TCU

Why TCU basketball is finally getting respect from Big 12 coaches

Frogs star Kenrich Williams: 'Weird' seeing TCU high in coaches' poll

The undefeated TCU Horned Frogs, after years of struggling in the Big 12, finally have gained the respect of the league.
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The undefeated TCU Horned Frogs, after years of struggling in the Big 12, finally have gained the respect of the league.

TCU fans ought to remember the year 2017.

That’s when their basketball team was picked higher in a preseason poll than their football team.

Last week, the league coaches predicted Jamie Dixon’s basketball team to finish third in the upcoming season. This summer, Gary Patterson’s football team was tabbed fifth by the writers.

Asked for his reaction Tuesday at Big 12 Media Day, Dixon could only shake his head and smile.

“Gary was giving me a hard time at some points, but I think he’s getting the last laugh right now,” he said. “They’re fourth in the country. I would like to be the guy that goes from 6-7 to 7-0 that quickly.”

While the football team prepares for a game at Iowa State on Saturday, the basketball team is getting ready to open its season Nov. 10 against ULM, looking to build on last season’s breakthrough 24-15 record and NIT championship.

The Frogs return the top six scorers from that team, which is part of the reason the league coaches handed them their highest preseason ranking since joining the Big 12.

“I think we kind of recognized that we would be picked higher,” Dixon said. “I guess it’s a little bit of a change for us. But as I told our guys beforehand, it doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ve still got a lot to prove for us and our fans and throughout this league.”

TCU was picked 10th last year in Dixon’s first season. They were picked tied for eighth in 2015 and ninth in 2014.

In football, TCU was picked second last year, first in 2015 and seventh in 2014.

At a minimum, the top-three nod from the basketball coaches signals their respect for Dixon’s work in just one year in one of the country’s top RPI leagues.

“The coaches think highly of us, and we think highly of ourselves,” senior guard Kenrich Williams said.

TCU won a school-record six Big 12 games last year to finish eighth in the league. In its four previous seasons in the league, the Horned Frogs won eight games total.

“He did a really nice job getting that team to reflect the way that he believes the game of basketball should be played, with the level of toughness and a team orientation,” third-year Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “They showed that almost from Day One, it seemed like.”

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Dixon, who won 328 games at Pittsburgh, fits right in with a league where five head coaches have been to a Final Four.

“It’s the best coaching league that I’ve ever been in, and it doesn’t surprise me at all,” Huggins said. “Jamie is a really good end-of-the-game coach, and that’s what our league is.”

Second-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard remembers Dixon as an assistant at Pittsburgh who used to recruit players at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College when Beard coached there.

“Jamie hasn’t changed over the years, even though the title and the shirt and the paycheck has,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised at all at TCU’s season last year. I think the attention they’re receiving this year, being ranked high in the poll and things like that, is deserved.”

TCU’s postseason run a year ago included a quarterfinals victory against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, giving the Frogs two wins in the league postseason event for the first time.

Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team has won the league title 13 consecutive years, said TCU has a chance to win the conference and is going to be a presence as long as Dixon is coaching in Fort Worth.

“I don’t think TCU basketball is going to take a step backward,” he said. “We all take steps sideways sometimes based on personnel and things that go on. But TCU is going to be a force in our league for as long as he’s there.”

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

2017-18 Big 12 preseason poll

1.

Kansas

2.

West Virginia

3.

TCU

4.

Texas

5.

Baylor

6.

Oklahoma

7.

Texas Tech

8.

Kansas State

9.

Iowa State

10.

Oklahoma State

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