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TCU Basketball Preview: Saint Thomas

COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS BACK AND JAMIE DIXON IS HOME

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 6:00pm CDT| Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena - Fort Worth, TX | TV: FSSW+ | Series: TCU leads 1-0 | Game Line: None

College basketball is finally back!

In recent years, TCU fans may have seen that and not been very excited, but this year is very different. There has been an incredible buzz and optimism surrounding the Horned Frog program since Jamie Dixon decided to come home after an incredible run at Pitt. Earlier this week, TCU signed some of their 2017 recruits, which is ranked #24 nationally and #3 in the Big 12, according to 247Sports. Clearly, recruits have begun to believe in what’s happening here and Frog fans should too.

TCU fans have a lot to be excited about for this season too. The Frogs return one of the most experienced lineups across all major basketball conferences. In addition to that, TCU welcomes one of its best recruiting classes ever, headlined by Jaylen Fisher. The talent and depth for the team at guard could propel the Frogs to their best season in recent history. The Frogs will also benefit from the return of Kenrich Williams, who was arguably the team’s most dynamic player two seasons ago.

The Frogs come into this season with a 5-game winning streak against non-conference opponents, with their last loss coming at Washington. Last season’s team went 9-4 overall against non-conference opponents, including a win in the Big 12/SEC Challenge over Tennessee. TCU did not play a non-D1 opponent last year, which NAIA school St. Thomas is. St. Thomas faced one NCAA D1 opponent last season, Sam Houston State, and lost to the Bearkats 114-92. Overall, the Celts went 10-16 last year.

The Celts’ season has already begun and they enter the game against TCU 0-3. Their three losses have come against University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Saint Gregory’s, and Arlington Baptist College, two of which were narrow one-point losses. The two players to keep an eye on for the Celts are junior forward Jason Brancato and sophomore guard Paris Marquez, both of whom lead the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game each.

Three Things to Watch:

1 - Point Guard Rotation

TCU will have good depth at the point guard position this season. The Horned Frogs lost Chauncey Collins in the offseason who decided to turn pro and Lyrik Shreiner who decided to transfer, but return senior Michael Williams, who started 15 games last season. Joining Williams are star freshman Jaylen Fisher and Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson. Fisher is the highest-rated player to ever sign with TCU and is an elite passer and playmaker. Robinson was also highly ranked coming out of high school at Mansfield Timberview. According to 247Sports, he was the #6 player in the state of Texas. It’ll be interesting to see who gets a majority of the playing time as the season starts and all of them should contribute to the team this year.

2 - Crashing the Boards

One of the things that really caused the Frogs to struggle last season was consistently getting out-rebounded. TCU will need returning starting big men Chris Washburn and Karviar Shepherd to step up and crash the boards. The return of Kenrich Williams from an injury that kept him out last season will also help the Frogs on the glass. He led the Frogs in rebounding two seasons ago in his first year with the program. Off the bench, I expect both JD Miller and Vladimir Brodziansky to help sustain the rebounding efforts. If the Frogs can do a better job on the boards and limit the second-chance opportunities of opponents, it should allow them to be able to finish close games.

3 - Who’s Going to be “the guy”

When the game is on the line, who is going to be the player that Dixon and the other coaches want to have the ball? Who is going to be the team’s go-to scorer when they need a basket? The first two names that come to mind are Brandon Parrish and Malique Trent. Parrish is a sharpshooter from outside who helped lift the Frogs last season with clutch 3-pointers, while Trent is an electric player who can create his own space and find ways to score.

There are three other players who may also turn out to be go-to guys for the Frogs this season: JD Miller, Josh Parrish, and Desmond Bane. Miller came on strong for the Frogs in the second half of the season last season and is an effective scorer around the basket. He was also the team’s best free-throw shooter a year ago. Both J. Parrish and Bane were effective scorers in high school who could come in and provide an offensive spark when needed.

Prediction:

This game really shouldn’t challenge the Frogs very much at all, but it will allow the Dixon (coaching) era to start off with a big win. It will also allow Dixon to rotate a lot of players and see in-game what exactly he has to work with and can expect of various players. I expect him to start Fisher at the point guard along with Trent and Brandon Parrish on the wings. Washburn and Shepherd should get the starting nods for the big men and should both be able to have big nights. Fisher will finally get to show Frog fans why he has been so hyped up and may start off his career with a points and assists double-double.

Off the bench, Kenrich Williams should be ready to get back on the court and provide a huge boost on the boards. He too could come away with a double-double, except with rebounds instead of assists. Miller and Brodziansky probably will see significant time as well, so long as they stay out of foul trouble. Brodziansky was a big bright spot for the Frogs off the bench last season. In the end, TCU should control this game from start to finish and start off the Dixon era with a win.

Score Prediction: TCU 108, St. Thomas 55

Here are some additional game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

• TCU is 54-13 in home openers in program history.

• TCU is 68-37 all-time in season-openers.

Jamie Dixon is 13-0 in season-openers as a head coach.

• TCU is 1-0 all-time against Saint Thomas.

• Dixon was a sophomore at TCU the last time the Frogs played the Celts.

Brandon Parrish was the lone Frog to start every game for TCU in 2015-16.

• Parrish needs to play in only 22 more games to move into the top-10 all-time in games played in school history.

• With nine more starts, Parrish will rank No. 9 in games started at TCU all-time.

• Parrish needs only 284 points to reach 1,000 points for his career.

Karviar Shepherd needs only three more starts to move into No. 9 all-time in games started in program history.

• Shepherd currently ranks No. 5 in blocked shots for a career with 97 going into this season.

• Shepherd has tallied 543 career rebounds and needs only 157 to become only the 10th player all-time to capture 700 boards.

Malique Trent ranked No. 19 in the NCAA in steals per game in 2015-16 with an average of 2.1.

• Trent ranked first in steals in the Big 12 Conference during league play and overall in 2015-16.

• Trent recorded the fourth-best mark in school history in steals per game a year ago.