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TCU Basketball Preview: Texas Tech (Round 1)

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The Frogs head to Lubbock looking for a second Big 12 road win to boost their resume.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas Tech vs TCU Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 6:30pm CST | Location: United Supermarkets Arena - Lubbock, TX | TV: Fox Sports Southwest | Series: Texas Tech Leads 78-50 | Game Line: Texas Tech -4.5

After taking down Iowa State at home this past Saturday, TCU must now head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech for the first time this season. The Frogs will be looking to win back-to-back-to-back Big 12 games for the first time since joining the conference in 2012. Since joining the Big 12, Texas Tech is the school that TCU has played the best against, posting a 3-6 record against the Red Raiders over the past four seasons.

The Frogs enter tonight’s game with some good momentum, coming off of some major wins last week. On Wednesday night, TCU took down the Longhorns in Austin for the first time since Jamie Dixon wore the purple and white. They then followed that victory by knocking off the Cyclones for the first time since 1997.

Vladimir Brodziansky dominated the week, averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds across the two games. Vlad went 20/28 from the field in the two games and also protected the rim on the defensive end, blocking six shots. For his efforts last week, he was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday.

Another player who put together a great week was Kenrich Williams. Kenny Hustle, a well-deserved nickname, was a menace against the Longhorns, finishing the game with 13 rebounds, five steals, and three blocks. He followed that performance with a double-double against Iowa State, dropping in 13 points to go along with 13 boards. Kenrich also received an honor for his play, as he made the NCAA.com All-Week team.

Freshman Jaylen Fisher also showcased his abilities last week. Against Texas, Fisher went 4/4 from beyond the arc in the first half to help TCU to a 38-36 halftime lead. The freshman also knocked down two crucial free throws late in the game and finished with 16 points. On Saturday, he took on more of a facilitator role offensively. Fisher was one point shy of a double-double, finishing with nine points and 11 assists.

Now, TCU must try to build off of these great performances and come up with a road victory over the Red Raiders. In Chris Beard’s first year as head coach at Tech, they have gotten off to a 13-4 start and are 2-3 in Big 12 play. Tech has been especially good at home this season, going 11-0 in Lubbock so far. Their last two home games have been close victories over #7 West Virginia and Kansas State, both of whom were ranked at the time.

Despite playing a weak non-conference schedule, the Red Raiders have proved they can compete with anybody, at least at home. They have lost all four of their games against P6 opponents outside of Lubbock. Tech fell to Auburn in Cancun earlier this season and have lost in Ames, Lawrence, and Norman so far in Big 12 play. They enter today’s game ranked #65 in the RPI, which they will want to improve by the time Selection Sunday rolls around.

There are four major players that Frog fans will want to keep their eyes on in this game, the first of which is junior guard Keenan Evans. He leads the team in scoring with 14 points per game and is 2nd on the team in assists with 3.2 per game. Evans will need to be pressured since he is a very good shooter. This season, he is shooting 49.1% from the field and 48.3% from three point.

The next three players are all 6’8” forwards and scoring in double-digits. Junior Zach Smith will play down in the post for the Red Raiders and has caused problems for the Frogs before. In last season’s matchup during the Big 12 tournament, Smith had 13 points and 15 rebounds against TCU, but the Frogs came away with the 67-62 win. So far this season, Smith is averaging 12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, as well as 1.8 blocks per game on the defensive end. He will take advantage if given easy shots and is shooting 59.4% from the field so far this season.

The other two forwards to watch are seniors Anthony Livingston and Aaron Ross. Livingston, a transfer from Arkansas State, is averaging 12.1 points per game in his first season in Lubbock. He came through in his biggest moment so far this season, knocking down a corner three to upset West Virginia. Ross, who was a key contributor on last season’s NCAA tournament team, has been coming off of the bench recently, but is averaging 11 points per game.

One final name to keep an eye on is Devon Thomas, the Red Raiders’ senior starting point guard. Over the last four games, he is averaging 34 minutes per game, but has not been much of a scorer. However, he will pressure our guards and look to cause problems on defense.

Three Things to Watch:

1 - Dominating the Boards

Like Iowa State, Texas Tech has a smaller lineup than most teams. Their tallest starters, Smith and Livingston, come in at 6’8”, whereas the Frogs will likely start Vlad, who is 6’11”, JD Miller, who is 6’8”, and TCU’s best rebounder, Kenrich Williams, who is 6’7”. The Frogs also have Karviar Shepherd on the bench, who is also 6’11”. TCU will need to capitalize on their size advantage and dominate the boards in order to limit the Red Raiders’ opportunities and create more chances for themselves.

In their five Big 12 games so far, Tech has been out-rebounded four times, only besting Iowa State. The Frogs have only been out-rebounded once, by West Virginia, in their five conference games.

2 - Development of Jaylen Fisher

In my preview of the Iowa State game, I foolishly said that Jaylen Fisher was beginning to move to a scorer role and get away from being a true point guard. Well, Fisher apparently had other ideas. He came out against the Cyclones and had 11 assists to go along with his nine points. Fisher has shown over the past two games that he is a complete point guard and can step up and fill whatever role the team needs. He has continued to develop his game as this season has progressed and he is a big reason the Frogs are where they are today.

3 - Brandon Parrish Off the Bench

TCU has benefited greatly from their added depth and talent this season, so much so that all four seniors have fallen out of the starting lineup. One of those seniors is Brandon Parrish. As this season has gone, Parrish has seemed to have emerged as the emotional and vocal leader of this squad. His ability to come in off of the bench and knock down threes has also allowed him to provide a spark when needed. Although he is no longer a starter, you have to admire Parrish for leadership ability and the heart he has put on the floor this season.

Prediction:

I expect this game to go a lot like the Iowa State game. Vlad should once again be able to dominate in the paint with his length and ability to finish around the rim. He will likely be matched up with Smith and must take advantage of his extra height. Kenny Hustle will likely cause problems for whoever has to keep him off the boards. I look for TCU to pull away in the closing minutes and come away with another key road win and even more momentum going into Saturday’s matchup with Baylor.

Score Prediction: TCU 82, Texas Tech 77

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

  • TCU is looking for three consecutive conference wins for the first time since 2008.
  • Two of TCU’s three losses have been to top 10-ranked teams in No. 3 Kansas and No. 7 West Virginia.
  • TCU’s NCAA RPI is 25.
  • TCU is 14-1 against unranked opponents.
  • The Frogs are 11-1 at home this season.
  • TCU is 13-0 when out-rebounding its opponent.
  • TCU is 12-0 when leading at halftime.
  • TCU is 9-0 when forcing more turnovers than it commits.
  • TCU currently ranks No. 17 in assists (17.5) in the NCAA and No. 47 in steals (7.9).
  • Kenrich Williams leads the Big 12 with 10.0 rebounds per game.
  • Williams’ 18 boards are the most in the Big 12 Conference this season.
  • Williams ranks No. 15 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds with a 3.7 average on the season.
  • Brandon Parrish is a 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team® nominee.
  • Parrish needs to play in only six more games to move into the top-10 all-time in games played in school history.
  • Parrish has made at least one 3-pointer in seven of his last nine games.
  • Karviar Shepherd is No. 6 all-time in career starts at TCU with 95. He played in his 100th game against Arkansas State
  • Shepherd has tallied 594 career rebounds and needs only 106 to become only the 10th player all-time to capture 700 boards.
  • Alex Robinson has recorded 16 games of five or more assists in his career.
  • Robinson has led TCU in assists 11 times this season.
  • Vladimir Brodziansky ranks second in the Big 12 and 29th nationally with 2.3 blocks per game.
  • Brodziansky is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, the first TCU player to ever win the award.