The bad news for TCU is that five plays left via transfer, there are nine new faces on the roster and only five players return from last season’s NIT semifinalist. The good news is that one of those departures wasn’t coach Jamie Dixon.
A native of Southern California, Dixon was a top target in UCLA’s coaching search but the school tried to hire on the cheap and was unwilling to buy out Dixon’s TCU contract. That meant Dixon would remain at his alma mater, where in his first season the Frogs won the NIT and in Year Two returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 seasons.
Dixon’s fourth season in Fort Worth is a mystery without many clues. The roster hasn’t gone through a complete makeover, but it’s close.
“Nine new players is a lot even in today’s game,” Dixon said. “It’s just the way college basketball is these days. At the same time the league is wide open. So many teams are bringing in about the same amount of new players.”
Top 3 story lines
Bane: Remember the name. Senior Desmond Bane will need to be a superhero if TCU has any hopes of avoiding the bottom of the standings. The 6-foot-5 wing considered leaving for the NBA Draft; evaluators encouraged him to work on expanding his game beyond his accurate 3-point shooting (42.8 percent in his career). He averaged just two free throw attempts per game. Attacking off the dribble and getting to the line more frequently is a priority.
Finding a point guard. Alex Robinson was under 6-feet tall and was a below-average shooter. But for three seasons, his ability to create and find open teammates was a major reason the Horned Frogs had success. Finding his replacement will be crucial. Sophomore R.J. Nembhard started eight games last season is the top candidate, but freshman Francisco Farabello has lots of international experience and will probably see playing time.
Who can score? Sophomore center Kevin Samuel joins Bane as a returning starter. As a freshman, the 6-foot-11 Samuel was a rebounder and shot blocker but averaged just 7.4 points per game. Grad transfers Jaire Grayer (George Mason) and Edric Dennis (UT-Arlington) were both double-figure scorers last season. They’ll need to at least match that against tougher competition.
Number to know
TCU has won 68 games the last three seasons. That’s the best three-year run for the program since the Frogs won 70 under Billy Tubbs from 1997-99.
Reasons to hope
Bane can be a dominant scorer and Samuel is a force inside. Dixon has had success with teams that have relied on those sorts of duo building blocks.
Reasons to doubt
Expecting Bane to put up 20-plus per night, especially in Big 12 play, is asking too much. There are too many new faces that need to be mixed and sustaining a high-level of play to produce significant league wins is not feasible.
KenPom.com preseason rank: 46.
Also, be sure to follow the ClutchPoints NCAA Facebook page for more great college basketball, recruiting, original analysis and whatever other kinds of discussion. Even more on the TCU Horned Frogs and Jamie Dixon. We’re also on Twitter over here. Give us a follow.
You can also follow the official college basketball podcast for ClutchPoints, Cutting The Net, over on SoundCloud here.