TCU basketball off to a hot start, but real challenges are coming

First year head coach Jamie Dixon has his TCU Horned Frogs strong through 11 games. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
First year head coach Jamie Dixon has his TCU Horned Frogs strong through 11 games. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports /

The TCU men’s basketball team is off to a 10-1 start, but trouble looms ahead with their upcoming schedule.

The TCU Horned Frogs have been here before. Their 10-1 record to begin the season is certainly getting attention, but it’s not the first time they’ve started this well. To understand the context, let’s take a brief look at recent history.

What TCU has done before

To begin the 2012-13 schedule, TCU won nine of their first 13. But, they dropped their Big XII opener to Texas Tech 62-53 and never recovered. What ensued was a 2-16 record in conference play and a first round exit in the Big XII tourney. They ended the season 11-21

In the 2013-14 season, the Horned Frogs started 9-3. That momentum died quickly, though and 18 straight regular season losses followed. Not surprisingly, they dropped the Big XII Conference Tournament opener and missed the NCAA Tournament with a final record of 9-22.

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Then in 2014-15, the Frogs reeled off 13 straight victories to begin the season. But then, Big XII Conference play started with a 78-67 loss at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers. In the games that followed, TCU closed out the regular season by going 4-14 in conference play, followed by a win and a loss in the conference tournament. That left them with a final record of 18-15 and no invitation to “The Dance.”

Yes, it’s a tough history to look back on. Big XII Conference play has not been kind to TCU, with good reason. The Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State and West Virginia have all cracked the top 25 within the past four seasons and played very well. With a list like that inside one conference, someone has to lose. But it’s a new season, and team is ready to make their own history.

What lies ahead for TCU

The #3-ranked Kansas Jayhawks come to Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena on December 30 with what will likely be an 11-1 record. This matchup with one of the NCAA’s basketball powerhouses will provide the best barometer possible for TCU. To this point, the Jayhawks have averaged 88 points per game, which is good for 14th among NCAA Division I teams.

Leading their pack is senior guard Frank Mason III, who currently averages 20.3 points per game. To have success, the Frogs must slow him and his .521 three-point percentage down. While that’s easier said than done, head coach Jamie Dixon will have his squad ready. Of course, Kansas as a team is currently tied for 9th in the nation with a .418 three-point percentage.

Within eight days though, they’ll travel to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on the #11 Mountaineers. They currently boast a 92.6 point per game average and one of college basketball’s best offenses.

While those games certainly don’t paint the entire picture for TCU, they do illustrate the quality of play they’re up against. With out-of-conference play mostly coming to an end now, the Texas Longhorns are the Big XII’s only team not playing above .500 right now. Yet, they’re still 5-5 and can do anything come conference play time.

What this means for TCU

Horned Frog fans should remain cautiously optimistic. While some have toyed with the idea of a Top 25 ranking, that conversation can’t happen without a signature win or two. Those chances will come.

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TCU has done everything they can to this point. It’s unrealistic to expect better than 10-1, but time will ultimately tell where they stand. With freshman guard Jaylen Fisher leading the way, they have the talent to kick it up for conference play. If they can, then it’s going to be a fun season for the Frogs.