TCU’s first season under Jamie Dixon ended on a high note, steamrolling Georgia Tech, 88-56, to win the 2017 NIT championship on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Horned Frogs never trailed, scoring the game’s first eight points. They rout was officially on during the second half when they went on a 19-0 run to take a 79-49 lead.
Kenrich Williams, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, recorded 25 points and 12 rebounds. He registered five double-doubles in as many games during the course of the NIT.
Dixon took over his alma mater last spring, after a divorce with Pittsburgh. In 13 seasons, he took the Panthers to 11 NCAA Tournaments.
In 2008, Pitt won the Big East Tournament championship. The same arena could possibly be the location where he laid the foundation for an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018. TCU returns its top six scorers, which includes Williams, Vladimir Brodziansky, Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher. The Horned Frogs also bring in center Kevin Samuel and point guard R.J. Nembhard, both regarded as four-star prospects.
TCU was on the bubble until it lost seven straight to close out the regular season. Since then the Horned Frogs have won seven of eight postseason games. They upset top-seeded Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals, had to grind out an overtime road win at Iowa — TCU was 3-8 in true road games this season — before two wins in three nights in New York. Certainly that experience could come in handy next season.
It was a matchup of overachievers. Georgia Tech, in its first season under Josh Pastner, were expected to fight with Boston College for the bottom spot in the ACC standings. Instead, the Yellow Jackets won 21 games, including a 75-63 victory over North Carolina on Dec. 31. Enter the season, Georgia Tech’s top returning scorer, Quinton Stephens, averaged 5.0 points per game. While he graduates, Pastner is expected to bring back three double-digit scorers.