TCU’s Jamie Dixon On NCAA Tournament: ‘It’s Been Our Goal All Along’

    Jamie Dixon arrived at TCU to take over a struggling program. But the first-year Horned Frogs head coach has stabilized the team and has it in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth.

    February 22, 2017

    Jamie Dixon arrived at TCU to take over a struggling program. But the first-year Horned Frogs head coach has stabilized the team and has it in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth.

    Roughly 11 months ago, Jamie Dixon left a safe job as head coach at Pitt to assume the same role at his alma mater, TCU, where he replaced Trent Johnson following a tenure that produced just eight Big 12 wins in the last four seasons.

    For Dixon, following his heart has paid immediate dividends.

    Despite the 51-year-old California native being under contract with Pitt until 2023, the pull of heading up his alma mater was too strong to pass up despite the prospect of taking over a program that went 8-64 in Big 12 games since moving to the league in Johnson’s first season.

    As we head toward the waning days of the 2016-17 regular season, Dixon has proven to be the perfect tonic for a squad that went 12-21 overall and 2-16 in the league last season.

    Dixon, whose Panthers had two 31-win seasons and went to the Sweet 16 three times in his first six years, was a four-year letterman for the Horned Frogs and starting senior guard in the school’s most recent NCAA tournament victory. TCU beat Marshall in the first round of the 1987 tourney before losing to Notre Dame.

    Now, in his first season back in Fort Worth, Dixon is just two wins away from tying the number of conference wins the Frogs had in their previous four seasons combined. And, with a strong finish, TCU (17-10, 6-8 Big 12) could be back on the national stage in the NCAA Tournament.

    TCU head coach Jamie Dixon has stabilized the program. (Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports)

    “It’s been our goal all along, since the day I got here,” Dixon told Campus Insiders this week. “I told them, ‘We need to get to the Tournament.’ That’s our goal. It sounded a little outrageous to some here. A few people told me to slow down. But I believe that we can do it. And if I didn’t believe, then how could they believe? So we’ve gone with that mentality. We know we’re a team that people have ‘in’ right now, but we have a lot of games left and have to finish strong down the stretch.

    “There’s work to be done, there’s no question. Everybody has to do something in these last [few] games and in the conference tournaments. But we feel like we haven’t gotten to our best basketball yet.”

    A big test certainly awaits the Horned Frogs on Wednesday night, as they travel to Lawrence to take on a Kansas team that is on pace to win its 13th consecutive Big 12 title—a ridiculous accomplishment for the standard-bearer of the league.

    After a three-game win streak—on the heels of a four-game skid—that put the Horned Frogs in a real good position to potentially land an NCAA bid, they dropped three in a row to make their current situation tenuous. A win at Allen Fieldhouse, though, would go a long way toward keeping that bubble from bursting. Consistency, however, has been lacking in a conference that is one of the strongest in the country.

    “We’ve faced a lot of ranked [teams] in this league, and that’s what we signed up for as part of the Big 12,” Dixon said. “We look at it as probably the best conference in the country, either No. 1 or No. 2, when you look at the ACC and the results in the Big 12.

    “We just have to find a way to get a little better defensively. That’s what we’re trying to get across…We have to guard better.”

    The frustrating part for Dixon and his staff is that shooting hasn’t been the issue as of late. In the team’s latest loss, an 84-71 setback to Iowa State, TCU shot 52.7 percent from the floor. Over 46 percent of its attempts went down in a three-point defeat to Oklahoma State the previous game. So defending has been the main culprit.

    However, while multiple scoring weapons have stepped up this year, Dixon believes the offense still has room to grow in order to be in sync for the stretch run. Six players—Desmond Bane, JD Miller, Jaylen Fisher, Kenrich Williams, Alex Robinson and Vladimir Brodziansky—average at least 7.2 points per game.

    “It’s interesting because we’ve had different guys [step up] throughout the year,” Dixon explained. “We’ve kind of gone in stretches, where one guy has been a little bit more of a factor than the other guy. It’d be nice to get everybody together and shooting it well for a couple games in a row. I feel like we’re almost there. Offensively, we’ve made some good strides in the last couple of games.

    “We do have a number of guys that could put the ball in the basket. We space it pretty well, and we pass the ball pretty well for a team that came together late in the process—with injuries, new guys, new coaching staff and a new system. So I feel like offensively we’ve done some good things and put ourselves in a good position.”

    Is a collective effort—complete with balanced scoring and enough defensive stops—on the horizon?

    After the very difficult test at Kansas, TCU comes home to play West Virginia. A big win in the next two may be needed unless the Frogs go on a run in the conference tournament.

    Whether the 2016-17 season ends in an NCAA or NIT berth, though, it’s clear that the program is in great hands moving forward under the helm of the former player who was inducted into the TCU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. This year, the Frogs began play in their new campus arena, which included new locker rooms and team meeting rooms. Such luxuries go a long way toward sustained success in a program, especially when its head coach has seen greener pastures before.

    And he intends to see them again.

    MORE: USC, Cal Struggling To Secure NCAA Tournament Berths In Top-Heavy Pac-12


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