TCU's men's basketball team takes the court at the American Airlines Center in Dallas tonight at 6:30 in their first game of the season. They face an SMU team that won 2012's meeting 64-61 in Fort Worth, and returns all five of its starters from last season.
SMU's head coach Larry Brown is in his second year with the program, and has managed to make some decent changes in that amount of time. He's cleaned house and gotten a few big recruits that may have the Mustangs program winning pretty soon.
Meanwhile, Frog fans should be pretty pleased with their second year coach, Trent Johnston, as Trent coached the teams to two major upsets in 2012, one over Kansas and the other over Oklahoma.While those were the only two wins for TCU in conference play, a top 40 recruiting class that includes the 6-10 center Karviar Shepherd has things looking up for the Horned Frogs program.
Unfortunately, TCU lost F/C Devonta Abron for the season when he tore his Achilles during an exhibition game in Canada back in August. Abron was the second leading rebounder on the team last year, and the fourth leading scorer. He was the most proficient rebounder and second best scorer to return to the team this season.What makes matters worse is that center Aaron Durley will also miss the season, after aggravating an injury that kept him out for the entire 2012 campaign.
However, the Frogs will have to make due with Shepherd at center, along with three other freshmen who are expected to make big contributions this season. Guards Michael Williams and Brandon Parrish, along with forward Hudson Price, are expected to play early and often for a Frogs team that looks to improve on offense this season.
The Frogs ranked an abysmal 341st in scoring offense in 2012, averaging 55 points per game, and while a scrappy defense usually kept contests close, they'll need more buckets if they want to win in 2013.
Probably the biggest key to improving on offense is the return of guard Kyan Anderson, who progressed immensely throughout the season last year, and looks to lead the Frogs in scoring and assists for the second straight season. Anderson make clear strides in ball control and his passing ability as the season moved on, and with more scoring options around him this season, things should only get easier.
Along with Anderson, senior Jarvis Ray returns after injuring his foot midway through the season and being unable to return to the court down the stretch. Ray only averaged 6.2 points per game in 2012, but should see an increased role this season.
Also returning to the team this season, but not able to play quite yet, is senior Amric Fields, who saw his season end against SMU last year when he tore his ACL in the most horrific of ways. If Fields can get back to where he was, with Anderson, Ray, and this talented group of freshmen, this could be a totally different TCU team from a year ago.
Of course, with all Trent Johnston teams, and we saw it last year, wins will absolutely be by team effort, rather than one standout performance. If this team can bring back the defensive prowess it had last season, when it finished third in the Big 12 in scoring defense, we could see a legitimate uptick in the number of wins for this team.
Of course, with Abron and Durley down, and players like Adrick McKinney gone, things will be tough for the Frogs defending the paint. A lot of pressure will be on Shepherd to figure things out quickly, as he's the only healthy center on the roster. Sophomore Chris Washburn may see an extended amount of time on the court, and when Fields is healthy he may see time at the 5 as well.
What this means is that we may see some smaller TCU lineups on the court pretty regularly, and we should prepare to see this team give up a lot of rebounds, and a lot of second chance points.
Regardless, we'll probably see some improvement from this 2013 squad, and if Trent can build on this and pull in another great recruiting class, who knows where this program can go.