One of the elements that the Big 12 Conference prides itself on is its competition format - in Big 12 basketball, each team plays every other team at home and on the road. The league boasts that this double round robin format is the most successful way to determine "One True Champion." This gives each team the opportunity to make corrections and adjustments before the second matchup in the season series.
The 9th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks escaped Fort Worth with a 64-61 victory back on January 28. The Frogs attempted to pull off a furious comeback at the end of the game, but a Charles Hill half-court shot rimmed out, preventing the contest from reaching overtime. Despite the loss, the Frogs aggravated the Jayhawks for 40 minutes, leading to another brilliant Bill Self quote:
"I've been to the dentist and got a root canal and I may have enjoyed that slightly more than watching the last 2 minutes. The whole game was frustrating. I thought they played harder and obviously they were quicker to balls. Yeah, it was a frustrating game and very fortunate that we won because I think that they outplayed us." - Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
The Frogs held a brief lead in the first half before trailing by as many as 13. A furious second-half comeback gave TCU another brief lead, but a long scoring drought allowed Kansas to pull away for good.
The surging Frogs will get another shot at the Jayhawks on Saturday, but this time TCU will to try and pull the upset in front of one of the best home court advantages in the country.
Ride the Momentum
It's never really a good time for opposing teams to visit Allen Fieldhouse, but this is perhaps the best possible time for TCU to do so. The Frogs are riding their first-ever Big 12 winning streak, player confidence is at an all-time high, and the offense looks like it has finally figured itself out. TCU knocked off #21 Oklahoma State last Saturday, then turned around and beat Kansas State on Wednesday. The upset of Oklahoma State ended a seven game losing streak for TCU and marked the first home Big 12 win for the Frogs in 707 days. On Wednesday, TCU led wire-to-wire against Kansas State and held the Wildcats scoreless for the last 9:42 of the first half. The TCU defense held KSU to just 16.0% shooting in the first half, the Wildcats worst shooting half in the history of their program.
These two dominant performances have energized a TCU team that has competed in nearly every conference game of the season. The Frogs are riding a confidence high unlike anything we've seen so far this season. TCU is also lighting it up on the offensive end. In the previous two contests, the Frogs are averaging 52.7% shooting from the field and 68.5% from the free throw line. The shooting performances against Kansas State and Oklahoma State mark as the second- and third-best percentages against Big 12 opponents in TCU history. It will be crucial for the Frogs to ride this confidence high on Saturday. Shooting over 50% from the field and around 70% from the charity stripe will help too.
Crash the Boards
TCU dominated Kansas on the boards in the first game. That has a nice ring to it, so I'll repeat it: TCU dominated Kansas on the boards in the first game. The Frogs outrebounded the Jayhawks 26-9 on the offensive end and 50-40 overall. The 26 offensive rebounds for TCU remains a season-high. The trio of transfers led the way for TCU, as Chris Washburn, Trey Zeigler, and Kenrich Williams accounted for 32 of the Frogs' 50 rebounds in the contest. These three will have to repeat that performance for TCU to hang around on Saturday. The Frogs are 14-2 overall this season when outrebounding their opponent, but one of those two losses was to the Jayhawks. One of the elements that makes Kansas so good is their ability to overcome certain deficiencies through other aspects of their game, which takes us back to scoring. Even if the Frogs dominate the boards again, the offense needs to put up solid numbers for TCU to have a chance.
Get Kyan Going
This almost goes without saying, but Kyan Anderson is the engine that makes TCU go. The Frogs are going to need a big performance from Anderson on Saturday, but he has proven that he is up for the challenge. Anderson is averaging 18.0 points per game in Allen Fieldhouse in his career, thanks especially to his 25-point performance last season in which he shot nearly 90.0% from the field. Kyan has the pieces around him to help put points on the board, but he will need another dominant performance to help the Frogs keep pace.
There are three big keys for pulling off an upset on the road: hit three-pointers, limit turnovers, and make your free throws. The Frogs' free throw struggles this season have been well documented, but things are trending upward. The Frogs are averaging nearly 70.0% from the line in their last two contests and have made improvements from the charity stripe as the season has progressed. As far as turnovers go, TCU is averaging around 12 per game, which is not bad. To have a chance at knocking off Kansas, the Frogs will have to keep turnovers to a minimum. TCU can't afford any self-inflicted wounds if they want to shock the world tomorrow.
A big key for TCU will be whether or not they can get their deep shots to fall. Kansas' opponents have shot 33.3% or greater from behind the arc in four of the Jayhawks' five losses this season. The Frogs have been inconsistent from deep this season, especially as of late. The Frogs went 0/9 from behind the arc against Oklahoma State but 4/12 against Kansas State. In the first matchup with Kansas, TCU shot just 2/12, with Anderson hitting both deep shots. If Amric Fields and Brandon Parrish are able to come off the bench and provide a spark from behind the arc, it will go a long way toward helping the Frogs compete on Saturday.
Beware of the Phog
Since not many teams get the opportunity to play in one of college basketball's most historic venues on a regular basis, let's take a second to appreciate the success that Kansas has had at home. Allen Fieldhouse was built in 1954 and opened in 1955. Since then, the Jayhawks are 725-109 all-time at home. That's a whopping 86.9% winning percentage over the span of more than a half-century. Since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996, Kansas is 153-9 at home, a 94.4% winning percentage.
Only 36 different teams have ever experienced a win at Allen Fieldhouse, and only 12 teams have done it more than once. Against teams from the State of Texas, Kansas is nearly perfect at home. 13 different teams from the Lone Star State have ventured into Allen Fieldhouse, posting a combined record of 2-83. Only Texas and Texas A&M have come away victorious. The Frogs are 0-3 all-time in Lawrence, with an average margin of defeat of 25.0 points per game. TCU joins Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and West Virginia as Big 12 teams that have never won a conference game at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are 12-0 at home this season and are riding a 21-game home winning streak. The bottom line is that Kansas is very good at home and a TCU win would be a historic accomplishment on many levels.
Let's be realistic... Kansas is a very good team. The Frogs are going to have to play a nearly perfect game and hope that the Jayhawks make a few mistakes along the way to shock the basketball world this weekend. TCU fought with the Jayhawks for 40 minutes in Fort Worth earlier this season, and the Frogs have been playing their best basketball of the season as of late. The opportunity presents itself for this TCU team to immortalize itself in college basketball history, but it will take a heroic effort.