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Breaking the Bracket: Looking at TCU’s potential run through the NIT

TCU’s path back to Madison Square Garden is a reasonable one.

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

TCU didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, unfortunately, but they still have a chance to make hay in the postseason by running through the NIT as a 1-seed.

It’s a pretty impressive group of teams in the National Invitational Tournament this year, as the Frogs look to win their second NIT championship in three seasons.

Here’s the full bracket.

You’ll see the Frogs as a 1-seed in the bottom right quadrant of the 32-team bracket. They host 8-seed Sam Houston State in the opening round, tonight at 8pm at Schollmaier Arena. Get there. Be loud.

But should TCU win tonight, what does the road to Madison Square Garden look like?

In TCU’s Quadrant

No. 4 Nebraska (18-16) vs. No. 5 Butler (16-16) | ESPN 2 | 8PM

Should the Frogs beat the Bearkats, TCU will host the winner of Nebraska-Butler. Nebraska finished 13th in the Big 10 this season, winning just three of their final 14 regular season games before rattling off two wins in the Big 10 Tournament in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Butler missed the NCAA Tournament for just the third time since 2007 after an odd down year. The Big East squad struggled in conference and was bounced in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Guard Kamar Baldwin is the straw that stirs the drink for this team. The junior is scoring 17.2 points per game while pulling down 5 rebounds and handing out 3.2 assists.

Neither of these teams are incredible shooting teams

Prediction: Nebraska 70, Butler 64

No. 3 Memphis (22-13) vs. No. 2 Creighton (19-14) | March 21 | Time/TV TBD

Round 3 for the Frogs, should they get past Nebraska/Butler, will present another challenge. The Frogs would once again host an opponent if they advance to the third round.

Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers knocked off San Diego Tuesday 74-60, led by Jeremiah Martin with 21 points and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Creighton beat last year’s Final Four Cinderella Loyola-Chicago 70-61, thanks to a quality team effort. Five Blue Jays scored in double digits, led by Martin Krempelj with 17.

Prediction: Memphis 68, Creighton 62

In TCU’s Semifinal Pairing

Texas and Colorado advanced to the second round on Tuesday, with close wins over South Dakota State and Dayton, respectively. The 2-seed Longhorns will face the winner of No. 3 Xavier- No. 6 Toledo (6pm, ESPN 3), while the 4-seed Buffaloes await the winner of No. 1 Alabama-No. 8 Norfolk State.

If TCU makes it through their quadrant, they’ll face the winner of this quadrant in the NIT Semifinal in Madison Square Garden.

My guess is that either Alabama or Xavier advances to MSG from this quadrant.

The Other Half

TCU has a familiar opponent lurking on the other side of the bracket, and it’s a team that helped keep them out of the NCAA Tournament. Lipscomb beat TCU 73-64 in Schollmaier back on November 20th. It’d be kind of cool to get a rematch in the NIT Championship to avenge that loss. The Bisons have already advanced to the next round with an 89-81 win over Davidson.

There are some other big name programs across the way as well, with Georgetown hosting Harvard in the first round, and Indiana advancing to the second round on Tuesday night.

Arkansas, UNC-Greensboro, Clemson, and NC State have all advanced to the second round on that side of the bracket, too.

UNC-Greensboro is going to be a tough out for anybody. Three of their six losses came at the hands of NCAA Tournament team Wofford, while two others came against LSU and Kentucky. UNCG had one loss to a non-NCAA Tournament team this season, and it was to NIT participant and conference bunkmate Furman (they also beat Furman twice this season). The Spartans face Lipscomb in round two on Thursday.

So while it’s not the NCAA Tournament, it seems like the NIT is providing a quality field in 2019.