From a statistical perspective, TCU’s undefeated run through the first eight games of the Jamie Dixon coaching era in men’s basketball does not suggest a team that has faced a lot of adversity along the way.
The Horned Frogs (8-0), one of the nation’s 11 remaining unbeaten teams, have outscored opponents by 17.1 points per game heading into Wednesday’s matchup in Dallas against SMU (6-3). TCU heads to Moody Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tip-off with a 48.4 shooting percentage from the floor, which ranks 43rd among the nation’s 347 Division I programs. The Frogs rank among the nation’s top 10 teams in steals (10.0 per game, seventh) and turnover margin (plus-6.1 per game, 10th).
What the digits do not show is how TCU erased a 17-point lead during the early stages of an 86-71 victory over Washington. They do not reflect the challenge TCU faced while becoming the only visiting team to win this season at UNLV (5-3), where the Rebels hold a 4-1 home record.
33 Votes TCU received in the latest Associated Press poll
They do not show how well the Horned Frogs, who had multiple players miss significant practice time with October injuries, have handled bouts with foul trouble because of a deep rotation. TCU has six players who average at least 9.0 points per game and 10 who regularly contribute in crunch time.
Dixon, a former TCU player who spent the past 13 seasons at Pittsburgh, acknowledged his rotation remains a work in progress as he blends veterans with five freshmen and sophomore guard Alex Robinson, a transfer from Texas A&M who is the team’s leading scorer (11.9 average).
But the early returns suggest the Frogs can handle negative feedback, a commodity they expect in large doses against the rival Mustangs in Dallas.
“We don’t seem panicked by it,” Dixon said, assessing the early traits he’s noticed in this team. “We’ve got depth. Everybody feels like they have depth in November and December, but I feel like we’re developing guys and they’re getting better.”
TCU has dropped its last four meetings against SMU, the most recent being a 75-70 setback last season. Since that game, SMU has parted ways with legendary coach Larry Brown but gained the services of forward Semi Ojeleye, a transfer from Duke who leads the team in scoring (17.2) to go with his 7.7 rebounds per game. TCU, in turn, has turned over its program to Dixon and lots of fresh faces on the Frogs’ roster.
Robinson, a Mansfield Timberview graduate, pointed to TCU’s defensive focus as a reason why the team has met the challenges it has faced while posting an eight-game winning streak and garnering 33 votes in Monday’s Associated Press poll. If the poll extended past a Top 25, TCU would be No. 29 nationally. But the poll does not, so the Frogs remain unranked.
“We pride ourselves on our defense. Defense wins championships,” Robinson said. “So far this year, I think we’ve gotten better on defense as the season goes on.”
Against SMU, the Frogs project to get their biggest road test of the season to this point.
TCU men at SMU
7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNews