The nearly two dozen plus TCU fans — if that — to wear purple inside Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night saw a great scene, and an entertaining game.
They just didn’t see the result they wanted.
Because the result for TCU’s basketball team in this Big 12 season continues to rear back and kick the players, coaches and its fans repeatedly in an uncomfortable region.
TCU is discovering that the transition from being an adorable little NIT team to a group that is viewed as a threat to win the Big 12 and make the NCAA Tournament is not going to come without considerable pain and heartbreak.
TCU had an ideal chance to defeat the Big 12’s monster, a weakened bird that has not ruled its own hallowed nest this season. These Kansas Jayhawks ain’t that good, and the Horned Frogs could have had this one.
Alas, No. 10 Kansas defeated TCU on Tuesday 71-64 in a game that looked all too familiar to coach Jamie Dixon and his team.
“We just didn’t get it done,” Dixon said. “We felt good. As I told them in the huddle a couple of times, ‘We have them where we want them to be.’ We had a couple of shots to get ourselves in the lead and we just didn’t do it.”
TCU has a small lineup, but its real problem is that they just are not quite ready to be more than what they are, which is a nice team that can play with good opponents, but not put them away.
Instead of defeating a good team, the Horned Frogs simply had to settle for another painful loss against a quality opponent, and left another arena bemoaning, “Man - we coulda had ’em.”
If you’re doing the math at home ... you know what? Don’t bother. Just know TCU has lost a slew of close games against good teams in a variety of ways.
TCU has come down to the final minute against Texas, Oklahoma (twice), Kansas State, and now Kansas (twice) only to lose them all. Say this, at least the Horned Frogs are consistent.
Every time it looks as if TCU is going to win one of these close games, the same thing happens. They lose.
Against KU, point guard Alex Robinson converted a layup to cut the deficit to 62-60 with 4:20 remaining in the game.
Under normal circumstances, Kansas and its fleet of NBA prospects, and usually help from the refs, pulls away and slams another opponent. But Kansas has lost three games at home already this season, which normally is a fireable offense for a KU head coach.
This team is vulnerable, but despite that fact, after Robinson’s layup, TCU’s offense stunk and the Frogs never could tie the game. Until that point, every time KU went on a run, TCU answered.
TCU led for more than 15 minutes of the game, and actually had a seven point lead.
Late in the game, however, TCU had no answer. TCU scored but four points the remainder of the game.
“We just didn’t it done in the rebounds, and they beat us at the free throw line,” sophomore guard Desmond Bane said. “We have to figure out a way to close out games when we have the chance.”
With an already thin bench, which was hurt by the departure of reserve guard Shawn Olden to injury during the game, that TCU was able to run with Kansas despite bad nights from its two best offensive players says something quasi positive.
Seniors Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams combined to shoot 8-of-26 from the floor.
Considering how the game evolved, and played out from beginning to end, TCU did not necessarily hurt its chances to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Despite a load of close losses in the Big 12, TCU remains in good standing with the NCAA guessers who select the tourney teams.
Depending on which RPI ranking you believe, TCU should go back to the tournament for the first time since 1998. Its currently ranked anywhere from 28th to 31st in the RPI polls.
Nonetheless, Dixon is confident. And concerned.
“Always. The RPI numbers are good because of our scheduled but we have to win these games,” Dixon said. “We know that. No one is [in the tournament] now. We have to win these games down the stretch, and I believe we will.”
In a way-too-early Field of 68 NCAA bracket, ESPN has TCU as the nine seed playing against eighth seeded Florida State. (BTW: The last time TCU made the tournament, its first round opponent was ... Florida State.)
TCU is 16-8 overall and 4-7 in conference. Dixon said he thinks his team must win win eight conference games to expect a bid to the tournament; seven wins will put them in the bubble discussion.
They have seven conference games remaining before the Big 12 tournament.
TCU plays entertaining games. It plays close games. The results just don’t change.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof\