Through the early stages of the Big 12 men’s basketball season, TCU has received two endorsements as a much-improved team from coaches of top-10 opponents.
The Horned Frogs (12-3, 1-2 in Big 12) have knocked off Oklahoma, one of last season’s Final Four participants. But the Frogs have yet to secure a road victory against a league opponent, a commodity that has been elusive throughout TCU’s tenure in the Big 12.
The Frogs get another shot at a road victory at 7 p.m. Wednesday night against Texas (7-8, 1-2), which already has lost home games to two unranked opponents: UT Arlington and Kent State. TCU coach Jamie Dixon would like to add the Horned Frogs to that list when the teams meet in the Erwin Center but understands the challenge that awaits in Austin.
TCU remains winless in Austin as a Big 12 member and is 1-36 in road games as a league member since joining the conference for the 2012-13 season. But the latest road encounter, Saturday’s 82-70 loss at No. 10 West Virginia, included some encouraging signs that Dixon hopes his team can use in its next trip into a hostile environment.
The Frogs were tied at 57 with 9:47 remaining before the Mountaineers (13-2, 2-1) pulled away down the stretch. Although the Frogs matched their season high for turnovers (18) against West Virginia’s vaunted full-court press, only seven occurred after intermission and the total was below the Mountaineers’ season average of 24.8 per game.
“It’s welcome to the Big 12. It’s kind of what you expect and what we signed up for,” said Dixon, noting that his team must “make the plays down the stretch” that decide close games in a road setting. “You want to play against the best. This is probably going to become the best league in the country this year, with a lot of close games. Certainly, we’re there. I haven’t seen any blowouts.”
But to become a contender, as well as a postseason tournament participant, TCU must win its share of road games. Dixon said that includes “believing and winning with defense” in crunch time. The Frogs have witnessed that trait in both West Virginia and No. 2 Kansas (14-1, 3-0), the two league opponents that have knocked off the Frogs this season.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and Kansas counterpart Bill Self indicated that the Frogs, who already have matched last year’s win total under former coach Trent Johnson during a 12-21 season, have shown signs they could become a viable road team this season. TCU is 1-2 in road games, including a 63-59 victory at UNLV on Nov. 25.
“They’re a whole lot better than they were a year ago,” Huggins said after Saturday’s contest. “They keep coming at you.”
After the Jayhawks’ 86-80 victory in Fort Worth on Dec. 30, Self said: “I think TCU’s good.”
Dixon’s hope is that his team will soon be good enough to secure its first road victory in a Big 12 venue since a 62-42 victory at Texas Tech on Jan. 17, 2015.
TCU men at Texas
7 p.m. Wednesday, Longhorn Network