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TCU Basketball Preview: Abilene Christian

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After a renovation project that cost nearly $80 million and took 19 months to complete, the Frogs will open the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena this afternoon with a contest against the Abilene Christian Wildcats.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 1:00pm CDT | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena - Fort Worth, TX
TV: FOX Sports Southwest | Series: TCU Leads 16-0 | Game Line: None

It's rare that the biggest storyline heading into a game isn't, well, the game, but that's the case today in Fort Worth as the Frogs will open play in the newly renovated Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. After bouncing between the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center and the University Recreation Center for the last 652 days, TCU Basketball finally has a facility to call home once again.

The gymnasium formerly known as the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum closed following the 2013-14 season before receiving nearly $80 million in upgrades. Renamed the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena, TCU's new digs will feature enhanced courtside seating, wider concourses, multiple food courts, and a new club lounge. The entire complex will also house a state of the art TCU Athletics Hall of Fame, administrative offices, and a larger ticket office that will support Amon G. Carter Stadium as well.

Most importantly, the new facility represents a renewed commitment to Men's and Women's Basketball at TCU. Both teams will play in the Schollmaier Arena this afternoon in what will go down as a historic day for the University - one that could be looked back upon as a launching point for the Horned Frogs in the overall landscape of college basketball.

What better way to open the new home than with a contest against a struggling Abilene Christian Wildcats team that is 0-16 all-time against TCU?

Abilene Christian will enter the contest with a 4-6 record on the year, however three of those four wins came against non-Division I opponents. The Wildcats' lone Division I win came against Florida A&M on a neutral floor in late November. ACU dropped road contests to Portland, Colorado State, and Nebraska before falling to California - Riverside at home on Friday night.

Thanks to a trio of blowout wins over Division III and NAIA opponents, the Wildcats numbers look better than they actually are. As a team, ACU is averaging 71.3 points per game on 44.1% shooting from the field. Jaylen Franklin and Jovan Crnic are the lone Wildcats scoring in double-figures this season. Franklin enters the contest averaging 13.3 points per game on an impressive 52.1% shooting. Crnic isn't far behind with 10.1 points each night while also leading the team in assists with 2.8 per game.

Parker Wentz has been another top performer for ACU this season. He enters the game averaging 9.7 points in nearly 32 minutes on the floor each night. Duran Porter and Austin Cooke round out the starting five and are combining for 16.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The Wildcats haven't done much off the bench this season either. The team's main reserve threat is Jaren Louis, who averages 7.4 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game.

Getting to play an inferior opponent in a brand new facility after nine days of rest should provide a much-needed emotional boost for a TCU team that has struggled on both sides of the ball as of late. Following a 25-point "reality check" loss to Washington on December 8, the Frogs came out flat against a winless Prairie View A&M team later that week. Following a short break to complete final exams, the Frogs will return to action this afternoon looking to revive their early-season confidence.

Through the first nine games, Vladimir Brodziansky continues to lead TCU in a variety of categories. His 14.4 points per game and 64.2% average from the field are both tops on the team. Brodziansky is also pulling down 6.3 rebounds per game, second-most of any Horned Frog. The Slovakian transfer student has also proven to be one of TCU's most efficient players, having committed the fewest fouls and turnovers of any regular starter.

Malique Trent is the only other Frog scoring in double-figures. Trent's 11.7 points per game usually come as a result of the quantity over quality mantra, as he is shooting just 37.1% from the floor, including 10/46 from behind the arc. Trent has done a good job distributing the ball this season with a team-high 3.7 assists per game, however, he also leads the team in turnovers with 27 on the year.

Karviar Shepherd and Brandon Parrish continue to lead the Frogs down the middle, combining for 18.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Shepherd leads the team in rebounds while Parrish has been one of the most consistent performers for TCU this season.

Coming off his first double-double of the season, Devonta Abron has been a spark for TCU off the bench. He enters the game averaging 7.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in just 16.6 minutes of play. JD Miller has also improved as of late, adding another 6.6 points and 4.6 boards as a reserve.

Finally, on the injury front, it is possible that we see Chauncey Collins return to the starting lineup for the first time since December 2 after suffering a quad injury. Michael Williams has replaced Collins in the lineup for the last three games, where he has scored 5.7 points and grabbed 2.7 rebounds. Most impressively, Williams has turned the ball over just twice in his last 98 minutes on the floor.

After it was announced that Chris Washburn suffered a broken pinky finger that required surgery just before the season began, December 20 was set as the target date for his return. While there has been no indication from the school as to whether or not he will play this afternoon, Washburn was seen in a brace during Tuesday's Schollmaier Arena dedication ceremony. If he does in fact return today, it will likely be in a very limited capacity. Regardless, his return to the TCU lineup will be significant.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Ride the Momentum

Today is a big day for college basketball at TCU. The opening of Schollmaier Arena has created a buzz around this program the likes of which has not been seen since the Frogs knocked off #5 Kansas in early 2013. Blanketed in media coverage and fan support, TCU can use today's game to set the tone for the rest of this season and beyond. With the opening of the gym, Trent Johnson now has a major recruiting advantage. In addition, it is clear that TCU donors and administrators are committed to advancing the program. The Frogs need to seize this momentum and ride it into Big 12 play. While today marks a big step in the rebuilding process, nothing can advance this program as much as winning games.

2. Winter Break Boost

With final exams complete, the Frogs will have about three weeks to focus on nothing but basketball. In addition to the factors listed above, TCU has a great chance to regroup and build some confidence with three cupcakes left to finish the non-conference portion of 2015. The Frogs have struggled somewhat to build an identity, and this portion of the schedule provides an excellent opportunity to correct that. With a very winnable game against Oklahoma State to open conference play, the Frogs are in a great position to turn this season into a success.

3. Limit Turnovers

Perhaps the biggest issue facing TCU during this two-game slump has been turnovers. The Frogs committed 49 total turnovers against Washington and Prairie View A&M, as compared to 49 made field goals on just 23 assists. Those 49 turnovers led to 44 points for the opposition, nearly 30% of the points conceded by TCU in that span. The Big 12 is full of teams that thrive off of their opponents' mistakes, so it will be important for the Frogs to get control of their turnovers prior to the beginning of conference play.

TCU Projected Starters

Abilene Christian Projected Starters

G

Michael Williams

4.7 ppg, 2.2 apg

G

Jaylen Franklin

13.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg

G

Malique Trent

11.7 ppg, 3.7 apg

G

Parker Wentz

10.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg

G

Brandon Parrish

9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg

G

Jovan Crnic

9.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg

F

Vladimir Brodziansky

14.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg

F

Austin Cooke

7.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg

F

Karviar Shepherd

8.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg

F

Duran Porter

8.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg

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

  • TCU has won 23 of its last 27 non-conference games dating back to 2013.
  • TCU is 37-7 when leading at the half under head coach Trent Johnson.
  • TCU has held 32 opponents to 59 points or less under Trent Johnson.
  • TCU is 16-4 all-time under Trent Johnson during the month of December.
  • Heading into Sunday, TCU ranks No. 33 in NCAA in blocks per game, averaging 5.56 a contest.
  • TCU posted the 11th most free throws made in school history in its season-opener with 36.
  • TCU returned 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 nine 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 against Houston Baptist.
  • Michael Williams has started three-straight games.
  • Williams only had two prior starts in his three-year career heading into this season.