Mac Engel

Hoops coaches dictate power shift between SMU and TCU

Jamie Dixon’s Frogs are 8-0 and even received some votes in the AP Top 25 poll this week.
Jamie Dixon’s Frogs are 8-0 and even received some votes in the AP Top 25 poll this week. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Now that TCU’s football season has mercifully come to a conclusion, complete with a “You’re all in, or you’re out” rant to the no-show fans from the head ball coach himself, perhaps they’ll show up for the basketball team.

Considering how bad TCU basketball has been for, well ... pretty much since Dr. Naismith nailed up that peach basket, that’s not always a good bet.

Whereas fan apathy for TCU football reeks of entitlement, such behavior toward the basketball team is warranted; we are talking about what has been the worst Power 5 team in the nation this century. The previous century wasn’t great, either.

Alas, pay attention, class — with a renovated facility completed and coach Jamie Dixon in place, Frogs basketball is about to be relevant and bypass SMU to make this rivalry of the revenue sports a one-sided joke.

Horned Frogs coach weighs in on TCU's 18-0 run that erased an early 17-point deficit in an 86-71 win over Washington. Video by Jimmy Burch

In football it has not been close this century.

Start with the sidelines and go from there.

TCU plays at SMU on Wednesday night in Dallas, and all signs point to TCU ending its four-game losing streak in this series. The only reason this may not happen is SMU forward Semi Ojeleye, a transfer from Duke.

But the arrival of Dixon combined with the departure of Larry Brown is the reason this shift will happen.

It’s been everything and more.

Jamie Dixon on his experience at TCU since he arrived earlier this year

With all due respect to Brown’s replacement as SMU head coach, Tim Jankovich, God only made one Larry Brown; when he was done, God said, “I’m not doing this again.”

What Brown did at SMU in his four years is one of the great coaching jobs in the modern era; granted, he broke the rules, but those are trivial developments.

LB pulled an LB when he predictably quit on SMU in the off-season after four successful years that included the inevitable NCAA Tournament berth and equally predestined NCAA sanctions. Regardless of the NCAA penalties, it was still a good hire.

We are talking about a team that had been irrelevant for decades, just like TCU.

Brown’s departure from SMU, and most likely the sport all together, is a major loss for the game. He was the oddest of oddest duck, but the man could coach his sport like few others ever could.

Neither Jankovich nor Dixon will ever be confused for Larry Brown, but the balance in basketball between the two schools will shift because Brown is gone and TCU with Dixon simply has more to sell.

SMU has won seven of the last 10 games against TCU, including four in a row.

Sitting in his new office at the posh, renovated basketball complex, Dixon said Monday, “The conference, the facility, the school — and I can sell what this place did for me (when he played there in the ’80s). ... So far, this has been everything and more.”

He has the additional luxury of telling recruits he’s not going anywhere. Despite the repeated contract extensions Dixon signed at Pitt, the rumor was he was always gone.

“People believe I’m going to stay here,” he said.

The Horned Frogs' players spoke about their new coach before their first basketball practice. Video by Matthew Martinez.

TCU has not exactly played a schedule consisting of Duke, Kentucky or Kansas, but the Frogs are 8-0 in Dixon’s first season. TCU is one of 12 undefeated teams in Division I basketball at the moment.

The team received 40 votes in the latest AP Top 25 poll, which for this program is like reaching a Final Four. If TCU can win its next two games, there is an excellent chance it will be a Top 25 team.

TCU is one of only 12 undefeated teams in the NCAA this season as of this past Saturday night. The other unbeaten teams are: Villanova, Baylor, Creighton, UCLA, Gonzaga, Butler, Saint Mary’s, South Carolina, USC, Notre Dame and Texas A&M-CC.

Former coach Trent Johnson left Dixon with a few players, most notably Texas A&M transfer guard Alex Robinson, forwards JD Miller and Kenrich Williams. Dixon also was able to bring in a few players himself, namely point guard Jaylen Fisher. Fisher may be the most talented player to ever sign with the program.

The one thing TCU has not consistently had is an upper-tier conference scorer; Fisher and Robinson should at least be able to create shots, and Williams was a major find for Johnson until he suffered a knee injury.

None of this means TCU will finish in the upper half of the Big 12 this season. TCU was, again, picked to finish dead last in the preseason conference poll.

A lot is going to have to go right, but 18 wins and an invite to the NIT are both plausible.

For the first time in a long time, it’s all there to be envisioned, and actually a possibility.

For the first time in a long time, TCU fans will have something to look forward to after football season.

The announced attendance at Amon G. Carter Stadium Saturday was 42,746, but not all of those fans made it to their seats. Video by Matthew Martinez.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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