It is clear that no matter what happens Wednesday night that the Huskies will become TCU’s biggest fans for the rest of the year. If TCU could make the tournament it would help UW’s resume greatly come tournament selection time. We exchanged some questions with Melissa Triebwasser at the TCU site Frogs O’ War to get some further insight on TCU’s season. Check out my responses to Melissa’s questions on their site as well.
TCU has really struggled in basketball since joining the Big-12. Do you get the sense that this is the year that TCU is finally ready to challenge for a tournament spot or is that still another year away?
It would be nothing short of a miracle if Jamie Dixon was able to turn this program around and make the tournament in year one, and I don't think anyone really expects that to actually happen. That being said, the hot start has brought a lot of hope to Fort Worth, and pushing towards the NCAA Bubble doesn't seem impossible at this point - especially when you consider that the Big 12 regularly sends 6-7 teams to the tourney annually. At the end of the day, making the NIT would be a huge victory in year one for Dixon and the fans - and if he keeps the Frogs in the conversation as a bubble team until late in the season, it's icing on the cake.
I always admired the way new head coach Jamie Dixon's teams played at Pitt. How much of the early season success so far is due to his arrival and how much can be attributed to the natural development of players already on the roster when he arrived?
Dixon brought in a couple players that have had an immediate impact on both ends of the floor in freshmen guards Jaylen Fisher and Desmond Bane. The addition of Alex Robinson, who redshirted last year after transferring from Texas A&M has also been a huge upgrade - but he's not Dixon's guy. The rest of the main contributors are guys that have been around prior to his arrival, and while some of what we have seen has certainly been attributed to the natural development of young players, the returners are playing at such a different level that it's logical to credit Dixon with a good portion of the overall improvement in play. That and the players are just playing harder - on both sides of the ball. They rebound really well at all positions and play a much more aggressive style of defense. The offense is more open and free-flowing, as opposed to the "dribble the air out of the ball" slog fest of the past. Plus, the energy change is palpable. Trent Johnson was a good guy, but I'm hard pressed to say we would be seeing the same success with him at the helm.
Who is the TCU player whose performance has surprised you the most so far and who is the player that you think still has room to grow over the course of the season?
Jaylen Fisher has been a revelation. He was highly touted coming out of high school, but it's so rare that a true freshman point guard shows up at TCU and immediately proves to be the best player on the team and possibly one of the top freshmen in the country. He has such a great feel for the game and exceptional vision; and while he's a great scorer in his own right, he's been more focused on distributing the ball and getting other guys into the game than his own stats. The play of Vladimir Brodziansky has been exceptional was well, as FW has become a formidable presence next to Karviar Shepherd. Lastly, the aforementioned Robinson is such a dynamic scorer who can get hot and pour it in. As far as who we are waiting to see heat up, Karviar Shepherd has never quite reached his advertised talent, as a 6'11" guy who should be averaging a double double nightly, but hasn't quite put it together. I think there's a lot of hope in Fort Worth that Dixon can help him maximize his talent, because there just aren't a lot of big men in the college game that have his skill set.
Was there any area of TCU's performance on Saturday night against Washington that might not be sustainable for a second straight game? Or do you think that TCU has a decided advantage again on Wednesday?
Markelle Fultz getting into foul trouble early is probably not sustainable, and that was a pretty big key. TCU was really good from the foul line, something that hasn't been consistent to this point this year, but with they shooters they have, is hopefully the start of an upward trend. I think the Frogs won because they played really aggressive on the defensive end of the floor, rebounded well, limited their mistakes in big moments, and turned Washington turnovers into points - all things that should be sustainable, if not improved, by playing on their home floor. Ultimately, I think UW has the best player on the floor, and he alone can quiet the crowd, but if the Frogs play good team ball and get everyone involved early, they should win again.