Anyone remember what it was like being a high school student? I do. Well, “remember” is probably a poor word, but I have memories of the hustle and bustle from bell to bell cramming for tests and slapping finishing touches on papers I spent too few hours crafting. In all transparency, I got an “A” in absenteeism my senior year. Sometimes, if I didn’t feel prepared enough for a test or presentation, I’d simply call the school secretaries and assert my inability to attend. This preceded general Bueller-ish activities for the remainder of my day. The most insulting facet of my seemingly brilliant practice was the assignments didn’t simply vanish because I wanted them to or because I’d successfully dodged the due date. The damn things were always waiting for me when I finally returned to the classroom.
I’m not suggesting TCU men’s basketball were calling in sick because they wanted to or that they’d fashioned some elaborate doorbell recording to avoid some of the best teams in the Big 12 when they came knocking, but in essence that’s what happened during this extra-special COVID conference slate. Numerous quarantines didn’t shuttle the Frogs to an inflated record — quite the opposite — but they probably shielded fans from realizing the true horror of how overmatched our purple dribblers are and were this season.
The last time Buck U checked in on men’s basketball, I was asserting they would have just lost to West Virginia — which they did — and would need a final victory against Iowa State to cement a winning record. Coach Jamie Dixon’s disciples did manage to outlast the Cyclones (who won zero conference tips this season) to finish — or so we thought — at 12-10. But, just like those irritating assignments I’d ducked in high school, the makeup work came due. The conference tacked on three ranked opponents this past week. Last Tuesday’s assignment, Texas Tech, proved a pitiful showing with the Frogs floundering against the Raiders by 20 points in their most lopsided loss since their unraveling against Oklahoma in early January.
Thursday’s spat with WVU revived a modicum of respect from this columnist as TCU battled after trailing 14 points at the half to outscore the Mountaineers in the second, led by Jaedon Ledee (#23), who scored 20 and was obviously offended by my proclamation there isn’t a decent forward on the Frogs roster. TCU fell by nine points, but against 6th-ranked West Virginia, that really wasn’t shameful.
To finish the season, our boys hosted 15th-ranked UT at home for one last go on Sunday. In a result that surprised no one, four-fifths of the Longhorn starting lineup finished with double-digit points, and Texas cruised to an easy 12-point victory.
TCU’s final grade before the conference tournament begins this Wednesday is now 12-13, the first losing record of Dixon’s tenure. It’s true that our Frogs would normally play more pre-conference games and travel to low-level tournaments to skew these numbers in a favorable direction. My counter for the aforementioned rationalization would be, and is, that our boys escaped their typical conference gauntlet despite this week’s slate of reassessment. Dixon and company faced the 3rd-ranked-Big-12-champion Baylor only once and 18th-ranked Texas Tech once. I don’t care how many shot-glass-half-full vibes you emit or times you’ve read The Secret, those games that never were would have both been losses and likely embarrassing ones.
One guaranteed tip remains for TCU this season, against Kansas State in the first contest of the Big 12 conference tournament on Wednesday evening. KSU and TCU split games this season, Fort Worth’s warriors taking the first meeting — a seven-point win — just after the new year. The Wildcats won Part Deux with an eight-point victory in late February. The inevitable fate awaiting whichever purple-hued team wins is decimation at the paws of Baylor — who are red hot and eyeing a national championship run — the following afternoon.
The sun has set on what has been a dark season for our hardwood Horned Frogs. However, if you’re feeling especially optimistic, you’re free to throw down some cash on TCU to win the entire tournament and earn themselves an automatic bid to the big dance. You’ll make $150 for every George Washington you bet should the Toads accomplish the impossible. Alas, winning this extra-long shot gamble is the only way you’ll see Fort Worth’s finest at a notable postseason tournament, unless, of course, our players decide to drive to watch the NIT, which will be hosted for only 16 teams — with winning records — in nearby Frisco and Denton.