FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – A week into February, TCU had just pulled out a one-point victory at home and already won six Big 12 games under new coach Jamie Dixon.
The Horned Frogs, who had only six conference wins combined the previous three seasons, were then rightly being projected for a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.
But that bubble has likely burst for TCU (17-13, 6-11 Big 12), which hasn’t won again since beating Texas Tech 62-61 on Feb. 7.
“Certainly we can go win some games in the (Big 12) tournament and that can change everything,” Dixon said. “But we’re not going to win games playing the way we’re playing.”
Dixon returned to his alma mater after last season, when he led Pittsburgh to its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in his 13 years as head coach.
“Simply put, we just aren’t getting it done,” Dixon said of his Frogs. “I’m disappointed. I really believe we’re better than what we play, and I’m trying to instill that in our players. … We have good enough players.”
But without a championship run in next week’s Big 12 Tournament, the Frogs will likely have to wait even longer to have a chance to get their first NCAA Tournament victory since Dixon was a player for them 30 years ago. They have made only that one other NCAA appearance since.
TCU’s current six-game losing streak includes one-point losses at home in each of their last two games.
The Frogs trailed Kansas State by 11 points at halftime Wednesday night, then got within a point five times without being able to tie the game or go ahead in a 75-74 loss.
That was four days after losing 61-60 to 10th-ranked West Virginia, which got the game-winning free throw with 4.8 seconds left after a questionable foul. That was very similar to how TCU got its last victory with 1.4 seconds left against Texas Tech , when the Frogs had won three consecutive conference games for the first time since 2007-08 when in the Mountain West.
“Just not being able to get over the hump,” said Brandon Parrish, one of four TCU seniors. “We’ve been good at times, but in all honesty, over these last five or six games, we haven’t been able to put two halves together. … There’s a lot of young guys on this team. It’s going to hurt. Sometimes the pain helps to learn.”
TCU has a young starting backcourt with true freshman point guard Jaylen Fisher (10.1 points per game) and sophomore Alex Robinson (11.3 ppg), who first went to Texas A&M before transferring to his hometown university and having to sit out last season.
Kenrich Williams, a junior who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is averaging 10 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. The other two starters are sophomores, leading scorer Vladimir Brodziansky (13.7 ppg) from Slovakia and JD Miller.
Before going to the Big 12 Tournament next week, TCU finishes the regular season Saturday at Oklahoma.
“If we want to even have a chance at this thing, we can’t put our heads down for too long,” Parrish said after the latest loss. “We’re going to have to go to Kansas City and literally lay it all on the line, and be better than we’ve been all season. Knowing that pressure’s on, hopefully we’ll find something.”