The wait is over: TCU in the NCAA Tournament for first time in 20 years

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The last time TCU played in the NCAA Tournament Bill Clinton was the President of the United States, “Titanic” won an Oscar for Best Picture, Michael Jordan won the last of his six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and Horned Frog guard Alex Robinson was two years old.

“I’m 22,” Robinson said. “It’s been a long time. Shoot, at two years old, I probably didn’t know what basketball was. That’s crazy.”

The 20 year wait ended when TCU heard its name called on Selection Sunday for the first time since 1998. They are a No. 6 seed and will take on a No. 11 seed in Detroit Friday as part of the Midwest Regional.

Their opponent will be the winner of the Syracuse vs. Arizona State First Four game which is hosted in Dayton, Ohio Wednesday night.

While playing either team likely prove to be a challenge, the late game in Ohio could be an advantage for the Horned Frogs as their matchup comes just 48 hours later.

TCU guard Alex Robinson talks about reaching March Madness and what it means to him as a native of the Metroplex. (Photo by Crisitian ArguetaSoto.)

“Syracuse is a prestigious basketball team with a prestigious coach and Arizona State had a really good run at the beginning of the season so we have to be prepared,” Robinson said. “I think it helps us that they have a play-in game with them not being as rested, which could help us a lot.”

However, TCU senior guard Kenrich Williams said he thought otherwise.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage for us,” Williams said. “It might be more of an advantage for them because they’re on a roll and we took a break.”

As for which team TCU would rather face, Syracuse’s defensive style could be a favorable matchup for Horned Frogs as they like to play uptempo and shoot a high volume of three-pointers. TCU guard Desmond Bane, who leads the Big 12 in three-point shooting percentage at 47 percent, said he would be especially excited for that matchup.

“I’d love playing Syracuse with their two-three zone and being able to shoot threes,” Bane said. “You know I’d love that.”

TCU’s berth snaps the second-longest NCAA Tournament drought for teams in Power Five conferences, behind only Rutgers’ 27-year gap.

TCU’s 21 regular season wins are its most since the 1997-98 season. This season also marks the first time the program has won 20 games in consecutive seasons since the 1998-99 campaign.

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon grins while talking about leading his alma mater back to the NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.)

The excitement this season was palpable in Fort Worth as TCU set a school record for highest average attendance, averaging 6,561 people per game during its 18 home games this season. The old record, 6,341, was set during Dixon’s senior season at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in 1987.

That 1986-87 season is also the last time the Horned Frogs won an NCAA Tournament game when No. 4 seed TCU beat No. 13 seed Marshall 76-60 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

While the current team lacks March Madness experience, TCU is 8-2 in neutral-site games in its two seasons under Dixon. Five of those victories came from the Horned Frogs’ NIT championship run last year.

“That helped us develop a winning mentality,” Robinson said. “This year, we kind of took that a step forward and continued to push. We knew how to bounce back, but the constant reassurance from Coach was big.”

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TCU will tipoff its first NCAA Tournament game Friday in Detroit, Mich. at Little Caesars Arena against the winner of No. 11 seeds Arizona State and Syracuse at approximately 8:40 p.m. following the conclusion of the 6:20 p.m. game between No. 3 Michigan State and No. 14 Bucknell.

“We don’t just want to go to the tournament,” Williams said.”We want to go deep and make a run.”