No. 14 TCU begins the season with a roster full of returning players and heightened expectations based on its highest preseason ranking ever when it hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday in the opener for both teams in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Horned Frogs return all five starters from last season’s team that went 21-13 and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 35 seasons. Among them are Big 12 preseason player of the year Mike Miles Jr. (junior guard) and preseason all-conference honorable mention Emanuel Miller (senior forward).
Yet all the lofty preseason rankings still put TCU as the fourth-best team as voted on by conference coaches, behind Baylor, Kansas and Texas. The Horned Frogs have never finished a season above .500 in conference play while a member of the Big 12.
“We’re good. We believe we’re good,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “But our league’s really good. And so we need to do the things that good teams do. We need to do those every day in practice. We need to do those off the floor. We need to do that as a program.
“So we’re not trying to shoot down expectations. We’re not trying to lower them. This is a place we needed to raise expectations. There were none. There was no bar. We’re not going to stop now.”
Miles was the only Big 12 player last season to finish in the top six in scoring (15.4) and assists (3.8) per contest, racking up eight 20-point games in the process.
Another bright spot for the Horned Frogs is the return of Shahada Wells, who played in only seven games last season because of a knee injury. Playing for Texas-Arlington in 2020-21, he averaged 16.8 points (ranked fourth in the Sun Belt Conference) and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff heads to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex after finishing last season 7-24 and losing five of its final six games to end up 11th in the 12-team Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The Golden Lions are picked to finish in the same spot this season, the second under the direction of coach Solomon Bozeman. Bozeman, who took the job just prior to last season, has infused the team with 11 newcomers — six transfers and five freshmen.
“I thought it was very important that our staff come in and recruit, you know, the players that fit our system and our style of play,” Bozeman said. “We feel good about our guys. We feel good about his group. We’ve got a young group and we got some mix with some veteran guys. So we just want to continue to get these guys better each and every day.”
The Golden Lions will be led by Shaun Doss Jr., who transferred back to Pine Bluff after spending his first three seasons with the team before transferring to Southern Illinois University-Evansville for last season. Doss is joined in the backcourt by Chris Greene, a graduate transfer from Cleveland State.
–Field Level Media