New TCU Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon told us.
We didn’t believe him, and probably still don’t for that matter, but the former Pitt head coach very literally told anyone who would listen to him that expectations are to win “right now” in his first year with a program that is more synonymous with being a Big 12 cellar-dweller than one that starts 6-0.
“A lot of guys will come in and say, ‘Give me a few years so I can get my guys. Give me some time to bring in more talent.’ I have my guys,” Dixon told FanRag Sports back in October. “They just need someone to help push them in the right direction. These guys are mine, and we’re ready to win now. They’re good enough now.”
It was actually refreshing to hear a coach not temper expectations. Generally speaking, most coaches — specifically ones with a high profile — will go out of their way to tell you about all the hurdles he and his program will have to overcome before winning anything.
Not Dixon. At least not him heading back to the university for which he once played.
While Dixon was out raising the bar, we (media, fans, etc.) were on the outside looking in. Even with hindsight available to us, it is sincerely astonishing to think that a Horned Frogs team that won all of 12 games last season already has 6.
If we are to be a bit honest about the start, we have to acknowledge that TCU hasn’t exactly knocked off solely blue-blood level programs. Yes, solid UNLV and Washington squads fell victim to Dixon’s shockingly positive start to the 2016-17 season, but other victories came against programs such as something called the St. Thomas (TX) Celts, Alabama State Hornets, Illinois State Redbirds, and Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
You can see why — after all, I mean, Bama State Hornets? — some will want to remain tempering all things TCU related to this specific basketball season.
Nevertheless, a question lingers: How in the hell has he managed to take what was projected to be a ragtag group of leftovers from a program of horrific standing and win games? Even if he was able to bring in some quality newcomers?
The answer so far has been balance.
Dixon has 10 guys (though slightly misleading due to injuries) averaging over 12 minutes per game. For what it is worth, for those invested in TCU’s future, only two of those talents are seniors.
He’s also overseeing four different guys averaging in double-figures per outing, with four others averaging over 8 points per game, all while the team is collectively shooting 49 percent from the floor (44th best in the nation) and a stunningly solid 38 percent from beyond the arc.
Being a Dixon coached team, TCU is — naturally — also sharing the ball well (36th in total assists), playing the sort of brutally physical defense that became Pitt’s identity under the coach (only allowing 66 per game), and the fact the Horned Frogs are scoring — regardless of the competition — 82.5 points per outing is an incredible harbinger of what can possibly await the program when more naturally gifted players come to the university.
The latter talking point should be the key to whatever discussions we have about TCU this season. To be rather blunt about it, there are very few scenarios in which the Horned Frogs can keep up this sort of play heading into and through Big 12 play, so everything done well — or even just improved upon relative to last season — during this voyage should be consumed as bonus points to the better tomorrow most expected it take Dixon a few seasons in accomplishing.
But as for right now, before the fat man is even thinking about climbing down your chimney to give you toys, TCU basketball is already halfway to their win total from last season, are playing a well-rounded brand of basketball, and it appears as though the jump from Pitt to TCU has not only refreshed Jamie Dixon from an attitude standpoint, but turned him into a man willing to play a variety of brands of basketball he seemed unwilling to attempt at his first coaching stop.
It would be nice to say “TCU is on its way back” to being relevant, but it truly never arrived in the first place. While six games doesn’t inherently make a program arrive, it isn’t a shabby start. Now, let’s just see what else Dixon, TCU, and the band of “his guys” has in store for us for the rest of the season.
Without getting too hyperbolic, it is probably time to at least stop betting against TCU or Dixon’s expectations for the Horned Frogs.