FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — While TCU is excited about being in college basketball’s preseason Top 25 for the first time in two decades, coach Jamie Dixon put into perspective what that No. 20 ranking really means to him.
“I think that’s based on what we can become. We’re not that right now,” said Dixon, going into his third season at his alma mater. “I don’t know what everybody else looks like. We’re a team that’s interesting because we’ve got five returning guys, and eight new guys. That’s not a team that screams of experience.”
The Horned Frogs are coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 seasons. They must deal with the departures of their top two scorers — Vladimir Brodzianski and Kenrich Williams. Plus, point guard Jaylen Fisher, one of the returners, is injured again.
“It was a big adjustment. Kenrich did a lot for us, and Vlad did a lot for us,” senior guard Alex Robinson said. “We surely did miss them when we first started practicing. We didn’t realize how big of an impact both of them had on our team.”
Robinson averaged 9.7 points and 6.1 assists last season, when like the year before he took over as the primary point guard when Fisher was injured and missed the end of the season.
Fisher is now recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in September, and it isn’t clear if he will be ready for the start of the season. It is the same knee in which he tore meniscus last January to end his season. As a freshman, he had torn meniscus in his left knee and a broken wrist.
“The timing of his injuries have been interesting because it’s not like we’ve ever had to rush him back to get back in the middle of a season. He has always had an extended recovery time,” Dixon said. “After last year’s surgery, we had another issue this summer. … It’s been a real challenge, but I’m just amazed at how he’s handled it and how his energy is.”
The Frogs open the season Nov. 7 at home against Cal State Bakersfield.
The Frogs won 21 games last season, but finished with three losses in a row. They lost at Texas Tech in the regular-season finale, then dropped their Big 12 tournament game to Kansas State before a loss to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. Those losses were by a combined 11 points.
Robinson, who is from Fort Worth, began his college career at Texas A&M before transferring to his hometown team. He had to sit out the 2015-16 season following the move.
“I remember when I was getting recruited, I mean I wanted to go here because of my mom, but at the same time, it would have been a big risk for me,” Robinson said. “Now it’s not a risk, it’s a place where you want to go. It’s a destination people want to be at.”
His mother also played basketball for TCU, and also wore No. 25, like her son does now for the men’s team.
The newest assistant on Dixon’s staff is former Texas-Arlington coach Scott Cross, who was unexpectedly fired by his alma mater in March after a 21-13 season that ended with a loss in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game. UTA won 225 games and had its only NCAA tourney appearance during Cross’ 12 seasons as head coach, with 88 of those wins in the past four years.
After six straight home games to start the season, the Horned Frogs will play only one home game in the following month before opening Big 12 play against Baylor on Jan. 5. They will play at SMU, take on USC at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Dixon was born in Hollywood) and have four games during a Christmas-week tournament in Hawaii.