With the NCAA's giant party coming to North Texas for the Final Four, this is a good time to remind both of my readers that the local team in FW once qualified for said NCAA tournament. This is when TCU was actually considered a basketball school.
In 1997-'98, TCU finished the regular season 27-5, and ranked 15th in the country. The Horned Frogs swept the WAC regular season with a loaded team featuring Mike Jones, Malcolm Johnson, James Penny and Lee Nailon.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Prairie View
No. 8 Rhode Island v. No. 9 Murray State
No. 5 TCU v. No. 12 Florida State
No. 4 Ole Miss v. No. 13 Valparaiso
On the first day, Valpo shocked Ole Miss 70-69 on Bryce Drew's now famous 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Almost immediately TCU and its players were pretty sure it was going to make the Sweet 16.
"I actually knew Bryce really well. We grew up together and I beat him in the (Indiana) state finals in the Hoosier Dome," Nailon said in a phone interview this week. "We all went in thinking we were going to win and play Valpo'."
Unfortunately, despite a large TCU contigent present for the game, the Frogs' never could pull away from a big, and athletic, Florida State team. The game was tied 46 at the half.
"I thought we had the game but I remember when I fouled out with about five minutes to go and they got us," Nailon said. "We got nervous. It was just one of those games that nobody was playing very well but me. It was a game where nobody could find the basket. I carried us, to be honest. We just closed the tent."
Nailon is not being arrogant - he finished with 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting with eight rebounds. TCU's pair of guards - Mike Jones and Malcolm Johnson - were a combined 9-of-29, and the Frogs were out-rebounded 40 to 29.
TCU ended up losing 83-77. That was the last time TCU made the NCAA tournament, and the high point of Billy Tubbs' tenure at the school.
"The thing I remember about that game was the amount of media that were there," Nailon said. "To me, every game was the same. It was another game. You still have to play your best. But it was a great experience because it did help prepare me for the NBA (he played six seasons) in the sense there were so much media there."
In hindsight, TCU was never going anywhere in this bracket as all of the high seeds were eliminated. Valpo defeated Florida State in the Round of 32 to reach the Sweet 16, and No. 8 Rhode Island upset top-seeded Kansas.
It was a disappointing end to a great season for a team that, briefly, turned a football school into a basketball school.
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