New York’s Madison Square Garden is a very unfamiliar place to TCU’s men’s basketball team. But it’s a very familiar venue to the Horned Frogs’ first year coach Jamie Dixon.
When TCU (22-15) takes on Central Florida Tuesday night in a National Invitation Tournament semifinal game (at 8 p.m. March 28 on ESPN) in the The Garden, it is believed to be TCU’s first game ever at MSG. The last time TCU played in the state of New York was Dec. 3, 2005, when the Horned Frogs lost to Syracuse (80-64). TCU’s only other distinctly recorded game in New York City was Jan. 1, 1945, a 56-31 loss to Long Island.
During the past 13 years as Pittsburgh’s men’s basketball head coach, Dixon was 26-15 at MSG. He accumulated a 15-9 record in the Big East Championship and was 3-3 against St. Johns.
Dixon, 51, who was a standout TCU basketball player in the late 1980s, served in assistant coaching positions for six colleges including UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii from 1989 through 1999. He was an assistant at Pittsburgh from 2000 through 2003.
Dixon was Pittsburgh’s head coach from 2004-2016 and had a 328-123 record overall (.727). After leading TCU to a 22-15 record this season, Dixon is 350-138 overall (.717) as a head coach.
Dixon’s teams have played in the post-season (either in the NCAA, the NIT or the CBI Tournament) every year he has been a head coach for the past 14 years.
Under Dixon’s coaching, the Horned Frogs have advanced to the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden for the first time in the school’s history. TCU advanced to the semifinal after routing Richmond, 86-68, in a quarterfinal game in Fort Worth on March 21.
“For our school, our program and our players, it’s truly a step in what we want to become and it’s a big step because you’re playing against great people,” Dixon said at a news conference on Monday in New York. “We had to win a road game [against Iowa] and home games [against Fresno State and Richmond] to get here. We are going forward to become the program that we want to become.
“People are excited about at TCU. I think you’re going to see a lot of purple here.”
The TCU verses UCF broadcast on ESPN broadcast will feature Bob Wischusen doing play-by-play), Fran Fraschilla as color analyst and Kris Budden as analyst calling the action. The game can also be heard on KLIF AM 570, FrogVision, TuneIn Radio. There will also be a national radio broadcast on Westwood One with Brandon Gaudin doing play-by-play and Kelly Tripucka as color analyst.
The winner of the TCU-UCF semifinal game will advance to the NIT final on Thursday and will play the winner of Georgia Tech and Cal. State Bakersfield. The NIT championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.
UCF’s coach is Johnny Dawkins, a former Duke star in the early 1980s. Dawkins also played in the NBA in the late 1980s and early 1990s (for San Antonio, Philadelphia and Detroit).
Dawkins was an assistant coach at Duke from 1999 through 2008. He was the head coach at Stanford from 2009-15 where he was 156-115. In his first year at UCF, he is 24-11.
Under Dawkins, UCF has advanced to the semifinals of the NIT for the first time in school history. In front of their first-ever sellout crowd at CFE Arena in Orlando, the Knights advanced to New York with a 68-58, NIT third round, quarterfinal win over Illinois on Wednesday (March 22). That historical win came after UCF defeated Colorado (79-74) in an NIT first round game and Illinois State (63-62) in a second round game.
TCU faces UCF for the first time ever and the Horned Frogs could face a big challenge. The Knights have won nine of their last 10 games.
UCF’s leading scorer is B.J. Taylor who averages 17.6 points a game. Matt Williams, one of the top 3 point shooters in the country, is 38.8 percent from beyond-the-arc and averages 15.1 points a game.
At 7-foot-6, sophomore Tacko Fall is the tallest player in major college basketball He’s the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He averages 11.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
However, TCU also will bring some powerful weapons. Some examples:
• Vladimir Brodziansky (Second Team and All-Defensive), Alex Robinson (All-Newcomer) and Kenrich Williams (Honorable Mention) all earned postseason honors from the Big 12 Conference.
• Williams recorded the second triple-double in TCU history when he recorded 11 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and no turnovers in the Frogs’ 86-68 quarterfinal win over Richmond on March 21 in Fort Worth. The 10th assist came with 2:05 on the clock. It was also Williams’ 17th double-double of the season. The only other TCU player to record a triple-double was Kurt Thomas, who as a senior, recorded 23 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocks in an 85-80 loss at Texas A&M on Feb. 25, 1995.
• Williams has had a double-double in each NIT game this season (against Fresno State, Iowa and Richmond) and is averaged 13.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists over that time.
• Williams (13/10 vs. FS) recorded TCU’s first double-double in the postseason since Lee Nailon (27/14) in the 1999 NIT vs. Oregon.
• Williams ranks No. 6 all-time at TCU for most rebounds in a season. (333) • Brodziansky was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention by the AP.
• Brodziansky’s 80 total blocks ranks as the second most in school history for a single season.
• Robinson has led TCU in assists 29 times this season and has had at least four assists in all but five games this season.
• Robinson ranks fourth for the most assists in a season at TCU with 211.