TCU finds itself squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
It’ll be a stressful wait until Selection Sunday. Saturday saw schools such as San Diego State and Memphis and Wichita State emerge as potential “bid stealers.”
So much for a “soft bubble.”
Coach Jamie Dixon and the players remained hopeful and optimistic when they were knocked out of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday. They feel they did enough to go dancing for a second straight year. The Frogs reached the 20-win mark, and held their own for the most part in arguably the toughest conference in the country.
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“We played good basketball down the stretch,” Dixon said. “Proud of 20 wins in a really tough conference, the toughest in the country. We’ve proved that we’re a very good team. However, we’ve come up short against the top-10 teams, top-12 teams in the country in our league.”
Dixon is referring to Kansas State, Texas Tech and Kansas. TCU went 0-7 against those programs this season, the latest being a loss to K-State in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday.
As Dixon said, most teams in the country would go 0-7 against those programs too. It’s hard to hold that too much against TCU.
“I feel like we’ve definitely done enough,” TCU junior guard Desmond Bane said. “We got 20 wins in the best league in the country. That’s really hard to do.”
Said senior point guard Alex Robinson: “We have 20 wins. We’re playing in the best conference in the country. We don’t have any bad losses. I definitely think we deserve to be in the Big Dance.”
With that being said, here is why and why not TCU should be in/ out of the Big Dance --
TCU goes dancing
1. Solid wins. This is a team that swept Iowa State and Texas in the regular season, and beat Florida in the SEC/ Big 12 Challenge. Despite losing, TCU has also shown the ability to stay in games with some of the top teams in the country.
The Frogs had chances to beat Kansas in each game this season, and had a 12-point lead on K-State in the Big 12 tournament Thursday before faltering late.
2. Momentum. TCU appears to have found its stride of late, winning two of its last three. TCU has been streaky with a pair of three-game losing streaks in conference play, but it finally seems to have figured out the best approach with a seven-man rotation.
Bane said he felt the team was coming together much like they did in 2016 before the NIT championship run.
Freshman center Kevin Samuel has emerged as a presence on both ends of the floor, and Bane is shooting the ball well of late.
3. Big 12 factor. It’s hard to argue there’s a better basketball conference than the Big 12, and it seemingly deserves at least seven bids. TCU should be among those seven with Texas being left out -- the Longhorns have lost five of their last six, and were swept by the Frogs.
The conference should be rewarded for its collective play this season, thus TCU. This is a conference that had one of its worst teams, Oklahoma State, knock off LSU in non-conference. Texas is a team that beat Purdue and North Carolina in non-conference.
Heck, last-place West Virginia has shown just how deep this league is in the conference tournament by knocking off Oklahoma and then co-champion Texas Tech in the quarterfinals.
Three losses that hurt most
1. Jan. 12 at Oklahoma. TCU had the lead with less than a minute remaining, but couldn’t close the deal. The Sooners escaped with a 76-74 victory.
The Frogs had just lost a game at Kansas, but were riding a nine-game winning streak before that. This was a winnable road game.
2. Feb. 11 vs. Kansas. The Frogs had a 69-65 lead with 2:07 left, and didn’t score again until overtime. TCU went cold at the worst time.
TCU wouldn’t find itself on the “bubble” right now if it won this game. Instead, KU pulled away for an 82-77 victory in overtime.
3. Feb. 26 at West Virginia. TCU had a bad loss at Oklahoma State before this game, but the Frogs were short-handed with Kouat Noi out. This is the game that might sting the most, considering TCU won the first meeting 98-67.
TCU had chances to win it at the end of regulation and at the end of the second overtime. Instead, the Frogs didn’t get a shot up at the buzzer either time.