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TCU was 13-1 in early January, but the Big 12 can be a slog. The Horned Frogs suffered six defeats in eight games across late January and deep into February, but they won two of their last three to close out the regular season and have wins over some of the nation’s top teams, including Texas, Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa, Providence, and West Virginia. This is one of the best chances TCU has ever had to win a national championship.
The preseason No. 14 team in the country came into things with some expectations. A lot of talent from last year’s squad that won a game in the NCAA Tournament returned, and head coach Jamie Dixon has roughly two decades of success at the Division I level behind him. The Horned Frogs treated Fort Worth to a great regular season, but now it’s time to see if it can come together when it matters most.
Last National Championship: None
Last Final Four: None
2023 Title Odds: +3500 (as of March 9, 2023)
Why TCU Will Make a Run
TCU is great at turning its opponents over. The 8.3 steals per game the Horned Frogs average is in the top 50 nationally, with Damion Baugh in particular a ballhawk waiting to pounce (1.9 steals per game). TCU forces 15.65 turnovers per contest, utilizing its pressure defense to keep opponents on edge and to transform their misfortunate into easy scores – the Horned Frogs comfortably lead Division I in fastbreak points per game (18.81).
Mike Miles is one of the best players in the Big 12. The junior missed some time this season with a knee injury, but he’s been electric in nearly every game he’s played. Miles has surpassed the 20-point mark in eight of the 23 contests he’s appeared in and is liable to go off at any given moment. He’s a flat-out scorer, and you need those to win a national championship.
Why TCU Will Exit Early
Big man Eddie Lampkin first took a leave of absence from the team to deal with “personal matters,” but it’s since been made clear that he has left the team for good. The Horned Frogs will have to play without his 6.3 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per contest, and his massive presence and energy. Some screenshots indicate that this might be something deeper than originally thought. Drama and distractions aren’t considered good things heading into March Madness, especially not when it leads to players quitting the team. Lots of nasty rumors are now swirling around this program.
Inside the arc, this is a good shooting team (53 percent). Outside the arc and at the free-throw line, things could be better. TCU shoots a below-par 70.1 percent from the charity stripe and a putrid 29.6 percent from deep. Granted, the Horned Frogs don’t release from three too often, but that’s no excuse.
What It’ll Take to Win
If TCU is to win the national championship, it can’t shoot below 30 percent from beyond the arc the entire tournament. The team doesn’t have to jack up triples to survive, but there will come a time across a six-game, single-elimination stretch when a big shot from deep will have to splash. That time will come multiple times, actually. And when they do, the Horned Frogs have to knock them down. Emanuel Miller shoots 42.2 percent from three, but he can’t make them all by himself.
TCU has to stay healthy and together. It went 1-4 when Miles was out with his knee injury, and it’s had a revolving door of injuries and circumstances keep key players out at certain times. It’s already without Lampkin – to lose more important pieces at the most crucial portion of the campaign could derail any hope the Horned Frogs have, especially if Miles or Baugh, who’s at the epicenter of TCU’s transition scheme, are sidelined.