The good news is TCU basketball will be back to eight scholarship players Saturday night when it hosts Oklahoma State at Schollmaier Arena.
The bad news is it doesn't mean anything gets a whole lot easier for the Horned Frogs.
TCU (17-9, 5-8 in the Big 12) has five regular-season games remaining and having guard Shawn Olden back after he missed the previous two games because of a concussion he sustained at Kansas on Feb. 6.
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But will Olden's return be enough to give the Frogs a lift down the stretch? TCU coach Jamie Dixon is hoping it does, along with an intensive dive into defense since Monday's loss at No. 20 West Virginia. The Frogs beat the Cowboys (15-11, 5-8) 79-66 in Stillwater, Okla., on Jan. 30.
"Now we have enough, we have eight," Dixon said, if reluctantly. "Eight is not what I’d normally [use], but we have the right guys, we have the rotation, we should be able to get the right amount rest for guys. I feel like we have the pieces going into these last five. We know where we’re at."
TCU is still looking like a likely NCAA tournament team, but a strong finish could turn that maybe into a slam dunk, no matter how the Big 12 tournament goes in Kansas City, Mo., in early March. Most projections have seven Big 12 teams earning NCAA berths. The Frogs are currently still highly ranked in the latest ratings, including the BPI (Basketball Power Index) and RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), the leading indicators on who will make the tournament. TCU is No. 21 in the BPI and No. 26 in the RPI. TCU last earned an NCAA tournament berth in 1998. The Frogs won the National Invitational Tournament last year, Dixon's first season at TCU.
Dixon talks openly to his players about the tournament for two reasons, he said.
"In today’s day and age, it's just out there with the social media," he said. "You can’t deny the obvious."
Plus, Dixon added, he doesn't want TCU's basketball struggles over most of the past two decades to get in their heads in any way. TCU last earned an NCAA tournament berth in 1998. The last time the Frogs won an NCAA tournament game Dixon was the point guard ... in 1987. He wants to remind his team that a loss isn't the end of the world, especially in the Big 12.
"[It's about] knowing where we stand. Nobody is going undefeated," he said. "We’re a lot better off than a lot of teams. Except for the top 10, you’re all playing for bids, that’s how we’re looking at it. We’ve just got to get better [defensively]. That’s our short-term goal. That’s what we’re trying to do these three days."
TCU vs. Oklahoma State
7 p.m. Saturday, Schollmaier Arena