question loomed large for Dixon, too. “I don’t understand how we only get six from our conference. It seems like you’re being penalized for being in the toughest league in the country. That shouldn’t be the case.”
The Horned Frogs lost seven games to teams that were deemed to be three or four seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Of their 11 conference losses, only two were to a team not picked on Selection Sunday, the triple overtime defeat at the hands of the Mountaineers in Morgantown and the loss in Stillwater to the Cowboys - a loss avenged in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. “Our conference, we said how tough it was, and I think we saw it at the end of the year with how well the bottom two teams - WVU an Oklahoma State - were playing. Obviously, we are losing to good teams, very good teams, who are playing their best basketball during conference play. Maybe we could have won more games, but who’s playing seven games like that? No one is. No one is. The only teams that are doing that are us and the teams in our conference.”
Dixon continued, questioning just how much the NET factors in the things that they said matter most. “We can show you all the stats - how many quadrant one and two wins we got - we thought those were important, we thought they mattered, and we had quite a few of them. So, a little surprised.”
Jamie Dixon took a calculated risk this season, openly talking with his team about their chances, scoreboard watching, and watching bracketology as closely as the rest of us did. It motivated his squad and kept them locked in - when they easily could have quit - as injuries and transfers mounted. But, it also made the Frogs’ exclusion from Sunday’s bracket hurt that much more - for both players and coaches. “It’s very disappointing,” Robinson said. “We saw we were in pretty much everyone’s projections - some of the last ones I saw, we weren’t even one of the last four in. It’s tough.” Dixon echoed that sentiment, but says his guys can’t dwell on what didn’t happen - but instead must focus on what they can make happen. “We’re disappointed, obviously. We saw the projections and pretty much every one we saw had us in. So I guess we are the team that’s the biggest surprise in the country, and no one wants to be that. It’s disappointing - our guys are going to have to get through this disappointment and get ready to play. And I am sure they will, they’re competitors. The best way to get through it is to show that you’re deserving and do something about it.”
TCU will get their chance, with the NIT Bracket announcement pending.