By Jeff Wilson
Frogs Today senior writer
No one really wanted to admit it at the time. To do so would be disrespectful to the opponent and put negative thoughts in players’ minds.
Frankly, though, the TCU men were tired Saturday at West Virginia, which snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating the Horned Frogs as they played their seventh game in 14 days.
The Frogs competed, but started the regular-season finale slowly and didn’t have enough juice at the end.
But that was five days ago. A lot can happen in five days, and some stars have aligned for TCU as it heads into the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
The Frogs open play at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal matchup against No. 4 seed Texas.
“We obviously didn’t end the conference how we wanted to, but it’s a new season,” said guard Mike Miles Jr., a second-time All-Big 12 selection. “Everyone is 0-0. Everyone is starting fresh in this conference. We’re going into Kansas City and trying to play our best basketball.”
The season actually ending and earning the No. 5 seed in the tournament have served TCU well.
The Frogs actually had consecutive days without a game. What a concept. They also did not have to play Wednesday in the play-in game, which afforded them an extra day’s rest.
Miles, the Frogs’ leading scorer, was able to receive extra treatment for his injured wrists. Emanuel Miller and Francisco Farabello, who weren’t a full-strength against West Virginia, had an opportunity to heal up.
TCU was so short on healthy players Monday that they were unable to practice. The days off were a godsend.
“We needed it a lot,” Miles said. “I feel like everyone was tired going into that last road trip. I feel like it showed against West Virginia. That was a hard, tough stretch for us down to the end. These four days off have been huge for us.”
TCU will be playing Texas for the third time this season, and the theory in sports is that it’s difficult to beat a team three times in the same season.
The Frogs are very familiar with the Longhorns, who are excellent defensively. TCU lost the first matchup at home as Texas’ defense swarmed in a 73-50 win. The Frogs led by 10 in the second half last month in August before Texas stormed back for a 75-66 win.
Texas, ranked No. 22 by the Associated Press, is an older team. Coach Jamie Dixon remembers being on the lookout for Texas guard Marcus Carr while at Pitt before Carr committed there and then transferred to the Longhorns.
Texas was one of four ranked opponents the Frogs played in their closing seven-game stretch. Five of the games — they played Kansas twice in three days — were against ranked teams.
“And we didn’t complain,” Dixon said. “We went out and we won big games, and we battled in every game that we had. So, I like what we’ve done.”
Dixon believes the Frogs (19-11, 8-10) have clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament based on finishing fifth in the Big 12, which he touts as the best conference in the country. Each win in the Big 12 tournament would improve the Frogs’ seeding for March Madness.
He has also watched TCU bounce back after difficult stretches this season. He expects no less Thursday against Texas (21-10, 10-8).
“We’re battling amongst the best and we’ve got an opportunity to play the 4-5 game,” Dixon said. “I love this team. I love what we’re doing, and I know we’re going to respond after the loss Saturday.”
Jeff Wilson, email@example.com