TCU coach Trent Johnson can think of three games that got away, any two of which — had they been wins — could have made the Horned Frogs a consideration for the NCAA Tournament.
“The Baylor game in overtime that we lost, the West Virginia game on the road that we lost, the Oklahoma game on the road — you look at those three games, if we win two out of three, we’re probably a bubble team in the conversation of the NCAA Tournament,” he said Tuesday after practice at the Sprint Center, where the Big 12 tournament begins Wednesday. “And probably a lock, maybe, in the NIT.”
TCU (17-14) would be close to 20 wins in that case. Instead, they were all losses — 66-59 in overtime against Baylor, 86-85 in overtime to West Virginia and 67-60 to Oklahoma.
“And those teams, if they had lost those games, it wouldn’t jeopardize their status in terms of the NCAA Tournament,” Johnson said. “So you would be talking about nine teams in this league that would be locks [for the postseason]. All that being said, it speaks volumes to how these guys have stayed the course, how close we’ve been, yet how far away we are.”
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The last time the Horned Frogs made the postseason, the College Basketball Invitational in 2012, they had 18 wins. The last time they made the NIT, in 2005, they had 19 wins.
But Johnson isn’t researching history. He said he hasn’t talked to his team about any kind of postseason play.
“For me, you just keep playing,” he said. “I’ve been through it in four different leagues and been in all those postseason experiences. You worry about the next game. You worry about playing as best you can. These kids will tell you. We haven’t had that conversation.”
No, but they have thought about it.
“Our main goal is to make the tournament,” point guard Kyan Anderson said. “I know we haven’t played in the postseason in a while. We’re still fighting for those chances, those opportunities.”
The Horned Frogs open the Big 12 tournament against Kansas State (15-16), a team with which they have been competitive. And if they win, they get No. 1 seed Kansas, a team they have also been competitive against.
“Our confidence level is pretty high, especially with the way we match up with them,” Anderson said. “We’re just going to try to create a lot of offense with our defense. We’re totally confident in these next couple of games we have. The main thing now is just coming out and getting it done.”
TCU defeated Kansas State in Fort Worth, 69-55 on Feb. 18, and lost in Manhattan, 58-53, on Jan. 7.
Against Kansas, TCU lost 64-61 at home and 81-72 on the road.
“I just know that Kansas State, when they have their full complement of players, they’re as good as anybody in this league,” Johnson said. “They’ve got a nucleus of guys who went to the NCAA Tournament. They’re going to be healthy, they’re going to have everybody out there. So we’re going to have to play really, really well in what amounts to a road game.”
Anderson said he’d describe himself as 80-90 percent healthy because of his back and knees.
“I’m not usually 100 percent,” he said. “If nothing’s broke, I’m going to play. I’m a competitor, and I want to win. If nothing’s just too seriously hurt, I’m going to play.”
He said it won’t affect his aggressiveness into the lane.
“I’ve got to try to draw as many fouls and get fouls on the bigs as much as possible,” he said. “I’m going to continue to go in there regardless of whether I’m hurt or not.”
Anderson had the third-most free throw attempts in the conference during Big 12 games, making 72 of 85 shots (84.7 percent).
Free throw talk
TCU led the Big 12 in free-throw attempts, taking 455 foul shots. West Virginia had 448, and Kansas had 406.
“It’s the easiest way to get points,” Anderson said.
A reporter quipped, “In theory.”
Anderson couldn’t hold back a smile. “Yeah, in theory. Oh my god.”
The Horned Frogs made only 60.7 percent of those 455 shots, the worst percentage in the league.
“Those opportunities, we’ll take any time,” Anderson said. “I feel like, progressively, we’re getting better at free-throw shooting.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
TCU men vs. Kansas State
6 p.m. Wednesday, Kansas City, Mo.
Records: TCU 17-14; Kansas St. 15-16