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TCU Basketball Preview: Kansas

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TCU will have a tough time rebounding from Wednesday's 28-point loss to Baylor as the Frogs are in Lawrence to face the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks this afternoon.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 1:00pm CDT | Location: Allen Fieldhouse - Lawrence, KS
TV: ESPN | Series: KU Leads 10-1 | Game Line: KU -24.0

For just the second time in program history, TCU will play a true road game against the #1 team in the nation as the Frogs are up in Lawrence to face the Kansas Jayhawks this afternoon. Both teams enter the game coming off a loss, but that's about where the similarities end.

The top-ranked Jayhawks enter today's game 14-2 on the year after falling on the road to West Virginia Tuesday night. As one of the few favorites to advance to Houston for this year's Final Four, Kansas features one of the best starting rotations in the country to go along with a pretty deep bench. The top performer for the Jayhawks so far this season has been Perry Ellis. The senior forward leads the team in both scoring and rebounding with 16.3 points and 6.9 boards per game. He has been even more impressive against Big 12 opponents, knocking in 20.0 points and grabbing 9.0 rebounds in league play.

A couple of junior guards provide support for Ellis on the offensive end. Wayne Selden has impressed through the first 16 games for Kansas, averaging 15.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. He has been one of Bill Self's best shooters this season, connecting on 52.7% of his total shots, including a ridiculous 50.6% from behind the arc. Frank Mason completes the talented duo, adding 13.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and a team-high 5.3 assists per game.

Devonte Graham is Kansas' fourth and final double-digit scorer, as he is knocking in 10.4 per game. Hunter Mickelson rounds out the starting lineup, adding another 3.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. One of Self's biggest strengths this season is his depth. The Jayhawks receive significant contributions from Brannen Greene, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas, and Jamari Traylor through their role as reserves. And that's not even mentioning freshman phenoms Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg.

If there's one thing to know about these Jayhawks, it's that they can shoot the rock. Kansas enters today's game 4th in the nation in total scoring, 14th in field goal percentage, and 1st in three-point field goal percentage. KU averages 86.8 points per game on 49.7% shooting from the field, including 46.2% from deep. The Frogs will certainly have their hands full on the defensive end this afternoon.

Speaking of the Frogs, they enter the contest 9-7 on the year after an 82-54 shellacking at the hands of the Baylor Bears on Wednesday night. Unlike the ‘Hawks, TCU has struggled to score this year. The Frogs rank 227th in the nation in scoring with just 71.0 points per game. In Big 12 play, TCU has managed only 61.8 points per game, boosted by the team's 87-point outburst against West Virginia earlier this month. The team's shooting has been rather pedestrian, as the Frogs connect on 42.9% of their shots, a mark that ranks 231st in the country. Three-point shooting has been an additional challenge, with TCU hitting 31.7% from deep.

The Frogs enter today's game without much of an identity on the offensive end. The team's two leading scorers, Vladimir Brodziansky and Malique Trent, are each facing issues of their own. Broziansky has seen his averages plummet after he yielded his spot in the starting lineup to Chris Washburn. The sophomore forward has scored just 20 total points in four Big 12 games after averaging 13.9 in the non-conference portion of the season.

Trent, on the other hand, is facing a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. The transfer from New Mexico Junior College was averaging 11.7 points per game before the suspension, which occurred sometime between the Texas and Baylor games. Trent did not travel with the team to Waco on Wednesday and it is highly unlikely that he is with the team in Lawrence today. It is unclear whether the suspension came from Trent Johnson or from the University. The latter would likely take some time to resolve, a concerning development for an already thin TCU roster.

A pair of Frogs returning to full strength following injuries provide the most promising signs of development for this team. Chauncey Collins is back to 100% after a quad injury suffered in early December. Over the last six games, he is averaging 12.5 points per game on nearly 40% shooting from the field. He is expected to remain in the starting lineup in place of Trent. Chris Washburn has given the team an additional spark after returning from a broken finger in his non-shooting hand. The junior forward has scored 35 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in his first five games back.

Today's contest is another in a long line of tough scheduling breaks for TCU since joining the Big 12 Conference. In a little over three seasons as a member of the league, this will be the Frogs' 32nd game against a ranked opponent. TCU is 2-29 in that span, including 0-13 on the road. All-time, the Frogs are 1-69 against ranked opponents on the road, currently riding a 32-game losing streak that dates back to that lone win - an 83-76 victory over Hawaii on January 19, 1998.

Three Things to Watch:

1. Defend the Arc

As was mentioned above, Kansas shoots the deep ball really well. I mean, really well. Like, they're literally the best team in the entire country at shooting three-pointers. Against a TCU defense that is sometimes rather lackadaisical around the perimeter, things could get out of hand fast if the Jayhawks are knocking down deep shots. The Frogs are huge underdogs in this contest, but if they are to have any chance to keep things close, they must be able to at least pressure Kansas into quick shots from deep.

2. Malique Trent's Status

Malique Trent is not expected to travel to this afternoon's game in Lawrence after being suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. The details surrounding his suspension are pretty cloudy, but what's clear is this: the Frogs cannot afford to be without Trent's offensive production for very long. The sophomore was averaging a team-high 11.7 points per game before being suspended prior to Wednesday's game against Baylor. Not only will the Frogs be without his scoring ability, but that's one less body for an already very thin TCU bench. With Dalton Dry's status still up in the air following an illness, Trent Johnson has just nine healthy players for the foreseeable future.

3. If You Had Fun, You Won

To be brutally honest, there is a massive talent gap in this contest. As we saw in 2013 when an unranked TCU squad knocked off 5th ranked Kansas, anything is possible. However, the reality of the situation is that Kansas holds a pretty significant advantage in nearly every facet of today's game. But that's not to say this is a meaningless contest for the Frogs. Games like this provide TCU the opportunity to go up against the very best. Playing 40 minutes against a team that has a legitimate shot to win a National Championship will provide a relatively young TCU squad with valuable experience. In a matchup like this, all you can really ask is that the team shows some fight and competes for 40 minutes. Regardless of the final score, the Frogs will regroup and return to Fort Worth ready to face Texas Tech on Monday.

TCU Projected Starters

Kansas Projected Starters

G

Michael Williams

4.9 ppg, 2.9 apg

F

Perry Ellis

16.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg

G

Chauncey Collins

9.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg

F

Hunter Mickelson

3.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg

G

Brandon Parrish

8.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg

G

Frank Mason III

13.4 ppg, 5.3 apg

F

Chris Washburn

7.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg

G

Wayne Selden, Jr.

15.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg

F

Karviar Shepherd

9.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg

G

Devonte' Graham

10.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg

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

  • TCU is 41-8 when leading at the half under head coach Trent Johnson.
  • TCU has held 35 opponents to 59 points or less under Trent Johnson.
  • Heading into Saturday, TCU ranks No. 73 in NCAA in scoring defense.
  • 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 played its first 11 games without Washburn and Williams.
  • Brodziansky ranks No. 40 in NCAA in field goal percentage on the season.
  • Michael Williams has started 10-straight games.
  • TCU is 8-4 all-time when Williams starts.
  • Brandon Parrish ranks second in the Big 12 Conference in 3-point field goal percentage at 52 percent.