Though TCU won't start conference play ranked in the top 25, they still come in riding the momentum of a perfect 13-0 preseason, and the confidence that comes with it. The Frogs rank in the top 25 in rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage, and the top 50 in points per game - averaging a solid 75 so far. Though they haven't played a great schedule, they have torn through it, beating opponents by an average of 22 points per game, good for 6th in the country.
But now the real test begins, as the Frogs will start Big 12 play today against a WVU team that comes in at #17, and with wins over Boston College, UCONN, NC State, and Virginia Tech already this season, against a singular loss (to LSU). Bob Huggins man to man trapping schemes are incredibly successful in forcing turnovers - the Eers lead the country in steals - which the Mountaineers are adept at turning in to points. The Eers are led in scoring by Juwan Staten - a potential All-American guard who drops in 18 ppg. Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton, a pair of forwards who average 10 and 11 points respectively, also handle the scoring load, but this is a well balanced attacked. WVU has struggled from behind the arc and at the free throw line this season, as they shoot only 31% from three and 66% from the line, though against Va Tech they got hot in the second half and finished over 40%.
WVU will take their #24 ranked offense against the #5 TCU D, who have allowed only 53 ppg through the preseason. The Frogs, who also average 9.5 blocks per contest, will need to keep the Eers off the offensive glass, as they lead the country in that category with 15 per game. TCU's size and length inside should limit WVU's second chance point opportunities, and if the Frogs want to stay in the game, that will be a big key to success. The other key will definitely be how the TCU guards handle the full court press of the Mountaineers - can Kyan Anderson, Chauncey Collins, and co protect the rock and not give WVU easy transition opportunities? Or will they fall victim to the hot potato syndrome that has plagued WVU opponents to start the season, averaging 23 per game when they play the Eers? If the Frogs hold close to their season average, with only 12 turnovers a game, they have a great shot to pull off the stunner. But if they are in the 20 plus range, that spells disaster for TCU and a likely win for their opponent.
Ultimately, this is the first measuring stick in the long grind of the Big 12 season. TCU will face ranked opponents in nine of their next 11 games (as the polls stand now), and will likely be the underdog in all but 2-4 games in conference play. Playing well against WVU will go a long way in showing that the Frogs are for real, and with their ability to defend, block shots, and hit open jumpers, pulling off win isn't out of the question.
Be sure to check out Andrew's Big 12 Primer and Jamie's Q&A with the Smoking Musket, too!