The Texas Longhorns aren’t the only opponent the Horned Frogs will face Tuesday in their NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden. TCU will also have to defeat the nerves that come with playing in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“There’s an awe-factor, just with the drive up there when you go through Times Square, and you go through 52nd street, and you pull up in below the arena,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “The distractions outside are things we have to acknowledge.”
Once the Horned Frogs step foot on the MSG hardwood, they’ll be adjusting to a set-up that’s different from any venue they’ve played in this season.
Dixon said the Garden has a different look to it because of its lighting, dark seats and spotlight on the court.
TCU had an opportunity to play at the Staples Center, another well-known NBA arena that is home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, when they defeated USC in December. However, Dixon said it’s not the same as the Garden.
“Staples Center isn’t even close with the drive down,” he said. “The arena brings some type of comparison with the NBA locker rooms, but pulling up at the Garden is a whole different environment. There’s no place like Manhattan.”
Only three current Horned Frogs — seniors Alex Robinson and JD Miller and junior Desmond Bane — played during the team’s NIT title run two years ago. Forward Kouat Noi redshirted during that season and did not travel with the team to New York.
This week will provide a bulk of the Horned Frog roster a significant dose of prime-time, postseason experience.
“Playing in these types of games is part of growing up,” Bane said. “Us juniors and seniors now with JD and Alex played, and Kouat was around but he didn’t get to play in it. It’s special to play at this time of year and on national television, knowing everyone is watching. It’s special.”
The big-game experience that came with playing at MSG launched Bane into his sophomore season, where he led the Big 12 in three-point shooting and helped guide the Horned Frogs to their first NCAA tournament since 1998.
This time around, Bane and a youthful TCU roster hope the entirety of their high-profile contests lead to bigger and better things down the road once again.
“It’s a dream come true, that’s where stars are born, Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of Basketball, and I’m excited to get back,” Bane said. “We’ve played in the Staples Center and in front of a packed house at Kansas, so we’ve played in big games. It’s special, but our young guys will be ready.”
Tip-off at Madison Square Garden against the Longhorns is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday.