TCU ended its surprising season on a high note by bringing home an NIT championship.
Kenrich Williams, who had been a star all postseason, was at his best to lead the Horned Frogs to an 88-56 victory over Georgia Tech in Thursday's final at Madison Square Garden.
The junior finished with his fifth double-double in as many games during this tournament, totaling a career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds. He averaged 15.6 points, 12 rebounds and five assists during the NIT, including a triple-double in the quarterfinals against Richmond.
Vladimir Brodziansky also had a big night with 18 points, while Alex Robinson filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, 11 assists and four steals to help the squad close the year with three straight double-digit wins.
Head coach Jamie Dixon had taken over a TCU program with many question marks and can now declare his first season with the team a major success. This is especially true considering the team had only two winning seasons in the previous 11 years.
Carlos A. Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram provided his thoughts on the game:
Although reaching the NCAA tournament is the ultimate goal, being one of the few teams in college basketball to end the year with a win is worth celebrating.
A full view of the NIT bracket is available at NCAA.com.
It was wire-to-wire domination for TCU, which sent a message from the opening tip and never relented. The Big 12 squad scored the first 10 points of the game and eventually went up 16-1 before Georgia Tech even got its first field goal.
Kelly Quinlan of Rivals summed up the start for the Yellow Jackets:
Tadric Jackson was the biggest reason the game even remained close in the first half. He scored 12 of his 19 total points before halftime to help keep the deficit at 38-27 through the opening session.
Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted the struggles from key players holding the team back:
Both Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie struggled with foul trouble as the game continued and had a hard time getting out of their ruts.
Okogie finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting while Lammers struggled to eight points on 1-of-11 from the field.
Meanwhile, TCU kept the pressure on with Williams scoring eight quick points to help extend the lead.
Kacey Bowen of the Dallas Morning News noted the atmosphere:
The Horned Frogs never relented even after building the lead beyond 20 points, but Georgia Tech did as the margin continued to grow, eventually ending with a 32-point win for TCU.
Georgia Tech had played well throughout the tournament with an average victory margin of 12.3 points per game, including wins over Indiana and Ole Miss. However, they couldn't figure out the tough defense and suffered a disappointing defeat.
The season is now over for both teams, but each squad has a bright future after overachieving in 2016-17. With young teams and likely a lot of returning players, both TCU and Georgia Tech should head into next year with much higher expectations in their respective conferences.
Unsurprisingly, there was plenty of excitement from TCU after the game:
However, the bigger discussion might be where the Horned Frogs go from here.
"It's huge for our program and our school," Williams said after the win, via Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily. "I think people are starting to realize that our basketball team is on the map, certainly by winning this tournament, and next year I think we'll be even better."
"I won't stop until we win a Big 12 Championship, and that's the mentality going forward," coach Dixon added, per Fonseca.
This is a lofty goal, but based on the success in the coach's first year, it would be a mistake to count out this team going forward.