While it's far too early to jump off the TCU basketball bandwagon, Big 12 play has not been pleasant for Frog fans thus far. Turnovers, missed free throws, and poor shooting have doomed TCU in it's first two games of conference play, and the 13-0 start seems far in the distance when compared to their 0-2 mark in the Big 12.
While there is no shame in losing to a very good WVU team that feasts off of turnovers and mistakes, the loss at Kansas State may come back to haunt the Frogs in a big way. The Wildcats had been playing poorly as of late, and while the TCU defense made the trip to Manhattan, the O was a no show, and the end result was a second ugly loss. TCU will come home, but waiting for them will be a Top 25 Baylor team that brings in a winless conference record of their own - though their's comes with an asterisk - the losses came to a very good Oklahoma team on the road and in a one point thriller to #12 Kansas at home.
This Bear's team is all about balance - in the past, they have had a bevy of stars, but this group sports nine players averaging double digit minutes and seven of them score at least six points a game. While not the explosive offense group that Coach Scott Drew has had often times in the past, this team can defend with the best of them, holding opponents to 56 points per game on the season.They also rebound it very well, and their size and length on the wings can be problematic for opposing offenses in multiple regards. As ODB pointed out in the Q&A yesterday, the Bears have incorporated much more 1-3-1 zone into their defense as opposed to their base 2-3, utilizing their exceptional length on the wing to muck up the passing lanes and hide their deficiencies at the rim defensively. With no player over 6'9" on the roster, and only two that really play, the Bears are vulnerable inside, where Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn, and Amric Fields will have a chance to do some damage on the scoreboard. TCU has struggled to hold on to possessions, turning it over 32 times over their first two conference games, and with the best way to beat a 1-3-1 being patience with the drive complimented with quick ball movement, that is a trend that will need to change considerably if they want to break through the win column this afternoon. 1-3-1 defenses can also be vulnerable on the glass, and TCU can swing the momentum with a couple easy buckets off of offensive rebounds, something the Bears give up a fair amount of.
Defensively, TCU will shift their focus to forward Taurean Prince, who leads Baylor in scoring with just shy of 12 ppg. The gas in the machine though is guard Kenny Chery, a 5'11" spark plug who leads the team in minutes, assists, and steals, and scores close to 10 ppg for the Bears as well, including a 25 point breakthrough against Kansas. Much like the Frog's Kyan Anderson, if you can slow Chery you can slow the whole squad, and like Kyan, Kenny can be a little turnover prone as well, giving it away almost three times per game in his 30 minutes of PT. Johnathan Motley, Rico Gathers, and Royce O'Neale also pour in double digits or close to it, and Prince and O'Neale also shoot it from long range at an impressive clip. They aren't going to blow teams away offensively, but they will chip away and are pretty efficient with the ball in their hands.
This is a pendulum swinging game for the Frogs, and a moral victory won't do much for perception at this point; 0-3 in conference play sounds all too familiar for Frog fans. TCU will have a week off before facing Texas Tech, but after that game, they will play seven consecutive games against what will likely be ranked opponents. A win here is crucial for confidence, and to ensure they stay out of the Big 12 cellar. It will be imperative for Anderson and his back court mates to be patient against the 1-3-1, move the ball with speed and precision, and take what the defense gives them. If they can minimize turnovers and get their free throw percentage up to a reasonable expectation, it's a winnable game. But if the trends of unforced errors and missed open shots continue, this could get ugly.
I won't predict a lot of scores here... but, because it's Baylor, I have to say 61-58, Frogs, with TCU getting a controversial foul call on a three point attempt by Anderson, allowing him to make three freebies with no time on the clock for a 3 point win. :)