Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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If Texas Christian had stayed in the Big East Conference, the Horned Frogs’ closest road basketball game would have been some 1,137 miles away — against South Florida.
Now that TCU will join the Big 12 next July, the Frogs can look forward to bus trips to Austin and Waco.
Needless to say, TCU coach Jim Christian likes the easier travel schedule.
“Obviously, geographically for us, it’s going to be nice,” Christian told SNY.tv by phone.
“We’ve now been in two leagues, the Mountain West and what would’ve been our time in the Big East, without playing one conference road game on a bus. At least now we get a chance to do that.”
TCU’s closest conference game in the Mountain West is a two-hour flight to New Mexico. The league also features teams in California, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and Idaho.
By joining the Big 12, TCU can resume regional rivalries against teams like Texas, Baylor and the Oklahoma schools.
“At least now we’re able to save our kids some travel time and our fans can travel to see us a little bit,” said Christian, whose team was just 6-26 over the last two years in the Mountain West. “If I ranked the beneficials, that’s definitely high on my list.”
The Horned Frogs had already started recruiting in Big East territory, landing former Newark NIA Prep forward Ryan Rhoomes before he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA and making recruiting visits to places like St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark.
Now, Christian and his staff can focus more heavily on trying to recruit the fertile state of Texas and the surrounding areas.
“Obviously, with the kids in Texas, it’s given us a stronger identity because of the geographical rivalries,” Christian said. “But we have made some inroads with some kids on the East Coast, and I think we’ll continue to recruit those kids as best we can.”
From a coaching standpoint, it was only a few weeks ago that Christian had to be thinking ahead to matching wits with Big East coaches like Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh and Jim Calhoun of UConn.
Now, Syracuse and Pitt have signed on to join the ACC, and UConn may not be far behind.
For sure, Christian has to start thinking about coaching against Bill Self at Kansas, Rick Barnes of Texas and Frank Martin at Kansas State.
“There’s Hall of Fame coaches in the Big East and there’s Hall of Fame coaches in the Big 12, so I don’t know if it’s really any different,” Christian said.
“And again it’s our last year to play in the Mountain West Conference, a league that we haven’t had much success in, so we’re trying to do as best we can to have the type of year that we need to have so we can continue to move our program forward.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.