March sadness: Dixon ‘shocked’ by NCAA Tournament exclusion as men’s basketball head to NIT

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TCU forward JD Miller looks down in disbelief after the Horned Frogs don’t hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Photo by Heesoo Yang.

The TCU men’s basketball team was “shocked” the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn’t invite them to the Big Dance Sunday.

“After the second bracket was revealed, we knew there were only a couple teams left and a couple slots we were available for, so once it got down to the last bracket, it was all or nothing,” point guard Alex Robinson said. “It’s very disappointing, pretty much everyone had us safely projected in. It’s tough.”

The #TCU Horned Frogs are stunned as they’re locked out of the NCAA Tournament. Most projections had them in the last four in. TCU is listed as the third-closest team that didn’t get into the field. The Big 12 gets six teams in the field. #MarchMadness2019 pic.twitter.com/hc9yeooYcc— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 17, 2019

The Horned Frogs won 20 games in arguably the toughest conference in the country and finished the season strong with a win in Austin against the Texas Longhorns and a thrilling win over Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament.

“We’re disappointed, obviously because we saw the projections and pretty much everybody we saw had us in, so it looks like we’re the team that’s probably the most surprised in the country, ” head coach Jamie Dixon said. “Certainly not something that you want to be, but that’s where we’re at. We’ve got to now get over our disappointment and get ready for the NIT, and play the best basketball we can going forward here.”

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon looks on in stunned disappointment as his team is left out of the NCAA Tournament field. Photo by Heesoo Yang.

The Frogs ranked as arguably the biggest “snub” of the Big Dance. TCU was ranked No. 52 in the NCAA’s new NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) standings, which was higher than Ohio State (55) and St. John’s (73). both of which earned at-large bids.

“Again, shocked, but things don’t always go the way that people project or plan,” Dixon said.

Instead of the Horned Frogs, the committee opted for other “bubble” teams like Ohio State, Belmont, Arizona State and St. John’s.

Only six Big 12 teams earned spots in the field after several bracket experts thought as many as eight could make it.

“It seems like we’re being penalized for playing in the toughest league in the country, and that shouldn’t be the case,” Dixon said.

TCU guards Desmond Bane (left) and Kenric Davis (center) soak in the reality that the Horned Frogs aren’t going back to March Madness. Photo by Heesoo Yang.

Dixon said his team’s losses on Feb. 11 in Fort Worth against Kansas and Feb. 26 in Morgantown against West Virginia played a role in their exclusion from the NCAA Tournament.

However, the thought of the TCU community feeling disappointment and shock over being “snubbed” out of an NCAA Tournament bid was unthinkable just three years ago. Until last year, the team hadn’t made the tournament since 1998.

“I know this kind of disappointment is new for Fort Worth and TCU, but we talked about being the team that made it to the tournament two years in a row, and everyone had us in there,” Dixon said. “I guess there’s some part of me that will say we’ve made significant progress, but I’m really disappointed to not make the tournament. In the next 24 hours, we have to work on turning that around and getting ready for our next opponent.”

The Horned Frogs’ next opponent will be the No. 8 seed Sam Houston State in the first round of the NIT Wednesday. TCU earned a No. 1 seed in the 32-team field, which means every game of the tournament leading up to the last two rounds will be in front of the Horned Frog faithful at Schollmaier Arena.

“It’s bittersweet because we wanted to get into the NCAA Tournament, but being able to play at home again as a senior is going to be big for me,” Robinson said.

Tip off is set for 8:00 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Worth.

TCU athletics director Jeremiah Donati (center) looks down in disbelief after TCU didn’t receive bid to the NCAA Tournament. Photo by Heesoo Yang.