Observations: New TCU coach Jamie Dixon puts Big 12 on notice

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Former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has come out swinging at TCU. USATSI

Just when you thought the Big 12 couldn't get any harder, it just did.

New TCU coach Jamie Dixon hasn't come out of the gate at his alma mater and worked his jab: he's thrown lethal combinations.

The veteran coach -- who won 25.2 games per season in 13 years at Pitt -- has assembled a staff at TCU with a reputation of either recruiting elite players or being connected to elite players.

David Patrick -- Dixon's first hire -- was solely responsible for bringing Ben Simmons to LSU and also has the Horned Frogs in prime position to land Ohio State transfer Daniel Giddens, multiple sources told CBS Sports.

Ryan Miller meanwhile, did his fair share of quality recruiting the past few seasons at UNLV and was the point man on 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher, who recently decommitted from the Runnin Rebels and committed to TCU last week. Fisher was rated as a Top-40 prospect in the Class of 2016.

Dixon's third assistant -- Corey Barker -- comes from Louisiana Tech and has a more interesting connection. Barker's first cousin is Jarred Vanderbilt, a Top-15 player in the Class of 2017. Sources have told CBS Sports that Vanderbilt -- a 6-foot-8, 200 pound forward from Houston -- is a strong Kentucky lean, but there's no way that Barker's presence at TCU won't put the Horned Frogs in position to be in position.

Dixon's teams have always been known for their meticulousness on both sides on the floor and their ability to be consistent.

Now he's putting himself in position to land elite players in an effort to compete in a league that saw seventy percent of its teams reach the NCAA Tournament last March.

TCU still has a long ways to go to put itself into that type of conversation, but for a program that's only reached college basketball's most fabled showcase seven times in its history, things are definitely trending in one direction: upward.

Jordan McLaughlin needs to have a big summer for USC

The Trojans suffered a major blow last week when Julian Jacobs opted to sign with an agent and officially enter the 2016 NBA Draft.

Without Jacobs, USC officially becomes McLaughlin's team and he needs to spend extended time this summer working on his decision making and ball security as he gets set to take over as the Trojans' full-time point guard in 2016-17.

Andy Enfield used both Jacobs and McLaughlin together in the back court last season in what was a breakthrough year for USC, but McLaughlin was used primarily on the wing at the point of attack while Jacobs initiated the offense from the top of the key.

There's no denying McLaughlin's talent.

He's a former Top-50 recruit who averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.8 rebounds last season, but several times in end of game situations McLaughlin was much too loose with the basketball.

In a two-point loss at Washington on Jan. 3, the Trojans had a 19-point second-half lead when Jacobs left the game with an ankle injury. McLaughlin then took over at point guard and finished with eight turnovers in the defeat.

Then in the NCAA Tournament, USC had a five-point lead with 2:21 to play in regulation against Providence when McLaughlin had an ill-advised turnover that helped spark the Friars' comeback victory.

The Trojans were a Top-20 team if Jacobs returned, but it's tough to put USC in that position without seeing how McLaughlin responds to having a bigger piece of the pie.

It will be up to him and incoming freshman De'Anthony Melton to hold down the most important position on the floor if the Trojans are to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2017.

There will never be another Howard Garfinkel

Our greatest gift in life is and always will be our ability to give.

Nobody knew that better than Howard Garfinkel.

The world famous co-founder of the Five-Star basketball camp did more for people in basketball than anyone else in the last half century and it's not even close.

Before Nike had the Peach Jam and UnderArmour had its share of the summer recruiting circuit, Five-Star was the gold standard and that was because of Garf.

The man made it his daily mission to create as many opportunities for people as he could and did only so he could help them advance in their own lives and careers.

He got kids Division I scholarships at both the mid-major and high-major level all while unearthing multiple hall-of-famers along the way.

He jump-started the coaching careers of too many luminaries to name and had stories upon stories to share with anyone who would listen.

Fortunately I got that opportunity over the last decade.

I'll miss checking in with Garf every week to touch base.

I'll miss his one liners as well as his critiques of everything in the world.

The man loved basketball, theater, politics, baseball, horse racing, and especially people.

And boy did people love him.

The reverence that guys like Bob Knight, Dick Vitale, Mike Krzyzewski, Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, Roy Williams, Pete Gillen, Steve Lappas, Seth Greenberg, Barry Rohrssen, Mitch Buonaguro, Larry Shyatt, Tom Konchalski, George Raveling, Jay Wright and too many others to name had for Garf was beyond real.

They would move mountains for him and he would do the same for them.

A true character of the game, the basketball world mourns as we lost one of most influential figures on Saturday at the age of 86.

There will be another never be another Garf.

Not in body.

Not in mind.

Not in spirit.

Thanks for being you and showing a world filled with greed, envy, and jealousy what can happen when you aim to give rather than to receive.

I won't remember the past few weeks where Garf's final days were spent battling in a Manhattan hospital.

I'll remember the person who touched the lives of many and was wealthier than any person I've ever met in terms of friends

Thanks for allowing me to be one of them.

Love you man.

Today, always, and forever.

This and That

• 16 of the players who were invited to the NBA Draft Combine this week in Chicago are underclassmen who have not signed with an agent. There are still many critical decisions to be made prior to next season.

• Louisiana Tech transfer Merrill Holden committed to Iowa State Saturday night and is immediately eligible for next season. The 6-foot-8, 215 pound Holden averaged 8.1 points and 5.0 rebounds last year and should plug an immediate hole for the Cyclones up front following the losses of both Georges Niang and Jameel McKay.

• UNLV's Marvin Menzies has assembled an extremely strong staff featuring Andre Lafleur, former Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, and Eric Brown, who was previously at Long Beach State. Lafleur was on the bench at UConn when the Huskies won national titles in 2004 and 2011 and spent the past few seasons at Providence under Ed Cooley. Jeter worked for Bo Ryan before becoming a head coach. Brown is a West Coast grinder who knows how to find players. Keep an eye on this group as the Runnin' Rebels aim to put together a strong 2017 class.

Arizona will face A&M and Texas will play Arkansas in a doubleheader at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17, sources told CBS Sports. Texas A&M will return the game against Arizona in Phoenix in 2018.

• Another example of how social media is both a blessing and a curse: players who weren't invited to the NBA Draft Combine are announcing on Twitter that they've decided to return to school next season. Did they really have a choice?

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