SMU will get an opportunity to make national news while padding its lead over neighboring TCU in their all-time series when the longtime rivals meet in a non-conference game Saturday night at a neutral site -- Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
The 24th-ranked Horned Frogs (7-1) have won the past two meetings, most recently 67-59 in Dallas in December 2018. That closed their deficit to 106-85 in a series that dates back more than a century, to January 1919.
The Mustangs (3-6), who used to play TCU regularly when they were partners in the Southwest Conference and later in the Western Athletic Conference, haven't beaten a ranked Horned Frogs team since Feb. 28, 1959. The last time TCU entered the head-to-head matchup ranked, it justified its No. 20 rating with a 94-83 home win on Dec. 5, 2017.
The Horned Frogs have built this year's ranking on the strength of five straight wins following their lone defeat of the season, a 64-63 home stunner to Northwestern State. They beat Iowa, ranked 25th at the time, during the current winning stretch.
TCU was missing a key contributor, Damion Baugh, at the time of the loss to Northwestern State. The senior guard has since returned from a suspension to contribute an average of 12.5 points, five rebounds and five assists to the past two wins.
"We're finding ourselves," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said of a team coming off home wins over Providence, 75-62, and Jackson State, 78-51. "We have good players, and we have good balance to the roster. We've had moments where we really got a good feel for each other."
Eddie Lampkin led six TCU players in double figures with 16 points in the Providence game. JaKobe Coles came off the bench for 21 against Jackson State.
SMU didn't fare as well when it hosted Jackson State on Dec. 3, losing 69-68. The Mustangs have since dropped a third straight, 75-57 at home to Arizona State on Wednesday.
SMU coach Rob Lanier felt a lot better about the 18-point loss to the Sun Devils than the one-point defeat at the hands of the Tigers.
"They were really fired up to play, and you saw that the way we started the game," he said of an approach against Arizona State that resulted in an early 11-point lead. "It felt like, to start the game, that the guys felt like, 'All right, tonight's going to be the night where we get over the hump and we turn the page and we get this thing going.'
"I do think the encouraging sign for the game, against a good team, for a period of time we were playing at a level defensively that was indicative of what we want our program to look like, the program we're trying to build."
The Mustangs are led by guard Zhuric Phelps, who has 20 or more points in four of the team's nine games. He had 19 in the loss to Arizona State.
Coincidentally, SMU already has played the 24th-ranked team in the nation this season. That was Dayton's ranking in the first week of the campaign when the Mustangs traveled to Ohio and took a 74-62 defeat.
--Field Level Media