TCU forward JD Miller whistled. He had to think about the question.
What meant more to TCU last season — the win over No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 tournament or the NIT championship?
“Whooo,” he said and thought. Finally, he told the reporters around him, “The NIT. We got a ring from that.”
The Horned Frogs did indeed after winning the first postseason basketball championship in school history. They got their rings before the season opener this year.
But the Frogs’ 85-82 victory against Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament on March 9 last season rightly ranks right with the NIT title, or very close.
“After we beat them, that just led to better things, the NIT win, being ranked this year, us starting out this good this year,” Miller said.
Saturday, No. 16 TCU meets No. 10 Kansas for the first time since that game, which marked TCU’s first win ever against an AP No. 1.
“That was huge for me and my confidence moving forward,” said sophomore guard Desmond Bane, who made three free throws with 2.5 seconds left for the winning points. “And it was great for our program to be able to do something like that, something special. I feel like we’ve really been able to build off that win.”
TCU has defeated Kansas only twice, last year and in 2013 when Kansas visited Fort Worth as No. 5 in the country.
The Kansas win a year ago was followed by a loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals, leaving the Frogs out of the NCAA tournament. But invited to the NIT, they won all five games, defeating Fresno State, Iowa, Richmond, UCF and Georgia Tech by an average 14.8 points.
Their 32-point margin of victory in the championship game tied the NIT record.
“We thought we were really good last year, and we had proven that we were until that seven-game stretch of losses in conference,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “I think people that watched and really looked at it could see we were losing some really close games in a really good conference, and then obviously once we got in the NIT and had the margins of victory that we had, we proved that we probably were an NCAA tournament team that just didn’t get it done.”
TCU’s 24 victories last season tied for the second-most in school history, but the Frogs finished 6-12 in conference games after a 6-5 start. TCU was 0-3 against ranked teams Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia at home. The Frogs are 0-9 against ranked opponents at Schollmaier Arena, which opened Dec. 20, 2015.
“All last year — we had Baylor at home, lost to them close, lost to Kansas at home close — we really just needed that win that could put us over the hump,” Bane said. “We knew we were good all along, but that (Kansas) win really helped put us over the top.”
Kansas is coming off its worst home loss in the Bill Self era, 85-73 to Texas Tech on Tuesday. Despite a 1-1 start in league play, the Jayhawks remain the standard in the Big 12 with 13 consecutive outright or shared championships.
“A team that has a lot of talented guys, highly recruited guys, all guys that everybody in the country wanted,” Dixon said.
TCU has never started 2-1 in the Big 12. Its last such start was in 2010 in the Mountain West.
Who knows. In the rugged Big 12, another win against Kansas could wind up as meaningful as the last.
Brodziansky up for honor
TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky is one of 30 men's players nationwide named a candidate for the NCAA's Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes a senior player for excellence in community, classroom, character and competition.
Ten finalists will be announced in February and placed on a ballot for national voting by media, coaches and fans. The winner will be announced at the Final Four.
Brodziansky leads TCU in blocks and shooting percentage and is second in scoring and rebounding. He is 21 points away from 26th on the TCU all-time scoring list.
No. 16 TCU vs. No. 10 Kansas
8:15 Saturday, ESPN2