Fortunately for TCU's men's basketball team, its season doesn't have to end with an 81-60 first-round drubbing in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
The Horned Frogs, especially seniors Hank Thorns, J.R. Cadot and Craig Williams, won't have to finish with the bad taste of Thursday's loss to Colorado State because TCU is likely assured a spot in one of three postseason tournaments tonight or Monday morning, several sources at the school said.
The NIT, whose field will be announced tonight after the NCAA Tournament bracket is released, appears to be a long shot for the Frogs (17-14), who have lost three consecutive games for the first time this season. But TCU is a lock for a berth in either the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
"I'm just glad we get to keep playing," TCU coach Jim Christian said. "It's not an easy thing to do. The younger guys get a chance to get better and our older guys get a chance to keep playing. Obviously we didn't like how it ended up [in the MWC]. I'm glad that wasn't our last game. Hopefully we can play better."
With 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament, plus 32 teams in the NIT, much of the competition to earn a berth in the 16-team CBI or 24-team College Insider comes down to winning records and ratings percentage index. The Frogs have beaten three teams currently or previously ranked in the Top 20 and rank 119th in realtimerpi.com and 112th of 344 teams in the NCAA's RPI rankings.
The MWC likely will have four teams earn NCAA berths -- San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State. Wyoming (20-11) is likely to earn an NIT bid with an 82nd RPI ranking in the NCAA. TCU last earned an NIT bid in 2005, its last postseason appearance.
The Frogs' first-round game in either tournament would be Tuesday or Wednesday, either at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum or at their opponent's arena. If it's the latter, Christian says his team will get another crack at learning to play with the same kind of zeal it has played with at home.
"I think that's the next growth step for our program," he said. "The first step is to win at home and beat ranked teams. And we'd never done that. The next step is to have that same belief and energy level on the road. That's what cost us this year. We had chances to win games on the road. You have to step up and raise your level and that's what we have to learn going forward."
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760