One Burning Question: What’s In Store For Jamie Dixon’s First Season at TCU?

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2016

TCU was woefully unprepared to compete in the Big 12 when the school jumped over from the Mountain West in 2012. Schollmaier Arena wasn’t in any kind of condition to attract the talent necessary to compete, and the hiring of Trent Johnson instead of a hungrier coach on the rise always seemed like a suspect move. TCU subsequently learned the hard way — in the form of an 8-64 league record over Johnson’s four seasons — that it needed to make serious investments in order to compete. After a $72 million renovation of its facility and the foresight to sense that Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh were growing tired of each other, those investments have now been made. The upcoming season won’t define Dixon’s tenure at TCU, but with seven of last year’s nine rotation players returning, a top-50 recruiting class, and a promising transfer eligible in December, a solid foundation exists in Fort Worth for TCU to climb out of the Big 12 cellar.

TCU brought their man home. Is Big 12 relevance next for the Horned Frogs?. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

TCU brought their man home. Is Big 12 relevance next for the Horned Frogs? (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Backcourt: This is a group that has some potential, but it’s tough to see how the pieces fit together. Malique Trent is the team’s leading returning scorer at 11.6 points per game, but those points came on a paltry 38.9 percent shooting, including 25.2 percent from distance. Freshman Jaylen Fisher, who the Horned Frogs pried away from UNLV, is the prize of TCU’s recruiting class. He’s a play-making point guard rather than an attacker, but with a lack of high-level weapons around him, it may take some time before the team can fully capitalize on his skill set. The Horned Frogs should also get a boost from point guard Alex Robinson, who transferred over from Texas A&M when Trent Johnson was still coach and maintained his commitment through the transition. He won’t be eligible to play until after the fall semester ends, but he’ll be able to help Fisher shoulder the workload and give defenses a different look as a lefty.

Frontcourt: It’s difficult to overstate the impact that injuries had on keeping this group from performing last season. Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn and Kenrich Williams missed a combined 48 games, but they’ll be much more formidable this year if they can stay out of the training room. Shepherd was once one of the country’s more promising big men, but back problems have significantly limited his ability to contribute. Williams, a junior wing, had a solid 2014-15 season but missed all of last year with a knee injury, while Washburn sat out 11 games last year with a broken pinky. Vladimir Brodziansky had no such issues with health issues and was one of TCU’s few bright spots in 2016, providing dependability on close looks and rim protection. Brodziansky also flashed surprising handles and occasional range out to the three-point line at 6’11”. I like the upside of this group if they can stay healthy, but that’s a big if.

Once the crown jewel of Trent Johnson's first full recruiting class at TCU, Karviar Shepherd (now wearing #32 for 2015-16) must overcome a disappointing 2014-15 and become a reliable force for the Horned Frogs. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Once the crown jewel of Trent Johnson’s first full recruiting class at TCU, Karviar Shepherd must overcome a disappointing career and become a reliable force for the Horned Frogs. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Schedule: After opening the season with a few easy home dates, the Horned Frogs will travel to Las Vegas for the Global Sports Classic where they’ll play UNLV and either Markelle Fultz’s Washington team or Western Kentucky. In a weird twist of scheduling, they could end up playing the Huskies twice since they have a pre-scheduled date with them again the following week. The only other notable non-conference game for TCU is a home tilt against rebuilding SMU. One of the great things about Big 12 basketball is how the double round-robin format balances each team’s schedule, but Dixon can’t be too happy with the sequence the league gave TCU this season. The Horned Frogs open conference play with home games against Kansas and Oklahoma before playing five of their next seven contests on the road.

Bottom Line: This team is still at least a year away from competing for an NCAA Tournament bid, but as far as this year goes, I’m higher on them than the league coaches are, especially if they find a way to stave off the injury bug. Even if they can’t, though, the Horned Frogs’ roster and sideline upgrades should be enough to escape the Big 12 basement in a down season for the league.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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