We all remember it well, the unprecedented upset of Kansas, then a top #5 team, by the then dregs of college basketball, our beloved Horned Frogs. But that game was two years ago, and other than Kyan Anderson, there are no impact players for the Frogs that played in it. Can this version of TCU basketball, one of the best defensive and shot-blocking teams in the nation, do it again? Here are the keys to another upset.
THE ARC OF TRIUMPH - Kansas is the best three point shooting team in the Big 12, shooting almost 40% as a team in conference play. The ability to stretch the floor with distance shooting has caused problems for opponents, and negated any size advantage that an opponent might hold. It will also lend to rendering one of TCU's biggest defensive strengths - the blocked shot - far less effective. Sophomore Brannen Greene has been impressive shooting the rock this season, coming off the bench to hit on 48% of his attempts. It will be up to the Frogs to close out on the shooters with a hand up, and rotate in to help with anticipation to not only keep KU from getting good looks from deep, but also from exploring the drive. The D will need to "help the helper" and protect the backside, as well as be aware of the long rebounds those long shots tend to produce.
IT STARTS ON D - In addition to guarding the arc, the Frogs will need to keep up their impressive play on the defensive end to slow down an efficient, if not overly explosive, Kansas O. TCU has held opponents to less than 40% shooting on two point attempts, the second best such mark in the country. The also give up the 15th fewest points in the country (57.3), while the Jayhawks score just over 74. Keeping this game in the 50's would go a long way towards the Frogs pulling the upset once again. As stated above, helping the helper and protecting the backside will be crucial, as the Jayhawks move well together as a team and excel at exploiting teams with cuts and quick passing.
OWN THE GLASS - While TCU started very well in the rebounding department against WVU this past weekend, they were done in late by some clutch offensive rebounds and easy second chance points for the Mountaineers (dubious foul calls and poor free throw shooting non-withstanding). Kansas rebounds the ball well, but their best glass cleaner comes off the bench in freshman Cliff Alexander, who averages six boards a game. The Frogs should hold the advantage over KU at the tip, Kenrich Williams, Chris Washburn, and Karviar Shepherd have been very effective on the boards and should hold matchup advantages in that regard over the Jayhawk starters. The opportunity to get rebounds and score easy buckets in transition could be a difference maker for a TCU team that has struggled to score consistently in conference play.
DON'T LET ELLIS AND MASON BEAT YOU - Kyan Anderson has been excellent this season, both as a scorer and distributor - and the undisputed leader of the team. He will face his mirror image in Frank Mason tonight, a sophomore who is the same size as the senior point guard and scores exactly one less point per game than Kyan. Mason drives the bus for the Kansas O, he plays the most minutes, scores the second most points, and leads the team in assists and steals. Perry Ellis is the most experienced player on the team, the leading scorer, the leading rebounder, and has the size to shoot over guys - hitting on 37% of his outside shots. Bill Self has been slowly shrinking his rotation, so if TCU can limit the effectiveness of those two players and force Self to look deeper in to his bench, that could give the Frogs, and their depth, an advantage late.
NEVER FORGET - Yeah, it was two years ago. And yeah, the players are mostly different. But this is a much better TCU team, and maybe, just maybe, a Kansas team that is just a wee bit little worse (although they are first in the Big 12 and the #9 team in the country). Though the Frogs won't have the element of surprise, they will put a team on the floor (and a strange floor it is) that is capable of playing with the best in the Big 12, even though they have yet to get over the hump against a god team. The Frogs are going to beat a team they shouldn't once or twice this year - why can't they do it tonight (again)?
Those are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight's game - there is one element I am purposefully not mentioning, with the hopes that we will put that issue to rest, finally. The Wilk will be packed and the crowd will be lively - will the Frogs pull the upset, or will they get run out of the gym by the best team they have played so far this year?