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TCU Basketball Preview: SMU

TCU will get their first chance this season to knock off a ranked opponent tonight as the #22 SMU Mustangs pay a visit to Fort Worth.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Game Time: 7:00pm CDT | Location: Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center - Fort Worth, TX
TV: FOX Sports Southwest | Series: SMU Leads 104-85 | Game Line: SMU -6.0

After a week off to recover from their 3rd place finish in the 2015 Cancun Challenge, the Horned Frogs return to the court tonight to face their cross-town rivals, the SMU Mustangs. A series that dates back to 1919 returns this season after a rare hiatus last year. The Frogs and Mustangs have played each other at least once every year since 1921 with the exception of 2003, 2011, and 2014. In total, this is the 190th meeting between the two schools.

SMU enters tonight's game ranked 22nd in the country according to the AP poll after a 4-0 start to the season. Most recently, the Mustangs topped Brown 77-69 in Dallas. Despite the perfect start to the year, SMU is facing some significant of off-the-court issues. During the summer, the program was hammered with sanctions after the NCAA found the school guilty of academic fraud and unethical conduct. As a result, SMU is ineligible for all postseason play and will lose nine scholarships over a three-year probationary period. Additionally, head coach Larry Brown was suspended for nine games, including tonight's contest in Fort Worth, after being cited for lack of head coach control while the violations were being committed.

On top of not having their head coach, the Mustangs might be without their one of their best players as well. Nic Moore is listed as a questionable for the game tonight, with interim head coach Tim Jankovich describing him as a "game-time decision." Moore missed Sunday's contest with Brown after breaking a bone in his hand. He has been one of the top performers for this SMU team, averaging 12.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in over 33 minutes per game. The Mustangs seemed to struggle somewhat without his leadership on Sunday.

Additionally, Ben Moore, SMU's talented junior forward, is expected to be back in the starting lineup tonight following a one-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. He has been another leader for the Mustangs, averaging 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.

Keith Frazier leads SMU in scoring on the year with 14.0 points per game. He also grabs 3.3 rebounds and dishes out 2.8 assists each night. Without the Moore duo, Frazier carried the load for the Mustangs on Sunday, scoring 23 points on nearly 60% shooting in 37 minutes of game action. Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert round out the team's top scorers. Kennedy does it all, averaging 11.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and a team-best 3.8 assists per game. Tolbert is the squad's top rebounder with 6.5 each night, in addition to scoring an average of 11.0 points per game.

There's no question that the SMU offense will present the biggest challenge thus far for the TCU defense. In addition to averaging nearly 80 points per game, the team is shooting a ridiculous 53.5% from the field. They also hold a significant margin on the boards, out-rebounding their foes by nearly 10 boards per game. The SMU defense has been impressive as well, holding their opponents to just 64.5 points per game on 39.9% shooting from the field.

The Frogs will need their duo of point guards to find success tonight if TCU is to pick up their first win over a ranked opponent this season. Chauncey Collins has cooled off significantly since his hot start to the season. After scoring 30 points in his first two games, he has just 14 in his last three. In the Frogs' 71-60 win over Illinois State on Wednesday, Collins scored just one point on 0/5 shooting in 16 minutes of play. On the year, he is averaging 8.8 points per game on 32.3% shooting. The Frogs will need him to return to his early-season form tonight to keep pace with SMU.

Malique Trent has helped with scoring during Collins' mini-drought, finishing in double-figures in three of his last four games. He led all scorers against Illinois State with 19 points on nearly 60% shooting. His season average shot up to 12.8 points per game after the effort. Trent is also grabbing 2.8 rebounds and dishing 2.2 assists per game.

The Frogs' three big men are also having impressive starts to the season. Vladimir Brodziansky continues to be TCU's most complete player. He leads the team in scoring (13.4 points per game), rebounding (7.4 boards per game), shooting percentage (58.7% from the field), and blocked shots (10 on the year). Additionally, the Slovakian has the fewest turnovers and fouls committed of any starter for the Frogs.

Brandon Parrish has been the best shooter on the team thus far. He averages 11.0 points per game on 64.0% shooting from the field, including a red-hot 76.9% average from behind the arc. Finally, Karviar Shepherd has had a nice start to the season, averaging 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

With SMU's fast-paced offense and ability to score quickly, the Frogs will likely need all five of their starters to have productive games tonight. It will be important for TCU to take advantage of each and every opportunity on the offensive end if the Frogs are to pick up a major early-season win.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Chauncey Collins

In the first two games of the season, it looked as if Collins wouldn't have much trouble transitioning into his role as the team's top point guard. He averaged 15.0 points per game through the first two contests, while shooting a solid 45% from the floor. However, in his last three games, tough shooting nights and foul trouble has led to a reduction in offensive output. Against South Dakota State, Rhode Island, and Illinois State, Collins managed just 4.7 points per game on 25.0% shooting from the field. He also committed eight fouls in that span. If he can manage fouling tonight, watch for Collins to return to his early-season form.

2. Aggressiveness

In the Frogs' three wins this season, the team has drawn 78 total fouls, resulting in 94 free throw attempts. In the Frogs' two losses this season, the team has only drawn 43 total fouls, resulting in 46 free throw attempts. This disparity has accounted for about seven points per game. In wins, the Frogs are averaging 23.7 points from the line. In losses, that number drops to 16.5 points per game. Against an SMU team that commits less than 16 fouls per game on average, it will be important for TCU to be aggressive, especially inside, and look to either create open looks, or draw a foul doing so. A Horned Frog upset tonight could very well be the result of free throw shooting.

3. Seize Momentum

The Frogs have been dominant in the opening minutes of each of their five games to start the season. In total, TCU has outscored their opponents 43-21 in the first four minutes of game play. The difference between wins and losses has been the next four minutes. Both South Dakota State and Rhode Island were able to regain control quickly after falling behind. In the Frogs' three wins this season, TCU shut down their opponent early to hold momentum for the entire 40 minutes. If the Frogs can start fast again tonight and apply defensive pressure throughout, we could be in store for a competitive game.

TCU Projected Starters

SMU Projected Starters

G

Chauncey Collins

8.8 ppg, 3.0 apg

F

Markus Kennedy

11.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg

G

Malique Trent

12.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg

F

Ben Moore

11.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg

G

Brandon Parrish

11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg

G

Shake Milton

8.8 ppg, 3.3 apg

F

Vladimir Brodziansky

13.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg

G

Sterling Brown

8.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg

F

Karviar Shepherd

10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg

G

Keith Frazier

14.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg

Here are other game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

  • TCU has won 21 of its last 23 non-conference games dating back to 2013.
  • TCU is 35-7 when leading at the half under head coach Trent Johnson.
  • TCU has held 30 opponents to 59 points or less under Trent Johnson.
  • TCU is 14-2 all-time under Trent Johnson during the month of December.
  • Heading into Wednesday, TCU ranks No. 35 in NCAA in blocks per game, averaging 5.6 a contest.
  • TCU posted the 11th most free throws made in school history in its season-opener with 36.
  • TCU returns three starters from a year ago in Chris Washburn, Kenrich Williams and Karviar Shepherd.
  • With Williams out, Washburn and Shepherd are TCU's captains this season.
  • TCU has played its first five games without Washburn and Williams.
  • Vladimir Brodziansky was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week following the season-opener.
  • Brodziansky joins former Frog Trey Zeigler as the only TCU player to earn the honor under Trent Johnson.
  • Shepherd scored his 500th career point last against Houston Baptist.
  • Brandon Parrish has scored in double-figures in three out of the five games this season.
  • Parrish was named to t he Cancun Challenge All -Tournament team.