Possible TCU Addition: Doomsday Scenario for Big 12 Hoops?

Posted by dnspewak on October 10th, 2011

Big 12 football fans are salivating at the league’s invitation to Texas Christian, which has appeared in two straight BCS bowl games and has cemented itself as a national power during the past decade or so.  With 17 conference titles and NFL stars like LaDainian Tomlinson roaming around, the invitation makes logical and economic sense for all parties involved.

Those Are Known as Empty Seats

There’s just one problem, though: the hoops aspect. The addition of TCU looks like a disastrous scenario for the Big 12 in the short-term. Forget for a moment even the lack of history for the Horned Frogs (and, just a warning, there’s not much). The larger problem is the current state of TCU hoops, which, to put it nicely, can only be described as having “fallen on hard times.” In three years, coach Jim Christian has never finished above .500, and his team limped to a 1-15 record in Mountain West play a year ago. As a whole, the program hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998, back when Billy Tubbs coached the team, and it has not finished with a winning record in its league since 2001.

TCU’s arena holds less than 8,000 fans, and the school’s enrollment is less than 10,000 students. And, as for that history? TCU has produced just one first-round NBA Draft pick: Kurt Thomas in 1995. It hasn’t advanced past the second round since 1968, the only year it ever reached the Elite Eight. In almost every way, the Horned Frogs’ basketball program is a misfit for the Big 12.

When Colorado and Nebraska left the Big 12, the league’s basketball profile skyrocketed by ridding the conference of two perennial bottom-feeders. But the arrival of TCU would probably hurt the Big 12 more than either of those schools would have by staying. Those two programs aren’t powerhouses by any means, but they’ve both got some decent history: CU has made two Final Fours, and Nebraska was a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament under Danny Nee (although it still has never won a game in the Big Dance). More recently, Doc Sadler at least kept his team modestly competitive during his time in the Big 12, and Colorado narrowly missed the NCAAs last season. The Buffaloes also won a decent amount of games under Ricardo Patton, and, of course, sent Chauncey Billups to the NBA in the late 90s.

TCU can’t match that, but let’s at least be fair for a moment. Given five years or so, perhaps high school basketball players from the state of Texas would flock to TCU because of its newfound Big 12 status. A jump to a power conference with more exposure would help Christian’s program, and there’s a chance he could turn it into a winner with more resources. After all, Baylor did just that, and the Bears have a similar profile to the Horned Frogs as a relatively small school with less to work with on the basketball side. It did take 15 years– including the Patrick Dennehy scandal in 2003– for Baylor to finally win, but Scott Drew found a way to battle against the obstacles.

So it’s not impossible. But if TCU accepts a Big 12 invitation, and all indications are that it will, the next few years on the hardwood won’t look so pretty.

dnspewak (343 Posts)


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