TCU gets a chance to impress the national pollsters when the Horned Frogs meet 25th-ranked Iowa in the final of the Emerald Coast Classic on Saturday night in Niceville, Fla.
The Horned Frogs (4-1) reached the championship game at the expense of winless California on Friday, getting 23 points inMike Miles Jr.'s return to action in a 59-48 victory.
Earlier, Iowa (5-0) survived a late flurry by Clemson in a 74-71 semifinal win after nearly blowing a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes.
TCU was ranked 14th in the season-opening AP poll and dropped to 15th after a couple of lackluster home wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Lamar.
The tight games finally caught up with the Horned Frogs when they were shocked 64-63 at home by Northwestern State, which resulted in TCU getting dropped from the most recent rankings.
Miles, the team's leading scorer, missed the loss with a bruised foot. In fact, he missed two straight before resurfacing against Cal off the bench.
The Horned Frogs have won their past two against Louisiana-Monroe and Cal, the latter having traveled across the country as one of the nation's 11 remaining winless Division I teams after dropping its first five, including four in a row at home.
As has been its pattern, TCU struggled to put an inferior opponent away, leading by eight with 7:42 to go before Miles came through with nine of his game-high point total.
The junior guard was able to play 34 of the game's 40 minutes in his return.
Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon is hoping his veteran team, coming off a 21-13 season and NCAA Tournament berth, has been waiting for a big-name challenge to show off its best stuff.
"It's funny," he said. "We were a young team with no returning guys last year, and now we're the old, experienced team one year later. That usually wasn't the case in men's college athletics. Now you get a little better and you feel good about yourself. They've worked hard."
Iowa had to work harder than expected to dispatch Clemson, which used a 16-2 run to stun the Hawkeyes and pull into a 62-all tie with 3:34 remaining.
Two foul shots by Patrick McCaffery got the Hawkeyes headed back in the right direction, and Tony Perkins' six late free throws iced the victory.
"That's kind of who he is," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Perkins, whose three sets of two foul shots in the final 20 seconds came after the Tigers had closed within three, two and then one on a Chase Hunter jumper with four seconds left. "He's a gamer. You trust him in those situations."
Patrick McCaffery, the coach's son, paced the Hawkeyes with 21 points. Perkins finished with 11 points, nine coming on 10 free-throw attempts.
Iowa will have a bit of a revenge motivation in the tournament final, having lost 94-92 at home to TCU in their most recent head-to-head in the second round of the 2017 NIT.
--Field Level Media