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TCU Basketball Preview: Kansas (Round 1)

The Frogs will be tested right away in their first conference game under Jamie Dixon.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Media Day Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 8:00pm CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena - Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Kansas Leads 12-1 | Game Line: Kansas -6

After opening the season 11-1 through non-conference, TCU has finally arrived at Big 12 play. The Big 12 has done the Frogs absolutely no favors with their conference schedule, as TCU will have to welcome #3 Kansas to Schollmaier Arena for the opener. TCU will be looking to do their part in preventing Kansas from getting their 13th-straight regular season Big 12 title.

The Frogs have gotten off to a fantastic start this year and have been especially good at home. TCU is 9-0 at Schollmaier Arena and has won their home contests by an average of 22 points per game.

It will be interesting to see what kind of home-court advantage TCU can get in this game as many fans will be in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. Students will also be gone since it is winter break and Kansas basketball fans are notorious for traveling well. Kansas fans travel especially well around this time of year because they don’t have to work around bowl games.

TCU has benefited from having some blowout wins and being able to rotate players a lot, but the Frogs will likely lean more on some of their key players in this game. Point guards Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson have not had to face any exceptional point guards yet this season, but they will have a grand opportunity to prove themselves against Frank Mason.

The Frogs will also need a big game from junior Kenrich Williams. Williams enters the game as the leading rebounder in the Big 12, averaging 10 per game. He is also averaging 10.4 points per game, making him the only player in the conference to average a double-double through non-conference play.

Off the bench, the Frogs will need to get some solid minutes from Brandon Parrish and Desmond Bane. Parrish, a senior, is one of the team’s most vocal leaders and will need to show his experience in his play. He is also a streaky shooter who can change the game’s momentum with a couple strikes from beyond the arc. Bane, an electric scorer and most recently Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, will need to give the Frogs some extra scoring off of the bench when his name is called.

Kansas lost their opening game to Indiana in Hawaii, but since then has been rolling like we expect from the Jayhawks. Their biggest win came in their second game of the season, knocking off then-#1 Duke 77-75. They are currently ranked #3 in the AP Poll behind reigning champion Villanova and UCLA, who was undefeated before losing Wednesday night at Oregon. They are also ranked #10 currently in RPI.

The Jayhawks are led by some familiar names, a future household name, and some not so well-known names. Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are back and have stepped up as experienced leaders for this year’s squad. Mason leads the team offensively, averaging 19.7 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 54.5% from the field and 50% beyond the arc. Graham has also been effective, dropping in 12.6 points per game and is an aggressive defender, leading the team with 1.8 steals per game.

Josh Jackson is the Jayhawks’ phenom freshman this season. The 6’8” wing from Detroit is versatile and athletic. TCU will want to keep him from being able to get to the rim, but will also need to respect his ability to shoot the ball. He is averaging 15.6 points per game for Kansas and shooting 52.9% from the field while also leading the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game. Mavericks fans may want to watch him, as he projects to be a top 5 pick in next year’s draft.

Lastly, Kansas has two players that may not be as well-known, but that have stepped up for their team this year. Junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk from Ukraine is also a 6’8” wing, but more of a shooter than Jackson and not as versatile. He is shooting 43.5% from three point so far this year and averaging 11.1 points per game.

Sophomore Legerald Vick is another player that has stepped up for Kansas thus far. He doesn’t shoot as much as Mykhailiuk, but when he does look out. Vick is shooting 52.6% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the arc. He is also is the team’s best shooter from the free throw line, converting 77.8% of his attempts.

Three Things to Watch:

1 - Josh Jackson vs. Kenrich Williams

This will be the most entertaining matchup on the court in this game. Josh Jackson is a long, athletic wing and a phenom as a freshman. The Frogs’ gritty hustler Kenrich Williams will most likely be responsible for defending Jackson.

Defensively, Williams will have to be able to keep Jackson from driving and getting to the rim. Kenrich, the leading rebounder in the Big 12, will also have to keep Jackson, the Jayhawks’ leading rebounder, off of the boards.

Offensively, it would be very helpful for the Frogs if Kenrich could knock down a couple jumpers early. That would force Jackson to play on the perimeter and take away his ability to block shots at the rim.

2 - Limiting Turnovers

TCU will need to take care of the ball in order to take control of this game from the start. The Frogs do not want to let Kansas get off to a strong start by allowing for fast breaks and devastating dunks by Josh Jackson. Point guards Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson, as well as wing players like Kenrich Williams, Brandon Parrish, and Desmond Bane, will need to protect the ball and be patient on offense. Openings will present themselves if they are patient and work the Kansas defense.

3 - Second Chance Opportunities

If TCU wants to win this game, they will have to be competitive in all of the little things, including rebounding. As a team, Kansas shoots above 50% from the field, so the Frogs will need to get rebounds when they force misses. Not being able to finish possessions will allow the Jayhawks to get multiple opportunities and championship programs like Kansas take advantage of that.

Offensively, the Frogs will want to attack the boards and get as many opportunities as possible. They want to keep the ball out of the hands of players like Frank Mason and Josh Jackson as much as possible. At the same time, TCU will need to be wary of crashing the boards too hard and not getting back in time on defense.

Prediction:

The Frogs have the talent and the experience to get this done. However, I think TCU will ultimately come up a little bit short. The game will be back and forth but Kansas will pull away late with some threes from Mykhailiuk, who will lead the game in scoring. Kenrich Williams will outperform Josh Jackson and put his name in contention for Big 12 Player of the Year, but veteran guard Frank Mason will put it away down the stretch at the line and TCU will move to 11-2.

Score Prediction: Kansas 83, TCU 72

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

• TCU and Kansas will meet for the 14th time Friday night.

• TCU head coach Jamie Dixon is 84-12 during the month of December.

• TCU currently ranks No. 25 in turnovers forced in the NCAA and No. 23 in turnover margin.

Brandon Parrish played in his 109th game last Wednesday and is a 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team® nominee.

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

Karviar Shepherd is now No. 6 all-time in career starts at TCU with 95. He played in his 100th game against Arkansas State.

• Shepherd has tallied 588 career rebounds and needs only 112 to become only the 10th player all-time to capture 700 boards.

Alex Robinson has recorded 13 games of five or more assists in his career. He had 10 against SMU.

• Robinson, who was named to the all-tournament team in Vegas, has led TCU in assists eight times this season.

• Robinson scored a career-high 24 points against Washington in Las Vegas and had a career-high 10 assists versus SMU.

Kenrich Williams grabbed a career-high 18 boards against UNLV. He has now had 10 or more boards in 4 of the last 6 games.

• Williams’ 18 boards are the most in the Big 12 Conference this season and tied for the16th most in the NCAA.