There’s a lot to be excited about in TCU athletics right now. Baseball season is back, and the Frogs have a promising squad that just wrapped up a weekend tournament at the brand new Globe Life Field. Men’s tennis is looking elite, and the rifle team is as strong as ever. To top it off, our Big 12 champion soccer team just released their spring schedule. Amidst all this excitement, you could be forgiven if you have forgotten about the men’s basketball team. Between tough losses and delays by COVID, it seems like any momentum from the season has been sapped up.
The Frogs have two regular season games remaining pending any reschedules, and at this point it seems likely the Frogs will draw Kansas State in the play-in game of the Big 12 tournament. Given how poor the Wildcats have been this season, you could be forgiven for thinking that would be a good matchup for the Frogs, however Saturday night would show otherwise. After a week of rest, KSU came into Fort Worth and turned a second half rally into a 62-54 victory. It’s really hard to overstate how bad this loss was. Kansas State hadn’t won a game since the turn of the new year, losing 13 straight (with the Frogs dealing them the first loss on that streak). While I’ve been consistent from the beginning in saying that this season requires a lot of leash, this was a bad, bad loss, and coach Dixon said as much.
So where do the Frogs go from here? They play tonight against West Virginia before finishing out this Saturday against Iowa State. I think, based on current form, you have to expect a loss against the Mountaineers and be pleasantly surprised if the Frogs pull it out. WVU had the first matchup against the Frogs cancelled, but they haven’t lost in regulation since January — with their sole defeat being a double OT thriller against a red hot Oklahoma team. Most of what I wrote back in week 7 about the Mountaineers still holds true, and quite frankly the Frogs’ play has only declined since then. On the other hand, Iowa State — that game is a must win just for pride reasons. The Cyclones are winless in Big 12 play, and it would be a real low note to be their only win. However, it will not be an easy game. The Frogs barely survived with a 3 point win last time the two faced off, and this game is in Ames. The most likely scenario remains that the Frogs split these games and finish the regular season 12-10 with a 5-8 record in conference.
Let’s assume the Frogs split; where does that leave this team? I’ll likely have another article out before the Big 12 Tournament, but now seems as good as ever to take stock of the season in its entirety. We need to remember that this team was projected right at the bottom of the conference... and that’s exactly where they ended up. The team has literally no scholarship seniors on the team, and we’ve seen solid flashes from newcomers like Mike Miles and Chuck O’Bannon. An injury to Francisco Farabello right as he was stabilizing the team didn’t help the slide (6-3 with him, 5-6 without), and that lack of continuity isn’t helpful for a young team with a limited offseason. As is the norm in college basketball, we’ll see some attrition this offseason: indeed, Diante Smith already left the team a month in. The Frogs will solidify the interior by adding Souleymane Doumbia from Navarro JC, along with a transfer or two to replace the guys who transfer out. In short, it’s far too early claim the Jamie Dixon era as a lost cause.
Looking at this team with clear eyes shows little reason for optimism in the short term, yet no reason for doom-and-gloom in the broader picture. The Frogs’ basketball program is historically downtrodden, and yet we saw how fast Coach Dixon and co. pulled the team into the Tournament. Give these young guys a chance to show some flashes in these last handful of games, and let’s get excited at the building blocks for a successful 2021-2022.