Things were good in Fort Worth on the night of January 21, 1999. The TCU Horned Frogs Men's Basketball team, ranked 21st in the country at the time, had just beaten their Western Athletic Conference rival, the Air Force Falcons, 114-87 at the Daniel Meyer Coliseum. The win improved TCU's record to 14-3 on the year, increasing the Frogs' hopes that they would return to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season.
The previous March, the Frogs were one of the hottest mid-major teams in the country. TCU rolled through WAC play, finishing with a perfect 14-0 record in the conference. The Frogs entered the NCAA Tournament with a 27-5 record, good for a 5th seed in the Midwest Region.
The 1998-1999 season was supposed to be a continuation of the Frogs' success in the WAC, and a chance to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. Just two days after defeating Air Force on that cold January night in Fort Worth, the Frogs were beaten in overtime by UNLV. Back-to-back road losses to Tulsa and Rice completed a four-game losing streak, knocking TCU out of the Top 25.
At the time, nobody knew that it would take the Frogs exactly 15 years and 11 months to re-enter the Top 25.
The 1998-1999 Frogs would go on to lose four of their next eight games, missing out on the NCAA Tournament completely. In the 15 years since, the Frogs have participated in four different conferences under four different head coaches with only five winning seasons. The last 15 years of TCU Basketball have seen no NCAA Tournament appearances, no finishes higher than fourth in their conference, and no national rankings.
This afternoon, the Associated Press voters ranked TCU as the 25th best team in college basketball. Trent Johnson and his players will likely be quick to denounce the ranking, pointing out that there is a lot of season left and the Frogs haven't faced their toughest competition yet. And that would be correct.
But for a program that has been devoid of national attention for the better part of a decade and half, a national ranking is certainly a noteworthy accomplishment. In fact, this is just the 8th different season that the Frogs have entered the Top 25. Five of the other seven seasons ended with TCU playing in a postseason tournament.
Despite the simplistic non-conference schedule, the Frogs have earned their right to be ranked. This year's TCU squad has achieved something that no other Frogs team has been able to achieve in over a century of playing basketball. TCU is 11-0 on the season, the best start in program history. The 11-game winning streak is also the fourth longest streak in TCU history, and the longest since the magical 1997-1998 season. The 15 players on the TCU roster have done exactly what has been asked of them: go out and win each game. They're doing it in impressive fashion too, winning by an average margin of 20.5 points per game.
Another significant accomplishment awaits these Frogs. A win tonight would be the program's first as a ranked team since that cold January night in 1999 when TCU knocked off the Air Force Academy. Nearly 16 years after the Frogs fell from the Top 25, TCU is back.
Here are a couple of quick notes from today's AP poll:
- 30 of the 65 total AP voters included TCU in their Top 25 ballots this week, an increase of 12 voters since last week. The Frogs gathered a total of 120 points, an increase of 40 points since last week.
- 22 of the 30 voters ranked TCU between 20th and 25th. Six voters had TCU at 19th, one voter had TCU at 18th, and Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had TCU at 11th for the second consecutive week.
- Four of the eight voters in the Big 12 Conference's geographic footprint had TCU in the 25, including voters in Waco, Austin, and Lawrence.
- This is the fourth consecutive week that the Frogs have received votes. TCU was 46th (2 votes) in the December 1st edition of the poll, 32nd (45 votes) in the December 8th edition, and 27th (80 votes) in the December 15th edition.
- The Big 12 has the most ranked teams this week with seven (9-UT, 10-KU, 12-ISU, 18-WVU, 19-OU, 22-BU, 25-TCU). Oklahoma State is also receiving votes.
- This is just the 34th different week that TCU has appeared in the AP Top 25 in the school's history.
- The Frogs are 37-18 all-time as a ranked team, however TCU has lost its last three games played as a ranked team.
AP Top 25
|1.||Kentucky Wildcats (65)||12-0||1625||1|
|2.||Duke Blue Devils||10-0||1548||2|
|11.||Wichita State Shockers||8-1||966||11|
|12.||Iowa State Cyclones||9-1||821||13|
|16.||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||11-1||536||21|
|17.||St. John's Red Storm||9-2||517||20|
|18.||West Virginia Mountaineers||10-1||464||22|
|20.||North Carolina Tar Heels||9-3||414||24|
|21.||Ohio State Buckeyes||9-2||411||12|
|23.||Northern Iowa Panthers||10-1||162||29|
|24.||Colorado State Rams||11-0||144||28|
|25.||TCU Horned Frogs||11-0||120||27|
|Others Receiving Votes: Georgetown 85, S. Diego St. 72, VCU 70, California 32, Miami (FL) 27, Arkansas 22, Indiana 11, Old Dominion 7, LSU 7, Florida 4, Penn St. 4, Seton Hall 3, Oklahoma St. 3, Butler 2, Minnesota 2, Davidson 1, Valparaiso 1|