With a roster that only has six familiar faces and many inexperienced players, questions have started to arise as to if head coach Jamie Dixon can make noise in a tough Big 12 conference.
While TCU’s situation is less than ideal, Dixon is no stranger to producing wins under these circumstances.
“We did it last year,” Dixon said. “Things change. We had five guys with season-ending injuries last year.”
Despite the injuries that plagued the Frogs all season, Dixon’s team fell just short of an NCAA tournament berth and fell to Texas in the NIT semifinals to end their season.
With so many new faces in purple and white, TCU will look to lean on the experience of the few that have been around the block.
“We’re getting great leadership from Desmond [Bane] and Kevin [Samuel],” Dixon said. “Those are our two most experienced guys.”
Bane enters the season with the most expectation on his shoulders. After finishing fourth in the Big 12 last year with 15.2 points per game, the senior was named to the preseason All-Big 12 First Team and the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award watchlist.
“It’s good going forward, but preseason awards don’t mean too much,” Bane said. “I like to make the first team after the season’s over with, but most importantly, [I] just want to win.”
Samuel is less established than Bane but still comes with high expectations. The sophomore from Barbuda finished second in the Big 12 a year ago with a field goal percentage of 66.5% and sixth in the conference with 6.9 rebounds per game.
Following his rookie campaign, the 6-foot-11 center said he is looking to embrace his leadership role amidst new players, becoming more vocal on the court while also improving on his free throw shooting.
“We have a bunch of talented new guys,” Samuel said. “Everyone’s bought in right now.”
With 13 new faces on the roster, several stand out as those who could make an impact this season for TCU.
Senior Edric Dennis Jr., a transfer from UT Arlington, is set to start at point guard for the Frogs to start the season.
Dennis Jr. is used to playing in new places. After playing for two different schools throughout his time in high school, the Dallas native played his first year at Hill College before transferring to Jackson State.
A team-high 32.9% from deep and 14.0 points per game with the Tigers then earned Dennis Jr. the opportunity to play at UTA, where he quickly became a leader. After averaging 14.3 points per game, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists with the Mavericks, Dennis Jr. decided to finish his time in the NCAA with the Frogs.
“It’s a big step,” Dennis jr. said about coming to the Big 12, “but when you’re at a school like UTA, we still play four or five high majors at the beginning of the year … from that aspect of it, it’s really not anything new to me.”
TCU is also expecting big things from their first-year players this year, primarily guards PJ Fuller and Francisco Farabello.
Fuller, a four-star out of Findlay Prep from Seattle, Washington, was ranked No. 73 in ESPN’s top 100. Following a senior season where he averaged 18.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals, Fuller was ranked the 12th-best shooting guard in the nation by 247Sports.com.
Like Fuller, Farabello was listed as a four-star by ESPN, ranking No. 105 nationally.
Unlike Fuller, Farabello grew his game outside of the country at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, Australia. As a junior, he shot 48.3% from deep at the academy.
The guard also represented his home country of Argentina three consecutive summers (2017-2019) at the FIBA World Cup.
“They had big reputations coming in,” Dixon said about his first-year. “I’m excited about our freshmen. There’s no question.”
Dixon said that for TCU to succeed this year with such a new group, they will need to cut down on turnovers. The Frogs were seventh in the Big 12 last season with a -0.4 turnover margin.
Despite Dixon’s 68-41 record since taking the head coaching job at TCU in 2016, many experts doubt that even he can lead this set of Frogs to prominence — TCU was picked dead last in the Big 12 preseason poll, receiving just 11 votes.
Regardless, Dixon is confident in his team. After the Big 12 lost elite players like Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech), Dedric Lawson (Kansas) and Makai Mason (Baylor), the 17th-year coach knows that TCU isn’t dead in the water.
“Our league is so wide open,” Dixon said. “When I say wide open, I mean a good wide open.”
TCU kicks their season off 7 p.m. Thursday at home against the Southwestern Pirates.