Deliverance is what I need. No, not the movie, sickos. I need to be set free from TCU men’s basketball because I’ve stopped caring. I am the poster child for everything wrong with roundball Frog fanatics. Jamie Dixon’s men, as I’ve written over the past couple of months, possess glaring deficiencies, which prevents the team from becoming relevant and reputable among the national landscape. Only one big man, inconsistent point-guard play, and overall youth are just a smattering of the reasons followers can’t rely on their Horned hoopers to collect wins week after week in the ultra-competitive Big 12 conference, though it isn’t fair.
I am, although a product and possessor of modest middle-class means, flexing garden variety TCU privilege through my fandom. We expect too much and too quickly. It’s been a lengthy 19 years since our men achieved a winning conference record, which was under head coach Billy Tubbs in the Western Athletic Conference. The purple posse’s next best pre-Dixon mark was an 8-8 conference report card during the Conference USA days with coach Neil Dougherty. Dixon, although working with an almost barren bench, has scraped his way to seven Big 12 wins. Fort Worth’s boys comfortably occupy the seventh spot on the conference ladder, despite being picked preseason to finish dead last. This season’s 7-9 record is better than Dixon’s first season and only two wins shy of last year, when his ballers collected their school’s first tournament invite in 20 seasons, so things really aren’t that bad. We just become more spoiled and entitled to success every season.
Our men fell by 14 points in Austin to the sixth-place Longhorns last Wednesday for the second time this season. I didn’t watch. The stat sheet reveals that the Frogs shot an acceptable field-goal percentage while struggling from long range. UT did not struggle from long range and swished 61 percent of their three balls, a truly dominating figure. It was freeing in a way to disengage from a season riddled with disappointment despite slightly exceeding low expectations. I wasn’t planning to watch our Frogs on Saturday when the 17th-ranked Mountaineers came to town either, but like a jealous ex, I kept an eye on social media and toggled through my ESPN app to check on the boys. It was pretty typical of what diehards have experienced so far: quick runs followed by long offensive droughts from Dixon’s disciples. I comfortably locked my device and took a nap when West Virginia climbed to a 10-point advantage in the latter part of the first half. I stalked them again after being woken by the screams of my toddler, who had also completed his nap. To my surprise, the Froggies sat on a three-point advantage with only minutes remaining. Dixon’s dribblers were hustling to steals and rebounds and displayed the nervous swagger –– yes, that’s a thing –– of a team who believed they could pull an upset. A late defensive rebound and breakaway pass to Frog star Desmond Bane seemed as if it would break what had become a 55-all tie in the closing seconds. Bane took flight toward the rim only to trigger the referee’s whistle, signaling a frustrating offensive foul. Bonus basketball was awarded to those of us who didn’t care to tune in for the entire game. Thankfully, already prominent games by center Kevin Samuel and guard RJ Nembhard continued, and the Frogs outlasted the couch burners 67-60. Bane acted more as a point guard than shooting guard during this game, struggling with only eight points but collecting 10 assists. Samuel seemed back after several weeks of rebounding but not scoring and hit every attempted field goal. The bigger kudos for Samuel was clutch free-throw shooting. The almost 7-footer struggles historically from the bonus stripe but managed five of six attempts on Saturday to aid the upset.
Dixon and company have four games left in the regular season, and only one is winnable from my perspective. The Weekly will go to press as the Frogs visit the frozen Midwest to face Iowa State before games against Baylor, Kansas, and Oklahoma, in that order. Crazier things have happened, but barring our Frogs knocking off the Bears or Jayhawks –– who could both be one-seeds in the NCAA tourney –– we’ll check back in with men’s hoops after the conference tournament, when the NIT seeding arrives. I’ll be paying lots more attention to our Lady Frogs, who just cracked their first Top-25 ranking of the season on Monday and are poised to finish second in the conference.