Dallas Colleges: Trent Johnson
It left Kansas fans disgusted, TCU fans dumbstruck, and Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson wandering among court-storming students, offering high-fives and twirling around and looking like a man who had no idea what to do next.
It was the biggest upset of the season. It was also the weirdest.
Wipe your eyes as many times as you like. It happened. The previously 9-12 TCU Horned Frogs, losers of their previous eight games, owners of the 330th-ranked efficiency offense in the country prior to Wednesday night, really did upset the No. 5-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 62-55 in Fort Worth -- the first win over a top-five team in program history.
The obvious question is: How? How does a team so good, so routinely effective both at home and on the road, lose to such a dismal outfit like TCU?
Here's where the weirdness comes in: Kansas shot just 29.5 percent from the field -- 18-of-61 -- and just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore, the man who saved Kansas from a home upset to Iowa State with a 33-point, 10-for-12 night Jan. 9, went just 6-of-16 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3. Jeff Withey was effective but rarely touched the ball. Reserve guard Naadir Tharpe attempted a borderline-shocking 15 field goals -- Tharpe should never shoot the ball 15 times -- and made just two of them. And then there was Elijah Johnson, who, already firmly ensconced in Bill Self's doghouse, continued not only his shooting slump but his streak of poor decision-making and ill-timed turnovers.
Even so, you couldn't watch this game and not come away more willing to indict Kansas than praise TCU. I mean, good for the Horned Frogs -- this is a rare moment in the sun for a program with almost no historical relevance whatsoever, and it should be enjoyed as such. But it was Kansas that failed to pressure the Horned Frogs well enough to generate easy points; it was Kansas that squandered mini-run after mini-run, and flung brick after increasingly forlorn brick into the unforgiving iron.
All the while, TCU fans -- who were possibly out-attended by Kansas fans -- had no idea what to do. At one point, the ESPNU cameras showed the Horned Frogs cheerleaders jumping around and cheering seemingly at random, and while cheer groups do that all the time, I joked that it was probably because they hadn't drilled for the possibility of actually, you know, cheering. It felt that way: TCU fans mustered a "T-C-U, T-C-U" midway through the second half, but mostly they just seemed to sit there and do their best to process the weirdness happening in front of them.
Then they stormed the court.
That's when Johnson, in a move reminiscent of the classic clip of NC State coach Jim Valvano, started to walk off the court, then thought better of it, then offered a few high-fives to onrushing fans -- he, like the rest of the arena, looked like he had no idea what to make of anything happened around him.
Understandably so. It was that big -- and that weird -- of an upset.
1. Kansas. The Jayhawks' offense has sputtered a bit lately, but defensively Bill Self's squad has been stout. The Jayhawks held Baylor to 44 points on 23.2 percent shooting Monday. Leading scorer Ben McLemore injured his ankle but is expected to play against Texas on Saturday in Austin.
2. Iowa State. After nearly upsetting KU in Lawrence nine days ago, Iowa State has defeated Texas by 20 points and staved off a late rally by West Virginia. The Cyclones' next two games are road tilts against the league's worst two teams: TCU and Texas Tech.
3. Kansas State. No other player in the Big 12 has been as good as Rodney McGruder since the beginning of conference play. The senior is averaging 22 points per game against Big 12 opponents and is shooting 54 percent from the field. Center Jordan Henriquez has given his team a nice boost off the bench in recent weeks.
4. Baylor. The Bears can't be as bad as they looked against Kansas on Monday, can they? Baylor is in for a long Big 12 season if it doesn't show more discipline and start taking better shots. Baylor plays a nonconference game against Hardin-Simmons on Saturday before hosting Oklahoma State in a crucial contest Monday night.
5. Oklahoma. The Sooners hit the jackpot by hiring Lon Kruger. Oklahoma is one of the league's three remaining undefeated teams along with Kansas and K-State. Romero Osby leads the team in points (13.7) and rebounds (6.3). Saturday's game at K-State is huge for both teams. Four of OU's next six games are on the road.
6. Oklahoma State. By the time they take the court for Saturday's game against Texas Tech, the Cowboys will have had a week to think about last weekend's 77-68 loss to rival Oklahoma in Norman. Marcus Smart has shown great leadership, but he's shooting just 41.3 percent from the field and 29.7 percent from 3-point range.
7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers haven't lived up to their expectations, but they certainly appear to be getting better, especially in the toughness department. Bob Huggins' squad erased an 18-point second-half deficit against Iowa State but lost when Cyclones forward Georges Niang hit a layup with 2.5 seconds remaining. WVU is a threat to beat anyone in the conference.
8. Texas. The Longhorns have lost four of their past five games, including two in overtime. With Kansas visiting this weekend, things probably won't get better soon. Sheldon McClellan played just one minute in last weekend's 20-point loss to Iowa State as coach Rick Barnes, displeased with McClellan's effort, sent the team's leading scorer a message.
9. Texas Tech. Chris Walker's squad has lost its past three Big 12 games by an average of 22 points. Jaye Crockett leads the team in points (13.8) and rebounds (8.3). Texas Tech's next two games (at Oklahoma State on Saturday and at home against Iowa State on Wednesday) will be tough. But a Jan. 26 tilt at Texas could be interesting.
10. TCU. The Horned Frogs led Baylor at halftime Saturday before losing 51-40. Trent Johnson's squad simply doesn't have the personnel to compete with major college schools. No one would be surprised if TCU finished 0-18 in league play.
1. Kansas. Saturday’s tilt with No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus will be the first true road game for Bill Self’s squad. The Jayhawks’ three most recent victories -- against Colorado, Belmont and Richmond -- came by an average of 31 points. Jeff Withey leads the nation with 5.4 blocks per game.
2. Oklahoma State. Kudos to the Cowboys, who have won four straight since losing at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. Travis Ford’s squad, which gets a combined 30.2 points per game from Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown, hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday and then has eight days off before a New Year’s Eve date with Gonzaga in Stillwater.
3. Iowa State. Christmas has come early for the Cyclones, who don’t play again until Jan. 1. Guard Tyrus McGee has been playing extremely well for Fred Hoiberg’s squad. He’s averaging 13.3 points and shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. Iowa State is 9-3 with losses to Cincinnati, UNLV and Iowa.
4. Baylor. The Bears host Brigham Young on Friday. They. Have. To. Win. Seriously, a team that’s already toting home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern can’t afford to drop another non-league game against an inferior opponent. Baylor has zero chemistry on offense.
5. Kansas State. The Wildcats’ two losses are to Michigan (in New York) and to Gonzaga (in Seattle. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Still, even against mediocre teams at home, Kansas State has struggled to score. That’s not a good thing for a team that takes on Florida on Saturday in Kansas City.
6. Texas. Myck Kabongo won’t play for the Longhorns this season, but Texas didn’t even need him during Wednesday’s 85-67 whacking of an alarmingly sloppy, uninspired North Carolina club. Texas, which is getting 15.5 points from Sheldon McClellan, could pick up some additional momentum with a victory at Michigan State on Saturday.
7. Oklahoma. Wouldn’t you know it? The minute I start complimenting the Sooners for the strides they’ve made under Lon Kruger, Oklahoma goes out and drops a game to Stephen F. Austin. That’s inexcusable, boys. The Sooners' next game, a Dec. 29 visit from Ohio University, won’t be a cakewalk.
8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers ended a two-game losing streak by squeaking past Oakland on Wednesday. Still, Bob Huggins’ squad may be the Big 12’s biggest disappointment thus far. Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten are averaging a collective 20.5 points.
9. Texas Tech. Chris Walker is going to have a tough time earning the permanent head-coaching position if his team can’t beat McNeese State at home. The Red Raiders showed some fight against Alabama three nights later but still lost 66-62. Arizona State, Saturday’s opponent, is pesky.
10. TCU. The Horned Frogs haven’t caught any breaks in Trent Johnson’s first season. Aaron Durley and Amric Fields were both lost to ACL injuries, and now Jarvis Ray is out six to eight weeks with a broken foot.
1. Kansas. The Jayhawks clearly have separated themselves from the rest of the Big 12, yet even Bill Self will admit his squad hasn’t looked all that great. Chemistry and depth are issues in the backcourt, and Kansas still is searching for a leader. Saturday’s home game against Colorado is scary.
2. Iowa State. As I mentioned, ranking the Big 12 is a crapshoot at this point, but Iowa State is 6-2 with losses against a pair of ranked teams (Cincinnati and UNLV). The Cyclones boast plenty of weapons with Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. And they’ve got a great coach. Good enough for me.
3. Oklahoma State. I know Virginia Tech has surprised some people, but the Cowboys still shouldn’t have lost to the Hokies by double figures last week in Blacksburg. Travis Ford’s team is too talented to let that happen. Oklahoma State deserves credit, however, for bouncing back with a nice effort in Wednesday’ 61-49 home victory over South Florida.
4. Kansas State. Rodney McGruder appears to have snapped out of his funk and is averaging 19 points in his past two games. Kansas State has played just one good team (Michigan) and lost handily. It’s tough to get a read on the Wildcats at this point, but they’re definitely one of the more experienced squads in the conference.
5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant again. Oklahoma competed its tail off before losing to Arkansas 81-78 in a difficult road environment Tuesday. Romero Osby is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game for the Sooners, who are off until Dec. 15.
6. Baylor. It seems unheard of for a team to beat Kentucky in Lexington and then drop four spots in the power rankings. But the Bears can’t be trusted. Not yet, at least. Considering its depth and talent, Baylor’s home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern were two of the worst setbacks by any Division I team all season. And it easily could have lost to downtrodden Boston College. There’s no excuse for this team to be playing so sloppily and uninspired.
7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be on an upswing following Wednesday’s victory over a solid Marshall team, although the victory was marred by a near-brawl that led to the ejections of four WVU players for leaving the bench. Bob Huggins’ squad could gain even more momentum by beating undefeated Virginia Tech on Saturday.
8. Texas. As if a 12-point loss to Division II Chaminade wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Longhorns scored a measly 41 points in Tuesday’s setback against Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic. Even the return of point guard Myck Kabongo might not be enough to save Rick Barnes’ team, which plays UCLA on Saturday in Houston.
9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finally played a quality opponent last week and, predictably, got exposed in an 85-57 loss to Arizona. Still, there are reasons for optimism in Lubbock. Guard Josh Gray is averaging three steals, and Jaye Crockett is scoring 15.3 points per game. This team will win some Big 12 games, and not just against TCU.
10. TCU. The Horned Frogs lost to Houston on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back at Tulsa on Saturday. Coach Trent Johnson is doing well on the recruiting trail but simply lacks the personnel to win many games during his first season in Fort Worth.
That’s how the former LSU point guard and assistant coach earned his dream job at his alma mater, which hired Jones to replace new TCU coach Trent Johnson.
That’s also why North Texas has never been a more attractive job for a head coach. Athletic director Rick Villarreal, who hired Jones about two weeks into his UNT tenure, should have a pretty impressive pool of candidates in his search to find an experienced head coach that can keep the Mean Green program’s momentum going.
“You probably need somebody that you’re not taking a chance he’s pulling the trigger for the first time,” Villarreal said. “That’s my preference. As a program, we’re at that point.”
The program, which qualified for the NCAA tourney twice in the last six years, is at a point where it could be poised to join the midmajor powers.
The Mean Green’s five-year streak of 20-win campaigns was snapped this season, when UNT finished 18-14 and lost a down-to-the-wire Sun Belt tournament final for the second straight year, but the entire rotation should return intact with an impact juco big man headlining the recruiting class. Potential first-round pick Tony Mitchell has decided to wait at least a year to declare for the NBA draft, opting to focus on improving his game and leading UNT back to March Madness, unless he reconsiders following Jones' departure.
This will always be known as a football state, but there aren’t many more fertile basketball recruiting bases than the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. UNT has a 10,000-seat arena and has positioned itself, with a facilities overhaul highlighted by its new $78 million football stadium, to benefit from future conference realignment dominoes falling.
This is no longer a job for a man desperate for a chance to become a head coach. It’s a job for a proven winner who can build on the foundation Jones leaves as he heads home to LSU.
But in fairness, probably only the hiring of hometown basketball hero Jamie Dixon could have done that. And TCU tried hard to get him, though it's unclear how close Dixon came to actually leaving his post at Pittsburgh. It wasn't meant to be (the fact that his contract is through 2018 at Pitt was one of the obstacles). They talked to Buzz Williams, one of the biggest names around thanks to his success at Marquette. They called Ben Howland.
In the end, TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte settled on a coach that fit his criteria. He wanted someone with a track record of turning around a program that was struggling (Johnson did that at Nevada) and someone who had taken teams to the NCAA tournament (he did that at Nevada, Stanford and LSU). But he also wanted someone who would run the program with honesty and integrity. Johnson has done that at every stop.
Johnson inherited some good teams at Stanford and LSU, and in Baton Rouge, after going to the NCAA tournament his first season, Johnson's teams struggled the next two seasons before going to the NIT last year with the same number of wins as TCU had under Christian.
What does it all mean? We'll see. The bottom line: The only buzz that matters is on the recruiting trail and, consequently, on the court. TCU loses its three top players next season and the roster has players from all over the place, though not that many from the Dallas-Fort Worth area (or Houston, for that matter). Those are two fertile recruiting areas and Johnson recruited some there while at LSU. It's critical that his staff establish relationships with those coaches. Maybe the move to the Big 12 will get more players interested.
"It's extremely important that some of the best players in the area and in the state attend the university for attendance purposes, for family purposes and you look at the good programs and the good players stay home," Johnson said. "It's about relationships."
Johnson mentioned Robert Hughes at Fort Worth Dunbar and said he's going to go about establishing those relationships. Good. He needs to do that to create a solid foundation.
Johnson said all the right things at his news conference on Monday. Then again, what new coach doesn't win the introductory presser? But I thought Johnson was more impressive once he wasn't standing behind the podium. He's a bit feisty, and I like that. He's confident and I think that's important for his team to see. It sounds like practices will be closed to the media, because he feels like that's his private time with his players. Normally, that might make me suspicious. But I like Johnson's reasoning on it. He's going to run a tight ship and reports from his previous stops say his teams play very hard and with energy.
Is all of that enough to win? How is that different from Christian? We'll just have to wait and see.
The second part of the winning equation is up to Del Conte and the administration. And they're already working on it. The plan is to renovate Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in terms of locker rooms, concourses and the exterior. It's long overdue.
If Johnson can turn things around, he could be here for a long time. Or success could propel him to another job. But if he doesn't succeed, the university has at least sent a signal with the financial commitment that it is starting to get serious about basketball. That can't hurt if and when it has to make another hire.
Johnson knows it takes time but admits he's not patient.
"I'm just a grinder," Johnson said. "I'm a morning, noon and night guy. I wish I golfed. I wish I had some social life. My life is in the gym and sports and my life is based off of making sure kids get a good education and play good basketball and my family."
TCU formally introduced Trent Johnson as the Horned Frogs' new men's basketball coach Monday.
"I can't express to you how excited I am about the challenge that's in front of us," the former LSU coach said. "The challenge is one we're all going to have to do together."
Read more about Johnson's arrival in Fort Worth here.
What do you think about the hire?
2. Now LSU athletic director Joe Alleva needs to make the right hire to replace Johnson. North Texas coach Johnny Jones has strong ties to LSU and to the region. Jones tried to get the job before Johnson but to no avail. He has done wonders at North Texas, a school that is consistently in the Sun Belt chase. Alleva went out of region in luring Johnson from Stanford. This time, he should go with someone familiar with the area and especially the SEC. This is a critical time in the league: the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, Frank Martin now coaching at South Carolina, and an increase to 18 conference games. Not to mention, of course, the dominant teams already at the top of the league led by Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt.
3. Thomas Robinson is a great example of a player who maxed out his career in college over a three-year period and is now ready to play in the NBA. He wasn’t a year ago. He had an exemplary season, led Kansas to the national title game, and now enters the NBA as a player who can contribute, not just be a high draft pick.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.