Yes, the Frogs have lost five of their last six games and will have a losing record in Big 12 play, but this is an interesting year for college basketball. Every “bubble” team seems to be losing these days, and TCU may get the benefit of the doubt by playing in what’s regarded as the country’s best conference.
“It’s a strange year,” Dixon said after TCU’s 81-66 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday.
“Normally with a losing record, you wonder if you’re going to get in. I think there’s no question teams with a losing record are going to get in this year, especially if you’re in the best conference.
“In our minds, we’re playing for an NCAA Tournament. We’ve got an opportunity.”
TCU (18-11, 6-10 Big 12) isn’t taking a bid for granted, of course. The Frogs have to win at least one of its last two games against Kansas State on Monday and/or at Texas next Saturday, and likely once more in the Big 12 tournament.
That would make it a 20-win team from one of the best conferences, and may be convincing enough to earn a bid.
However, there’s a question of whether TCU has that sort of finish in it. This is a team that is reeling from a 15-point loss to Texas Tech and has only seven scholarship players available from the opening day roster.
Asked if he’s optimistic about his team, Dixon said: “Yeah, I am. I told our guys right now, we talked for a while in there and just said, ‘Hey, this was not a good performance.’
“I still believe in our team. I still believe in the guys we have. We can play better and that’s what we’re going to do going forward. That’s what I told our guys. We’re going to play better this next game.”
It won’t be easy against a Kansas State (22-7, 12-4 Big 12) team that is trying to win a conference championship. The Wildcats have won three of their last four, and posted a 10-point victory over TCU in the first meeting in Manhattan, Kan.
TCU didn’t have its top scorer, Kouat Noi, in that contest, but that’s old news. For now, the Frogs know there is little margin for error going into the final week.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Dixon said. “We’ve got to find a way to win this game on Monday. This performance today would seem to indicate it’s going to be a challenge, but I do believe we have it in us. I do believe we can get our best performance of the year going forward.”
The Trent Johnson era is officially coming to an end tonight.
The last two recruits from the Johnson era, Alex Robinson and JD Miller, will play in their final home games. Each leave the program as 1,000-point scorers.
Robinson will leave as the school’s all-time assists leader, and Miller is on pace for the most games played. He’s played in 132 career games, four away from tying Brandon Parrish’s school record (136).
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” said Robinson, whose mom played for the TCU women’s team.
“It’s been on my mind for about a week now, man. It’s overwhelming, but at the same time just blessed to have this opportunity to play here at TCU. … It’s gone by so fast.”
Said Miller: “These last four years, it’s been a long stretch. For it to come to an end is very sad.”
Robinson and Miller want to ensure it ends on the right note with a second straight NCAA berth, of course. The Frogs haven’t reached consecutive NCAAs since the early 1950s.
“The tournament thing … I’m very motivated about the tournament,” Miller said. “That’s our goal, trying to get there.”
▪ Miller is averaging 16.8 points on 56.4 percent shooting from the floor in his last four games.
▪ TCU had zero bench points for the first time of the season Saturday. Texas Tech outscored it 24-0 ini bench points.
▪ Robinson had a team-high 17 points in the first meeting vs. Kansas State. Junior guard Desmond Bane scored 16.