I, like many of the Frogs fans nationwide, am extremely excited about the way Jamie Dixon's basketball team has kicked off the 2016/2017 season, and am more optimistic about this team than any TCU team I can remember, which isn't necessarily saying much. Despite that optimism, I am at heart an economist, and that essentially means I am looking for the negatives in any given situation
In reference to, but certainly not in contrast to, Jamie's earlier numbers post, I had a few thoughts about the way the team is winning, and wanted to flesh those out outside of the comments. So, in no particular order, here are a few things I am worried about.
DISCLAIMER - All stats and rankings are from KenPom.com. If you even kinda like basketball, KenPom subscription is a must. It's a game changer for fans, writers, whoever.
1. Vlad Bronziansky is benefiting from weak competition, yet the team's success is based on this.
Vlad is having a hell of a start to the season; he is in the top 20 in offensive rebounds, block rate, and fouls drawn. He is ranked 69th in offensive efficiency. KenPom has him as the third most effective second option (player with <25% possessions involved) in the nation, no qualifiers. Third most effective second option! Last year, Vlad didn't rank nationally in any of those columns. TCU hasn't played a team ranked higher than 78 in efficiency, with 4 of their wins coming against just awful teams, including a come from behind surge against a decent, but far from respectable, Illinois State team. Vlad's rebound resurgence has been encouraging, but far from indicative of a new career phase. So far, this team's success has hinged on a hot start player who has been less than mediocre his whole career. I'm not saying that past performance is indicative of future results, but as Vlad and the Frogs see more substantial competition, I expect his usage to change drastically. SMU on Dec. 7 will be the real test.
2. Defensive Efficiency is misleading.
TCU is ranked 44th in schedule-adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing just 95.5 points per 100 possessions. That is a solid start, and a stout defense is certainly the identity I'd like to see the football and basketball programs share. The thing is... this is an inflated number, even adjusted for competition. TCU is 8th in turnovers, which might be driving the majority of their defensive success. The concerning thing to me is their allowed effective FG%: they are 183rd in the nation, well behind such basketball powers as North Dakota State, Idaho, and Arkansas Pine Bluff. Those two trends could mean a couple of things. They could mean that TCU's defense is stifling opponents, creating havoc, and capitalizing on weakness. The more likely explanation is that TCU's opponents have been really sloppy. So, while defense numerically looks good, it has benefitted from playing young and identity-less teams.
3. Another Defensive worry: Giving up the Three.
TCU's offensive 3PT efforts are actually pretty solid. I'll take team shooting 40% all season, thank you very much. (I agree with Jamie, though, that FT% is awful.) What is more concerning is the defensive 3PT% effort, which is hovering near 38%. Granted, that could be inflated from the numerous garbage time situations the Frogs have found themselves in, but also, that is not going to get any easier as the season continues.
4. No Real Tests:
The only test of this team so far this season has been playing from behind against ISU, and while they rebounded (basketball puns!) well, that unfortunately will be the dominant posture the rest of the season. This team is young (average experience is 1.68 years), but Jamie Dixon can help with that.
I have a few more, but I think it's early in the season to start celebrating or raining on parades. Let's enjoy this start, hope we beat Washington again, and wait and see what happens in that SMU game. At the very least, this year is just an entire season's worth of live drilling/practice for Jaylen and Bane, building a solid foundation for the program in the years to come.