TCU

Road to the NCAA tournament looks rough, but TCU can still make it there

TCU guard Desmond Bane moves the ball down the court as Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith pursues him during the Red Raiders win Saturday in Fort Worth.
TCU guard Desmond Bane moves the ball down the court as Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith pursues him during the Red Raiders win Saturday in Fort Worth. Special to the Star-Telegram

Once most of Schollmaier Arena had been cleared out Saturday afternoon, several TCU basketball players returned to the court.

They had just been thoroughly handled by No. 10 Texas Tech and the shoot around was probably a better way to get it out of their heads than heading home.

The rub here is, that it’s not TCU’s shooting that is getting them in trouble. It’s their defensive aggressiveness, especially in the paint, that has the Frogs (16-7, 4-6) sitting near the bottom of the Big 12. They’re also outsized against the top teams in the league and TCU’s eight-man bench can thin out quickly when players get into foul trouble. That’s going to be an issue when TCU plays at No. 7 Kansas (18-5, 7-3) at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Frogs have shown flashes of what’s necessary on defense, but it’s not consistent enough. And truth be told, even with a stellar defensive game Saturday, it was probably not going to matter against the Red Raiders, who played a near-flawless first half.

“You’ve got to be good all the time,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said of his team’s defense. “We just have to have a better understanding of what we’re doing.”

That might not happen in time this season, although with a decent finish, TCU still has a legitimate shot at the NCAA tournament. The Frogs have road games at Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech. If TCU loses all three, they’d need to win at Iowa State (Feb. 21) and finish with four consecutive home wins against Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas State to finish 9-9 in the league.

A year ago, Oklahoma State earned a 10-seed with a 9-9 league record and Kansas State earned an 11-seed with an 8-10 league record.

TCU, if you’ve already forgotten, finished 6-12 in the Big 12 a year ago and ended up winning the National Invitational Tournament.

TCU still ranked among the top 30 in the ratings percentage index rankings, or RPI. The Frogs are No. 29 in the latest update. Only Kansas (No. 9), Oklahoma (No. 14) and Tech (No. 15) rank higher in the Big 12. West Virginia is at No. 35 and Texas is at No. 39.

Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST

TCU at Kansas

8 p.m. Tuesday, Allen Fieldhouse

TV: ESPN2

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