College basketball season has arrived. The baseball and football teams have had recent turnarounds--is basketball next on that list? Andrew and I will be doing a shootaround every Friday during the season. The Big 12 is so deep, and so much fun, we'll never be short on topics.
Shootaround Week 1
Best Case, Worst Case, etc.
Marsh: Basketball is here, man. What are you most excited for?
Brown: There are really two story lines that stand out to me this year. The first is, from a national perspective, where will the spotlight land? There isn’t exactly a talent drought, but last year saw a lot of talented players bolt to the NBA, leaving a void of stardom for this coming year. Outside of Kentucky, Arizona, and sort of Duke, nobody really stands out as an elite team so there is a lot of opportunity out there for players and teams to rise to the occasion. The second is all about dem frogs. I fully expect TCU to look completely different this season than they have since Trent Johnson took over two years ago, and I’m really pumped to watch how much this team has grown and improved.
Marsh: What are the worst, most likely, and best case scenarios for the season?
Brown: Worst case scenario for this season would be an exact replica of last season. Winless in the conference, and injuries to key players, hindering the growth and development of the young studs on the roster. Most likely scenario is that we go in to conference play with a strong record, sit somewhere in the middle of the pack for most of conference play, and then pick up one or two statement wins near the end of the year to give Frog fans legitimate hope for next season. Best case scenario would be that the Frogs get hot near the end of conference play and defy logic to win the Big 12 tournament and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one though.
Is Kansas still King? Texas the Kingslayer?
Marsh: We’ll get our Power Rankings out soon, but you’re all over Texas. I think they’ll be great, but I don’t think they can take down Bill Self and Kansas. Convince me otherwise.
Brown: Bill Self is one of those coaches that you just can’t really ever pick against, whether it is during the tournament or for preseason conference supremacy. That being said, as you alluded to, I’m all in on Texas this season. I think Rick Barnes got rid of some really bad seeds and has put together a roster that not only clicks in terms of locker room chemistry, but also is a really physically imposing bunch on the floor. Myles Turner is going to be a freaking stud, and putting him on a front line with Jonathon Holmes and Cameron Ridley is going to add up to some really sore opposing forwards. Additionally, they didn’t lose anyone from a season ago and freshman standout is back for his sophomore campaign. They don’t have a ton of perimeter shooting, but otherwise this team doesn’t have many holes. They are going to lock people down on defense and beat the crap out of people on the interior. That is the way Barnes has always wanted to run his program, and I strongly believe that this is UT’s year.
Marsh: Who’s your sleeper team?
Brown: Iowa State, no doubt. For one thing, Georges Niang might be the best player in the country, let alone the conference. His freshman year got cut short by injury last season, but if he comes back totally healthy he may have the most well-rounded skill set in all of college basketball. A true point forward, Niang is a gifted passer out of the low block and high post with good moves and a good offensive feel for the game. He can also step out and shoot it out to the three point line so he is a threat from pretty much everywhere on the floor. On top of Niang, Fred Hoiberg is one of my favorite coaches in the country. He is a great coach who really gets the most out of his team and players, and is one of those guys that isn’t shy about giving his players freedom to maximize their individual skill set.
Marsh: Niang and Iowa State are my sleeper too. Basketball was the first thing I covered here, so I was watching every game available.Back to the Frogs. Gary said that the football team would take 3-5 years to catch up to the Big 12. Trent pretty much said the same thing. How far is TCU off from being a dweller and somewhat of a contender?
Brown: The three-to-five year estimate was definitely an accurate time table for both football and basketball, but for different reasons. For the football team, it was all about adjusting to the physical and mental grind of playing in a big-time conference, and more than anything, adding depth. For basketball, it was really more an estimate of how long it would take to acquire and groom the players that it would take to compete in the Big 12. TCU football had the starting talent to compete right away, but lost because of lack of back-end talent. TCU basketball didn’t even have the starting talent to compete when they entered the Big 12. In my estimation they are still AT LEAST another year away from contending for a tournament birth, because the core of the team is still under the legal drinking age. With the way Johnson coaches these guys up and the way he has recruited these last few years, including the addition of mega-stud Jalon Miller, TCU will be a legitimate Big 12 contended in two years when Karviar Shepherd, Brandon Parrish, Mike Williams, and Hudson Price are seniors. That all being said, I think the dweller days are over. I think this team is going to be tough enough, deep enough, and competitive enough to get out of the Big 12 basement.
Marsh: We’re starting to get great recruits, and luckily in basketball it takes far less than it does in football to make a change. DFW is a hotbed for basketball and SMU is stealing some of that thunder. What does TCU have to do to crush that?
Brown: The beautiful thing about college basketball is that you don’t need great players to be a great team. If the chemistry is there, the defense is there, and the coaching and strategy is there then you can win. Look at a team like Virginia, for example. Joe Horn was just a fine player, and a great college athlete, but he was nothing special, especially by the standards of a star player on an elite level team. TCU can really follow that mold and compete with the players Johnson is bringing in, and although it would nice to get the big sexy players that DFW has to offer, I’m not sure Johnson really wants those guys. Similar to the way GMFP runs the football program, Johnson wants guys who A) want to be here, and B) buy in to the team and the program. He doesn’t want the Emmanuel Mudiay’s of the world, who are prone to screw your program over to make a buck. And neither do I, frankly. Give me a team of average and slightly below average players that wins over a team of stars that disappoints and frustrates. I’ll take that any day of the week.
Johnson doesn’t strike me as the type that is going to haul in the elite of the elite, mostly because they are historically less coachable. That being said, next year we will open up what projects to be one of the nicest arenas in college basketball when the DMC is finished with its remodel. Combine that with the fact that TCU athletics are prominent and sizzling hot in the national spotlight, and some bigtime recruits could start landing in Fort Worth sooner than later.
The Crystal Ball
Marsh: Prediction for the season?
Brown: My prediction is a winning record, believe it or not. I think we will enter conference play with a solid win-loss tally, and hang at .500 or slightly under it when we enter conference play. This season is all about building for the future though, make no mistake. More than wins and losses, this is the year that TCU basketball needs to establish itself as a respectable, competitive member of the conference. If TCU fans are ever going to start really getting behind this team, this would be the year to do it. They are talented, with depth at every position, and have a coach with real NCAA tournament experience. Don’t sleep on this team Frog fans, lift them up.