One of the elements that the Big 12 Conference prides itself on is its competition format - in Big 12 basketball, each team plays every other team at home and on the road. The league boasts that this double round robin format is the most successful way to determine "One True Champion." This gives each team the opportunity to make corrections and adjustments before the second matchup in the season series.
The Frogs travel to Lubbock tonight looking to pick up just their second road Big 12 win since joining the league in 2012. Interestingly enough, TCU's lone road conference win came around this time last year... in Lubbock. The Frogs got a good look at Texas Tech on January 18 when the Red Raiders came to Fort Worth and claimed a relatively slim seven point victory. Let's examine what TCU can do differently this time around to reverse their fortunes against Texas Tech.
Defend the Arc
I know that I sound like a broken record, but this is an issue that has plagued the Frogs throughout much of the season. TCU's inability to defend the perimeter with any consistency has cost the Frogs countless opportunities to collect wins this season. In the first meeting with the Red Raiders, TCU allowed their visitors to shoot 9/15 from behind the arc. Texas Tech's hot three-point shooting helped preserve the team's lead late in the second half, ultimately propelling them to a big road win.
If the Frogs are to find success tonight in Lubbock, it will be important to keep the Red Raiders to under about 40% from deep. Three-point shooting has been a key element in TTU's wins this season, so disrupting that flow will go a long way in helping TCU pick up their first road conference win of the year.
Get to the Line
Another important factor for the Frogs this season has been free throw shooting. TCU has done a decent job of getting to the line, however the team often struggles to put together consistent performances from the charity stripe. In the late January meeting between these two schools, the Frogs attempted 28 free throws, connecting on 17 of them. I'm not saying that TCU needs to hit every single free throw they attempt, but bumping their average up to 70% or even 80% could change the outcome of their games. Considering the team's offensive woes, free throw shooting has accounted for a big chunk of the team's total points. Case in point, nearly 25% of the team's offensive production against Texas Tech came from the line. If the Frogs can get to the line and hit their free throws tonight, they should be able to keep things close.
Arguably the most important sequence of the first meeting between TCU and Texas Tech occurred with less than a second to go in the first half. Out of a timeout, the Red Raiders were able to drive to the basket and score a quick two points. On the ensuing inbounds play, JD Miller threw the ball directly out of bounds, giving Texas Tech possession underneath their own basket. A defensive breakdown in the paint allowed Justin Gray knock in a buzzer-beating basket, effectively pushing TTU's lead from 38-35 to 42-35 at the break. The Red Raiders received a huge boost heading into the locker room, and the Frogs never recovered from their hiccup.
If TCU is going to reverse their fortunes and pick up a road win tonight, they're going to have to avoid incidents like these, especially in front of a hostile Texas Tech crowd. The Frogs only committed seven turnovers in the first meeting, resulting in just eight points off turnovers for the Red Raiders. It will be difficult to do on the road, but TCU must put together another clean 40 minutes of basketball if they are to pick up a win tonight.
Do Your Homework
Finally, the Frogs need to be ready for anything tonight. In the January matchup, Tubby Smith pulled all five of his starters in the opening minutes of the first half after a string of sloppy play. Texas Tech's second team then proceeded to outplay TCU's first team. The Frogs looked lost against the Red Raider reserves, allowing TTU's bench to score 28 of the team's 42 first half points. When all was said and done, Tubby Smith's backups accounted for 46 points. The bench scored 60.5% of the team's total offense, despite receiving only 45.0% of the overall time on the floor. The second time around, TCU will know just how lethal the Texas Tech bench can be, and hopefully they have a counterattack to avoid giving up another big performance.
TCU's road struggles are no joke. The Frogs are a dismal 1-33 against Big 12 foes away from Fort Worth. The slightest glimmer of hope in this situation is that the lone win came last season in Lubbock. TCU knows that they can beat the Red Raiders on their home floor. More than anything, the Horned Frogs offense is going to have to come to life, but if the Frogs can use the first meeting to adjust their gameplan, we could see a competitive affair in the High Plains tonight.