TCU men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon reflects on the significance of the Frogs' run to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament and impressing postseason tournament berth (likely NIT). Both were much-needed in efforts to elevate the program. Video by Jimmy Burch jburch@star-telegram.com
TCU men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon reflects on the significance of the Frogs' run to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament and impressing postseason tournament berth (likely NIT). Both were much-needed in efforts to elevate the program. Video by Jimmy Burch jburch@star-telegram.com

Gil LeBreton

In its revival season, TCU earned the right to keep dancing

By Gil LeBreton

glebreton@star-telegram.com

March 12, 2017 10:48 PM

UPDATED March 13, 2017 12:44 AM

No, it’s not the big dance.

But if you haven’t heard the music in more than 10 years, you dance.

You dance in Iowa, if you have to.

You dance all the way to New York.

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There is history in the National Invitation Tournament, college basketball’s NIT. There are black and white YouTubes of men smoking cigars in old Madison Square Garden, watching Dayton and CCNY play.

Walt Frazier played in the NIT. Ralph Sampson did the NIT, as did Reggie Miller and Pete Maravich.

TCU’s postseason basketball memories are so sparse, alas, it’s easy to remember them all. The Horned Frogs’ first NIT journey ended on a raw, snow-covered night in Lincoln, Neb., with Cornhuskers fans singing New York, New York.

Three times TCU has fallen one win short of making it to the NIT semifinals in the Big Apple.

In this season of surprising revival, why not the Frogs?

Less than a week after upsetting the No.1 team in college basketball on a court 40 miles from its campus, the Frogs were quasi-rewarded with an NIT No. 4 seed Sunday night. They deserved better, but the seedings for postseason basketball have a way of all working out in the end.

Coach Jamie Dixon’s team is in a bracket with similar teams from similar conferences that finished similarly near the .500 mark.

Did any of the others beat Kansas? No, so enjoy the ride.

There was hope at TCU that the Frogs had earned, at least, a No. 2 seeding, guaranteeing them two home games, as long as they win. But 8,500-seat Schollmaier Arena, while marvelously remodeled, is no Carrier Dome.

The NIT still covets the seats.

Gone apparently are the days when an athletic director could slip a little somethin’-somethin’ (wink, wink) the NIT’s way and be rewarded with a couple of rounds of home games. But the tournament still wants a large and passionate audience for its early-round games.

Plus, TCU students are on spring break this week. Their ranks — and voices — will be missed.

When Jim Killingsworth’s Frogs lost to Moe Iba’s Nebraska team in 1983, there was no NIT bracket sheet, as we now know it. Early-round pairings often presented wry twists.

This year’s whoopee cushion was saved for Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim. Less than a week after disparaging the village of Greensboro, N.C., for being less of a tournament host than Washington or Manhattan, the committee matched the Orangemen against North Carolina-Greensboro.

“You guys are smarter than we are,” committee chairman Reggie Minton told the smirking ESPN commentators. “We didn’t even have that in our minds.”

True, the teams these days are all seeded. TCU’s path to Madison Square Garden is plotted in advance.

After a season of remarkable strides under Dixon, the chance remains for TCU basketball to take yet-another giant step.

The NIT is not just the Not Invited Tournament any more. It’s not just a consolation prize.

But if you haven’t heard the music in nearly 20 years, you treat it as a basketball coming-out party.

You show the Fresnos and the Iowas what all the shouting in Fort Worth this season was about.

You dance.

TCU NIT tickets

NIT tickets are on sale for $20 for reserved seating and $5 for groups of 20 or more people. Group tickets can be purchased by calling 817-257-TICK. Season ticket holders wishing to purchase the same seats they had during the season must do so by 5 p.m. on Monday online here. Non-season ticket holders may purchase tickets online here. Students are admitted free at the door by showing their student ID. The ticket office is open 8 a.m. — 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.