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Chuck O’Bannon Jr. helped TCU shut down Iowa State defensively and also on the boards (The Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall).

 

 

By Jeff Wilson
Frogs Today senior writer

FORT WORTH — The sports world has gone mad in the past decade or so many with formulas.

The best baseball player has the highest WAR (wins above replacement) value — and don’t try to argue it — and PECOTA tries to predicts future performance. The NBA does the same with PER (player efficiency rating) and DPM (daily plus-minus).

The NCAA has been in the formula game for a while with RPI (ratings percentage index) as a tool for helping to select the 68-team field for the NCAA Tournament, but four years ago felt an overhaul was in order.

Enter NET, which stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool. It originally relied on five factors but is down to two — TVI (team value index) and adjusted net efficiency rating.

Much like other formulas, no one knows for sure how NET is derived. The NCAA isn’t sharing that information. While NET does not solely dictate which teams receive at-large bids to the tournament, it weighs fairly heavily.

Currently, NET is a friend of the TCU men’s team.

The Horned Frogs entered Monday at No. 44, which has helped them land in the NCAA Tournament predictions of Jerry Palm at CBS Sports and Joe Lunardi at ESPN. Palm has the Frogs as an 8 seed, while Lunardi had them as a 12 seed and the last team in the field last weekend before their upset at No. 15 Iowa State.

The Frogs have themselves making the field, naturally.

“To me, and I’m going to tell the team later on, rankings don’t mean anything,” guard Damion Baugh said Monday before practice. “Yeah, we like our chances. We know we’re a tournament team. Just the players that we have. We all trust each other. We trust coach Dixon and the coaching staff as well.”

TCU plays host to Texas, which fell from the latest Associated Press rankings, at 8 p.m. Tuesday. A win, though, would still feed the NET and lift the Frogs closer to the tournament.

They have a group chat that frequently broaches the subject and the lack of respect they seem to be getting despite their 13-3 record and 3-2 start in Big 12 play. Their most recent triumph was a 15-point spanking Saturday in which they held the Cyclones to 44 points.

It’s too early to tell if the Frogs will make the tournament. They can do so automatically by winning the Big 12 tournament in March. The Big 12 is regarded as the toughest conference in the country, with eight of the 10 teams in the NET top 50 and all 10 in the top 65. TCU is behind two of the teams it has defeated, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

All the Frogs can do is keep winning. They have done so by playing terrific defense and with rebounding, which were two of their three keys entering the season. TCU leads the conference in rebounding at 42.2 per game and offensive rebounds at 14.5.

The Frogs rank 15th nationally Monday in defense efficiency rating, 91.4 as measured by Ken Pomeroy. That’s they highest they have ever been ranked by KenPom.

In conference play only, TCU leads the Big 12 in defense (58.4 points per game) and rebounding (38.8).

“Before the season, we said we’re going to be the best offensive rebounding team and the best defensive team in the country, and we’re right there in both of them,” guard Micah Peavy said.

The third key to a successful season was limiting turnovers, and that needs improvement. The 15 the Frogs committed at Iowa State were a Big 12-low, but still off their goal of 10 per game.

But the Big 12 in a defense-first league, TCU is among the best.

“You have to win defensively in this league and find ways offensively,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “And that’s what we eventually become.”

The adage is defense wins championships. It also helps get teams to the NCAA Tournament, which TCU is poised to do for the first time since 2018.

“We’ve preached that all year, going to tournament, winning the Big 12,” Peavy said. “And I think we still have a really good chance of doing both of those teams.”

Jeff Wilson, jeff@frogstoday.com