When the Frogs take the court against the Texas Longhorns on Tuesday night, they'll have the chance to accomplish a feat that hasn't been done since 1987 - sweep a regular season series with UT. As you'll remember, TCU took home a razor-thin 58-57 victory over the Longhorns on January 9. We caught back up with Cody Daniel of Burnt Orange Nation to talk about the rematch!
1. Texas' loss to TCU in Fort Worth earlier this month seemed to put a charge into the Longhorns. After the defeat, UT knocked off #17 Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and #6 West Virginia (in Morgantown!) before falling to #3 Kansas on Saturday. What did the 'Horns do differently to get back on the winning track?
The two things that come to mind since the TCU loss are identity and confidence. When TCU knocked Texas off in Fort Worth, the Longhorns didn't quite seem capable of playing without Cameron Ridley yet. Shaka Smart had established a nice in-and-out identity with Ridley's early-season success down low, but that all went away when you take away the only consistent and reliable interior scoring presence. Now with a few more games under their belts, guys like Kerwin Roach Jr., Tevin Mack, Eric Davis Jr., and Connor Lammert look to have adjusted to the increased scoring responsibilities, and the success they've seen over the last week and a half has led to an apparent confidence that disappeared when Ridley went down.
2. In the first meeting, TCU was able to take advantage of a poor shooting day for Texas. The Longhorns shot 37.1% from the field, including just 3/21 from deep. How does UT avoid falling into the same shooting rut in Tuesday's rematch?
There's really no telling, to be quite honest. Even after winning three of the last four, including two he upsets, Texas only shot above 50 percent from the field once (54.3 against Iowa State), and topped out from the perimeter after hitting 6-15 (40%) against West Virginia. Texas has started getting Shaquille Cleare a bit more involved offensively as of late, and penetration has led to a few high-percentage Prince Ibeh dunks. This, along with Isaiah Taylor, Kerwin Roach Jr., and Javan Felix attacking instead of settling certainly helps, but Texas' love for the deep ball will always leave them susceptible to horrible shooting nights. So in short, Taylor, Felix and Roach need to attack the rim and allow things to open up from there.
3. The Longhorns are currently 12-7 on the season with some very impressive wins on their resume. At this point in the season, what do you think is the ceiling for this year's team? Can they turn their recent hot streak into an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament?
With the way Texas has been playing lately, I'd say 19 or 20 regular season wins is a realistic ceiling before Cam Ridley's return. This would be Texas winning the more winnable games on its remaining slate - TCU, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State - and managing to steal a win or two against the remaining conference powers; they'll see Oklahoma twice, Baylor twice, Iowa State in Ames, and West Virginia in Austin.
If Texas can outlive these expectations and enter the Big 12 Tourney with 21 or 22 wins and hopefully, a returning Ridley, they could add another win or two and have a pretty impressive resume come Selection Sunday.
4. Shaquille Cleare suffered an apparent shoulder injured during Saturday's game in Lawrence. What is his status as of today? If he can't play on Tuesday, where on earth does Shaka Smart go for an interior presence?
Word is Shaquille Cleare tried getting back in the game, but the trainers said no, which I assume was precautionary. I highly doubt it's anything serious since there's been no word on anything yet, but it would be pretty bad for Texas' interior depth if Cleare isn't good to go. In that case, Texas would have to pray Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert stay out of foul trouble, but one would almost assuredly have to be in the game at all times. Tevin Mack can play some power forward, but he's a defensive liability. Beyond that, it looks like Kendal Yancy is the next best option, as he was forced to play a bit down low against Kansas.
5. Finally, give us your prediction for the game. Can TCU pull off an improbable season sweep of the Longhorns, or will UT continue their recent winning ways?
I think Texas gets revenge for its heartbreaking last-second loss to TCU two weeks ago. As noted, the Longhorns finally look to have re-established an identity without Ridley, and their confidence has been apparent. They were a few missed layups and free throws away from a one-possession game down the stretch against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, which speaks to how Smart has his guys buying in and competing right now. I expect to see something along the lines of a 79-71 Texas win.
I would like to thank Cody once again for all of his help this season. Head on over to Burnt Orange Nation to see their perspective on tomorrow's game. And as always, stay tuned right here for full coverage of TCU vs. Texas.