Those that have experienced the darkness can appreciate any glimmer of light.
I have experienced the darkness of TCU Athletics. I survived a 1-10 football season, the city park-looking field TCU Baseball used to play on, and basketball games held at Wilkerson-Greines.
That’s why I am not overreacting to the Frogs’ “disappointing” 16-15 (7-11) season or calling for Jamie Dixon’s job.
Heading into the 2019-2020 season, little was expected of the Horned Frogs on the hardwood. Picked to finish last in the Big 12, TCU had a great player (Desmond Bane), a potentially very good young player (Kevin Samuel), and not much else in the “known quantity” category. Despite that fact, the Frogs started strong, winning 9 of their first 12 games with only one “bad loss”. They burst out of the gate in Big 12 play, winning their first three games in impressive fashion, their best start in conference play in their history as a member of the league.
Things went downhill from there. A blowout loss at WVU preceded a really bad loss at Oklahoma, but the losing streak was halted by an impressive win over then-#18 Texas Tech at home. Unfortunately for the Frogs, that was the last bright spot for a while; they lost six straight and would win just three more times on the year. A win over the no. 2 Bears was a bright spot, but blowing a 20-point second half lead over the Sooners, on senior night, may have done their NIT hopes in.
That loss had folks calling for Jamie Dixon’s head, a preposterous and downright ridiculous statement.
Fortunately, some level-heads prevailed:
TCU Basketball conference wins since joining the Big XII.— Great Davey’s Ghost (@Ace_Gagnon) March 8, 2020
Pre-Dixon: 8 (2, 0, 4, 2)
Dixon era: 29 (6, 9, 7, 7)
TCU under Dougherty: Avg finish in KenPom of 161.— parker (@statsowar) March 8, 2020
Under Christian: 159.75
Under Johnson: 167.25
You people are losing your damn minds.
A team picked to finish last in the conference finished seventh, a team whose only true point guard was a true freshman, a team that relied on transfers and young players across the board — that team fought their way to seven wins. Jamie Dixon can be credited with turning Desmond Bane from an afterthought to a likely future pro (Bane obviously plays a huge role in that too), from growing RJ Nembhard from a timid freshman to a cold-blooded, big-shot maker, from getting quality minutes out of Edric Dennis and Jaire Grayer, and recruiting at a much-higher level than anything done at TCU in the past. Prior to Dixon, TCU had signed two players with a 90 rating or higher — since his hiring, 11 have signed with the Frogs.
There have been some bumps in the road; watching the entire 2018 signing class transfer was concerning, and offensive and free throw struggles have cost the team several games. But, if you focus on player development, program building, and overall talent, it’s easy to see Dixon’s influence, and a bright future for the program.
TCU Basketball was in a bad way four years ago. The worst team in the Power Five, they turned disastrous seasons in the Mountain West Conference into embarrassing ones in the Big 12. Players walked around with their head down, hoping people wouldn’t ask them if they played hoops for the purple.
Now? Desmond Bane isn’t just a campus hero, he’s a national name. Kenrich Williams, the first “name player” of the Dixon era, looks like a guy who will have a long career as a role-player in the NBA. TCU plays in one of the most beautiful facilities in the country, and season tickets are close to selling out annually. The Frogs have won an NIT Championship and played for another — they hadn’t even won their division since 1998. They’re bringing in a top 50 recruiting class and have some exciting pieces returning in Kevin Samuel, RJ Nembhard, PJ Fuller, and Francisco Farabello, a unit that should form a formidable core in 2020-2021. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and we should see a significant improvement a year from now.
As our friend Stats O’ War says, treat this season like Year Zero — Jamie Dixon tore it down, and had to start over from the foundation up. We don’t need to accept mediocrity as Frog fans, but we need to understand that what happened this season wasn’t at all that. The Frogs finished above expectations, they beat three Top 25 teams, and they have a chance to make a run in the conference tournament that could propel them to the NIT. You can want more, but be realistic. This is a build, not an arrival. And Jamie Dixon is the right person to wear the hard hat.