There are plenty of story lines to follow this year for men's basketball, all of them detailed more clearly below, but I wanted to take a second to remark on the one thing I am most looking forward too, which is how this team grows into this new year. Listen, last year was really fun for the Frogs. Heck, WE MADE A POSTSEASON TOURNAMENT PEOPLE! But then the coach left, the point guard left and things looked rocky to say the least.
But then TCU landed a big name coach in Trent Johnson from LSU, who immediately started landing some big name recruits and turning around the attitude of TCU Basketball.
My question now is, where does this go? How does it evolve? How can TCU turn it's positive strides and new coach into victories in the Big 12?
The first step is fan support, which has been better but has a ways to go no doubt. If TCU can get off to a hot start, gather some good wins, I expect fans will start paying attention. Either way, it should be an incredibly fun year, we will cover it all here at Frogs O' War including news, previews and game threads for each and every contest.
(The following is borrowed from the CBS Preview)
Projected starters: G Kyan Anderson, Soph. (8.3 ppg, 2.8 apg); G Nate Butler, Sr. (2.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg) F Garlon Green, Sr. (9.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg); F Amric Fields, Jr. (9.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Adrick McKinney, Sr. (5.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
It starts with Johnson, the first-year coach who came to Fort Worth after spending four seasons at LSU. His tenure there wasn't exactly a rousing success -- a second round NCAA tournament appearance in his first season was the team's best finish (and only NCAA tournament berth) during his time in Baton Rouge. But Johnson proved he could win at both Nevada and Stanford, taking both programs to Sweet 16 berths.
In terms of players, sophomore F Devonta Abron, an Arkansas transfer, will help provide frontcourt depth. He started 22 games at Arkansas last season, averaging 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Freshmen guards Charles Hill, Jr., and Clyde Smith III will likely see action as well. This is a reasonably experienced roster, though, so the true freshmen won't likely be called upon to play major roles.
Hank Thorns and J.R. Cadot. Thorns, a PG, led TCU in scoring (13.5 points per game), 3-point field goals made (74) and assists (4.6 per game) a season ago. Cadot, a SG, finished No. 2 in program history in career FG percentage (56.6) and averaged 11.4 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game.
What you need to know: This isn't going to be an easy transition for TCU. The Horned Frogs were picked to finish 10th in the 10-team Big 12 -- and, adding a bit of insult to injury, they didn't receive a single vote to finish in any other spot. Expectations are low, and it's going to take time for Johnson to try to build a winner in Fort Worth.
Johnson has said he likes the talent on his roster. There is enough experience that new venues and tougher opponents shouldn't rattle the players.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
TCU uses a reasonably soft nonconference schedule to get used to life under its new coach, then starts Big 12 play with a bang by beating Texas Tech. It sneaks up on a few other teams and manages to finish eighth in the league and even gets one upset win in a Big 12 tournament game before bowing out. Johnson is able to convince recruits the future is bright, and the building blocks for the future are laid out nicely.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
The Horned Frogs look deserving of that last-place Big 12 prediction. A lack of depth proves to be a killer as the grind of conference play sets in by early February, and TCU folds like a tent down the stretch. It wins only two Big 12 games all season and gets thumped in the conference tournament. Fans openly wonder if the program has bitten off more than it can chew in basketball.
(The following comes to FOW courtesy of GoFrogs.com and the TCU Media Relations team)
A new head coach. A new conference. A new era in TCU Horned Frogs basketball.
TCU underwent a serious makeover this past offseason, as first-year head coach Trent Johnson prepares to lead a fresh Frog program into its new home in the Big 12.
Johnson inherits a team that will try to to build off its most successful campaign in years. TCU posted its first winning record and national postseason appearance in seven years last spring with an 18-15 overall mark and CBI appearance.
Gone from that squad is a group of three seniors that left its mark on the TCU program in Hank Thorns, J.R. Cadot and Craig Williams. While none of the three former Frogs started their college careers at TCU, each capped his time on campus by helping the team take its first big turnaround step in 2011-12.
Fortunately for the new head coach, an experienced core of contributors from last season's postseason run returns, led by a pair of conference award winners and the team's leading returning scorer each of the past two years.
JOHNSON ARRIVES AS PROVEN WINNER
TCU was able to attract a recognized winner to its bench in the offseason in Johnson, who previously authored successful runs at Nevada, Stanford and, most recently, LSU. He has been able to guide teams to postseason appearances in eight of his 13 seasons, including five NCAA Tournament bids and two Sweet 16's. He was named conference coach of the year at each of the three stops along the way.
Johnson preaches discipline in his program. His coaching style is aggressive yet structured. Offensively, he wants TCU to be flexible in having the ability to run an effective fast break when the opportunity presents itself before settling into efficient half-court sets that can produce points when the trasition window doesn't exist. In short, he wants TCU to play as fast as it can play well.
Defensively, Johnson places an emphasis on toughness, which manifests itself in the ability to defend in the half court and rebound, areas where the Frogs have shown room for improvement in recent years.
Overall, Johnson seeks balance from his teams. His most successful squads have always been able to play fast or slow, handle pressure while pressuring themselves in the half court. The approach has proven to be a winning mix that Johnson expects will work well at TCU.
NINE PLAYERS, TWO AWARD WINNERS RETURN
Johnson will have some talented returning pieces to work with in his first season at TCU. Nine letterwinners are back, including three of the top five leading scorers and rebounders from a year ago.
Headlining the group are six players who made at least eight starts in 2011-12, two of which earned Mountain West Conference awards in junior Amric Fields and sophomore Kyan Anderson.
Fields, a 6-9, 220-pound forward, was named MWC Sixth Man of the Year after leading all league bench players in scoring average during the conference season. He finished the year averaging 9.6 points overall, fourth among all Frogs.
Fields provides the Frogs with a versatile player who has the size to play inside and the range to beat opponents from outside. He paced TCU in blocked shots (0.6 bpg) and field-goal percentage (51.1 percent) while ranking third in scoring (9.6 ppg) and fourth in 3-pointers (0.9 3pg).
Anderson, a 5-11, 175-pound point guard, made a big impact for TCU in his first season on campus while running away with MWC Freshman of the Year honors. After getting his feet wet early, he started each of the last 22 games, splitting point guard and shooting guard duties with Thorns.
Anderson showed great play-making ability as a freshman, ranking No. 8 in the MWC in assists (2.8 apg) and fifth among Frogs in scoring (8.3 ppg). He will slide into the role of TCU's primarily ball handler with the loss of Thorns.
The Frogs bring back another regular starter from last season in 6-7, 215-pound senior guard/forward Garlon Green, the team's leading returning scorer (9.9 ppg). He is the most experienced player in the TCU program, leading the roster in active games played (97) and starts (52).
Green is perhaps the most athletically gifted player on the Frogs' roster, having delivered one highlight-reel dunk after another throughout his career, but he also is a strong threat from outside the arc. He tops all active Frogs in career scoring (829 points) and 3-pointers (95).
Length and athleticism will be strengths of this season's team, and fitting right in that mold are seniors Nate Butler Lind and Connell Crossland and junior Jarvis Ray.
Butler Lind, a 6-6, 200-pound guard, played in each contest last season in his first year in the program while making 10 starts. He possesses the tools to be an effective weapon off the dribble and a hard-nosed, on-ball defender. TCU looks for Butler Lind to make more contributions on the offensive end of the court in his second Division I season.
Crossland, a 6-7, 190-pound forward, came on strong in the second half of last season. He started eight of the last nine games that included the team's two victories over ranked opponents in No. 11 UNLV and No. 18 New Mexico.
An instinctive player around the glass, Crossland pulled down five or more rebounds on eight occasions. He also is efficient offensively, raking among the team's leaders in field-goal percentage (50.8 percent).
Ray returns to the floor after sitting out the second half of last season while focusing on his academics. Another long, athletic guard at 6-6, 195 pounds, Ray has seen action in 39 games in his career. He shot 56.3 percent from the floor last season in limited duty before missing the final 18 games.
Players who can hold their own inside against physical Big 12 frontcourts will be important for TCU in 2012-13, and one of its biggest presences from a year ago returns in senior forward Adrick McKinney, who measures in at 6-8, 255 pounds.
McKinney, the squad's top returning rebounder, started 16 games, ranking No. 2 on the team in rebounding (3.8 rpg) and No. 7 in scoring (5.5 ppg). TCU's recent struggles inside have been well documented, and progress from McKinney and his inside teammates will be key in this team's fortunes.
Also back to help provide depth for TCU this season will be junior guard Thomas Montigel (6-2, 195) and sophomore guard Chris Zurcher (6-0, 165), Texas natives who combined to see action in 14 games last season.
SIX NEWCOMERS ADDED TO MIX
TCU will expect significant contributions from a group of six newcomers, especially in the case of transfer Devonta Abron, a 6-8, 255-pound sophomore forward.
A Dallas native who was one of the nation's top recruits in the class of 2011, Abron saw extensive action as a freshman at Arkansas, appearing in all 32 games with 22 starts for a Razorbacks squad that posted an 18-14 overall record. He led the squad in rebounding (4.2 rpg) and was fifth in scoring (5.7 ppg).
Johnson, who coached against Arkansas last season at LSU, took notice of Abron's talents as an inside presence and believes he is just the type of player the Frogs will need as they transition to playing in the Big 12.
Added to the mix down low for the Frogs is freshman center Aaron Durley, another big body at 6-10, 270 pounds. Durley played for one of the top prep teams in Texas last season at Fort Bend Bush High School. He posted single-game averages of 8.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in a reserve role, as Bush also featured Cameron Ridley, one of the nation's top center prospects.
TCU experienced a setback in preseason workouts when Durley suffered a major knee injury that is expected to keep him out for the upcoming season. Despite the injury, TCU expects Durley to be a big addition to the future of the Frogs' frontcourt.
While TCU loaded up in the frontcourt in the offseason, the backcourt also received a pair of Texas prep additions in freshmen Charles Hill Jr. and Clyde Smith III.
Hill attracted notice as one of the most gifted athletes in the DFW area at Fort Worth's Trimble Tech High School. He was named the No. 27 player in the state and a three-star recruit by Rivals.com. A two-time all-district honoree, Hill concluded his career by leading the Bulldogs to a 30-5 record while averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 steals per game.
Smith joins the Frogs after playing prep school ball the last three seasons at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. A very heady point guard prospect who hails from Houston, Smith garnered notice from some top college programs and was named the nation's No. 50 point guard and No. 27 overall player in the state of Texas by ESPN.com.
Also new to the floor for TCU this season are sophomore guard Christian Gore (6-2, 175) and freshman guard Kemal Dincer (6-3, 187).
Gore played the first half of last season as a freshman at Brown before transferring to TCU during the second semester. He will be eligible to play for the Frogs in January.
Dincer joins the squad from Turkey, where he played for the Istanbul BB senior team that competed in the Turkish Basketball Second League.
ELITE COMPETITION AWAITS TCU IN BIG 12
Transitioning to a first-year head coach and replacing the type of talent TCU lost in the offseason would be a challenge for any team. That task is only heightened with the school's move to the Big 12, which annually ranks as one of the nation's top power conferences.
TCU will play 12 of its 18 conference games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last spring, including the national runner-up in Kansas and three other squads that won at least one NCAA contest in Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State.
But, as the saying goes, with every challenge comes opportunity. While TCU will have its share of obstacles, it also will have the chance to renew long-time traditional rivalries with teams like Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech. Throw in other talented programs like Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, and the move to the Big 12 should be beneficial for years to come, both for the program itself and fans of TCU basketball.