TCU

TCU is playing its ‘best basketball.’ What if it were in the NCAAs, not NIT ...

TCU’s Dixon: We’ve got things to play for in NIT

The TCU men's basketball team felt it should've been in the NCAA Tournament, but instead settled for the one-seed of the NIT. The Frogs opened by knocking off Sam Houston State on Wednesday night.
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The TCU men's basketball team felt it should've been in the NCAA Tournament, but instead settled for the one-seed of the NIT. The Frogs opened by knocking off Sam Houston State on Wednesday night.

The Big 12 has disappointed in the NCAA Tournament.

The conference sent six teams to the Big Dance, and only one (Texas Tech) has reached the Sweet 16. It’s the fewest since one school advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 tournament.

For TCU, the disappointment of being “snubbed” by the selection committee continues to linger and its heightened by the program playing what coach Jamie Dixon described as its “best basketball” in the NIT.

TCU rolled to an 88-72 victory over Nebraska on Sunday night, and now hosts Creighton at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a trip to New York City’s Madison Square Garden on the line for the semifinals and finals of the NIT.

It’s hard not to wonder “what if” TCU had made NCAA Tournament, given how well its played in the NIT. Maybe the Big 12 would have better representation after the first weekend.

Thoughts, Coach Dixon?

“We can’t do anything about it,” Dixon said. “We’ve changed the perception of the program and I guess we’ve got to change it more. We’ve done a lot of great things, but we’ve got to do more. That’s my mentality.

“There’s things that we battle and we understand that. We’ve got to do things better. I think we’re doing it right now. We’re playing good basketball. You get to play, whatever it may be. There’s only 24 teams playing now on national TV.”

TCU coach Jamie Dixon expresses frustration at his team not being included in the field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament.

For TCU, the focus is on getting back to New York and winning a second NIT championship in three years. Even though it’s viewed as a consolation tournament, it still has prestige and would be another building block for TCU’s program.

Junior guard Desmond Bane was a freshman on the 2017 NIT championship team, and he recalled that run as some of the “most fun” he’s had in his college career.

“It was nothing but smiles,” Bane said. “It’s New York City. You’re staying right downtown, Times Square. You’re in the heat of everything. You’re playing in Madison Square Garden.

“At that time, there’s probably only 15 teams still playing basketball and we’re playing for a championship. I still have my ring in the locker just as extra motivation. That was probably the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here at TCU.”

Scouting Creighton

As far as Nebraska coach Tim Miles is concerned, the Creighton-TCU matchup should be “great.” Miles has seen both programs in person this season.

The Huskers rolled to a 94-75 victory over Creighton early in non-conference play, and then fell to TCU on Sunday.

“This is a really fun matchup,” Miles said. “It’ll be a fun game. People will want to come watch them.”

The key for TCU will be containing Creighton sophomore guard Mitch Ballock. He is a 3-point threat who is liable to go off at any moment. Heck, he drained 11 3-pointers in a 39-point performance against DePaul earlier this month.

Creighton is a dangerous 3-point shooting team across the board, as its tied for ninth in the country with 10.7 3-pointers a game. TCU has defended the perimeter well this season, limiting opponents to 30.4 percent.

Tickets for Tuesday’s game are $15 and can be purchased through TCU’s athletics website, or by calling 817-257-8425.

Did you know?

TCU is 1-2 all-time against Creighton, winning the lone matchup in Fort Worth. The Frogs won 82-77 on Dec. 4, 2001, a game that featured future NBA player Kyle Korver scoring 25 points for the Bluejays in a losing effort.

TCU was led by Bingo Merriex’s 22 points. Corey Santee, who is a graduate assistant on Dixon’s staff, had a game-high seven assists and also scored 11 points.

Final word

“We can say we should’ve been in the tournament, but it’s better to do something about it. That’s what we plan to do.” -- Dixon on his team’s mindset

The TCU men's basketball team felt it should've been in the NCAA Tournament, but instead settled for the one-seed of the NIT. The Frogs opened by knocking off Sam Houston State on Wednesday night.

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