FORT WORTH, Texas - While SMU is ranked No. 23 with its second-year head coach in Larry Brown, and is in its refurbished building, TCU continues to struggle with its second-year head coach, Trent Johnson.
As expected, Brown's name helped him land some stellar recruits, such as McDonald's All-American Keith Frazier last season and most recently Prime Prep's Emmanuel Mudiay, who will attend next season. It helps, too, that SMU plays in the American Athletic Conference, which ain't the Big 12. Make no mistake - SMU would be miles ahead of TCU regardless of conference affiliation.
Trent Johnson has landed quality recruits, most notably freshman Karviar Shepherd, but TCU is a minimum of two years away from being able to make a dent in this conference. Johnson deserves more patience, but so far the results have been just about as painful as expected when a school not known for basketball jumped into a brutal basketball league.
The first picture was a few minutes into a game that TCU tried to pack the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on Wednesday night - a 91-58 loss against Baylor. At this point, it is hard not to feel bad for everyone involved in this program, from the players to the coaches and support staff. In its second season in the Big 12, TCU is 9-14, and 0-11 in the Big 12.
The Frogs are actually worse than its first season in the conference, when they pulled upsets against Kansas and Oklahoma. But that team had the benefit of a few seniors, whereas this team is thin, small and young.
This current team has not been healthy, or lucky. They are playing with only eight scholarship players, and a strong case can be made not all of these players are Big 12 caliber. Guard Charles Hill Jr. has been "sidelined" with academic problems. Injuries to Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley knocked out two bodies. Transfers Chris Washburn and Trey Ziegler are not eligible.
And despite the hype surrounding the arrival of Hudson Price, Shepherd and Brandon Parrish, they're raw, skinny, freshmen. They're not Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle or Tyler Ennis.
Not helping things is the reality that the team will not play on campus next season as Daniel-Meyer Coliseum is scheduled to be re-modeled; the Frogs will play in the Fort Worth Convention Center, or - according to the Star-Telegram's Stefan Stevenson, the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center (a high school gym). If people weren't going to the home games now, they will definitely not be going next season.
TCU is one of the most difficult jobs in the nation. The program has been to two NCAA tournaments since 1987; this will be its 10th losing season in the last 12 years.
Johnson has a few pieces who can play, but he needs a lot more, and likely a special one, to have a real shot. Because diretor of athletics Chris Del Conte hired Johnson, he will be given every opportunity to prove he can do this. It's going to take more time, and a few more losses.
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