Two years ago, the TCU Horned Frogs stomped their way through the NIT, and won the whole thing. Outside of an overtime road win over Iowa, Jamie Dixon’s squad unleashed unholy hell on the field, blowing opponents out.
So the Frogs have been here before. For Texas, the NIT is something that hasn’t figured prominently into program plans in several decades.
These teams know each other. TCU is 2-0 over the Texas Longhorns this season, winning once in Fort Worth, and then closing out the season with a victory in Austin where Shaka Smart’s squad put up a real stinker.
But those games don’t matter at this point. Both teams have a chance to extend their season by a game, and send a rival packing back to Texas.
The Horned Frogs have been rolling again this postseason, posting three double-digit victories. The No. 1 seed beat Sam Houston State in an opening round before going on to defeat the entire state of Nebraska, but dropping the Cornhuskers and Creighton in back-to-back games.
The win over Nebraska involved an offensive explosion by Desmond Bane, who dropped 30 points and put an end to the Tim Miles era in Lincoln. The victory over the Greg McDermott’s Bluejays was more of a grinder, but TCU can now say it has beaten two coaches who have been replaced by Fred Hoiberg in consecutive games. It’s a good thing that Tom Thibodeau doesn’t coach Texas.
The Longhorns have to figure out how to match up with TCU shooters in transition, with Desmond Bane and Kouat Noi being the two most troublesome ones. And Texas needs to find away to contain these same shooters in the Frog’s spread pick and roll game, which is expertly piloted by senior point guard Alex Robinson.
The Longhorns have played spirited, if not necessarily brilliant, basketball through the first three rounds of the NIT. While spirited play may not necessarily be sufficient for tonight, it will surely be an improvement over the last time Texas faced TCU.
The game tips in Madison Square Garden at 8:30 PM CST, and airs on ESPN.