Game Time: Noon CST | Location: WVU Coliseum - Morgantown, WV | TV: ESPNU | Series: West Virginia Leads 9-0 | Game Line: West Virginia -12.5
After getting past Oklahoma on Tuesday, the Frogs will now head to Morgantown to take on #7 Press Virginia. Since joining the Big 12, TCU has gone 0-9 against the Mountaineers, but nearly got past them on the road two years ago when West Virginia made a buzzer-beating layup in OT.
Jamie Dixon on the other hand has plenty of experience against the Mountaineers due to his time at Pitt. Although he hasn’t faced the ‘eers since they made the jump to the Big 12, he has faced the school 19 times over the course of his career, posting a 12-7 record, which includes going 5-4 in Morgantown. Given the nature of the fierce Pitt-WVU rivalry, I’m sure Dixon is excited to take TCU there and I’m sure Mountaineer fans are excited to welcome him back.
The Frogs enter the game at 12-2 and 1-1 in Big 12 play after beating the Sooners 60-57 earlier this week. Point guard Alex Robinson put together a fantastic performance in that game, dropping in 18 points and getting his teammates involved with 6 assists. Freshman Desmond Bane also had a solid game, adding 9 points and grabbing 6 rebounds off of the bench.
Kenrich Williams didn’t have his usual performance, scoring only 2 points and bringing down 6 boards, but it’s not easy to average a double-double, which he has done up until this game. However, Williams only score may have been one of the most critical as it came on a put-back layup that tied the game at 54 in the second half. TCU had trailed the entire game until then and not getting a basket on that possession may have completely changed the game.
TCU will now have to focus their attention on West Virginia, who is also 12-2 and 1-1 in conference play. The ‘eers are currently ranked #7 in the AP Poll, but that will not likely last due to their loss at Texas Tech this week. TCU has the advantage in the RPI, where the Frogs are currently ranked #30 and the Mountaineers are ranked #53.
Press Virginia will likely come out thoroughly upset by their loss and ready to cause problems for TCU’s offense. The Mountaineer defense is #1 in the nation in forcing turnovers, causing opponents to give up the ball more than 24 times per game. A big reason that Texas Tech pulled off the upset on Tuesday was that they took care of the ball, only turning it over 13 times against the nation’s most aggressive defense.
Because they create so many extra possessions for themselves, West Virginia has the 5th-best scoring offense in the nation, pouring in 90+ points per game. They are also #1 in the nation in scoring margin per game at +29.9.
Leading the way on offense for the Mountaineers is junior Jevon Carter, who leads the team and the Big 12 with 3.4 steals per game. He also leads the team in assists with 4.6 per game and is 3rd for the ‘eers in scoring with 10.3 points per game.
Leading the team in scoring is sophomore Esa Ahmad, who is averaging 12.6 points per game and shooting an impressive 54.3% from the field. Another player to keep an eye on is senior big man Nathan Adrian, who is 2nd on the team in scoring with 10.4 points per game. Adrian also leads the team in rebounding, grabbing 6.4 boards per game.
Lastly, the Frogs will need to make sure to keep watch for Daxter Miles Jr. He is another West Virginia player averaging double-digit scoring and he is one of the team’s best three point shooters, knocking down 47.1% of shots from beyond the arc.
Three Things to Watch:
1 - Breaking the Press
Press Virginia is going to come out with an intense full court press and look to force deflections and, ultimately, turnovers. TCU will need to make quick decisions with the ball in order to move it around and not let the traps get in place. A majority of the responsibility for getting past the press will fall on the point guards; however, the Frogs are lucky to have some good depth at that position, unlike past seasons.
Starters Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson have shown their ability throughout the season to find open players and move the ball around. The Frogs also benefit from having senior point guard Michael Williams on the bench, who is in his 4th year facing the press. I expect him to have a significant role in today’s game, especially considering Fisher, a freshman, has had 8 turnovers in his first two Big 12 games.
2 - Taking Care of the Ball
Getting the ball past the half court line is only half of the battle. Once they have broken the press, TCU will need to make sure they don’t give up any turnovers out of their offensive sets. Against a team like West Virginia that looks to get out and run, the Frogs will want to make sure possessions are ending on shots so people have a chance to get back. If TCU can limit themselves to under 12 turnovers in this game, they should have a good chance at knocking off the Mountaineers.
3 - Getting to the Line
One major reason Texas Tech was able to stay with the Mountaineers and beat them was their aggressiveness on offense. They drew a good amount of fouls on West Virginia and forced some of the ‘eers key players into foul trouble. They also made sure that they got to the line on fouls, ending the game with 30 free throw attempts. Tech won the game despite only converting 66.7% of those attempts, which is slightly below TCU’s free throw percentage. The Frogs should look to be the aggressor and attack the press in order to get to the hoop and draw some fouls.
Call me crazy, but I think TCU will pull off the upset here today. Jamie Dixon will be fired up to play against a school with which he had such a fierce rivalry at Pitt, and he will get the team fired up as well. I expect the Frogs to use Alex Robinson and Michael Williams a lot in the backcourt to beat the press and run the offense. Kenny Hustle will get back in form and crash the boards all game. Karviar Shepherd will also build off of his improved performance against Oklahoma and provide a physical post presence to complement Vladimir Brodziansky’s more skill-based post presence. The game will go into overtime but TCU will find a way to win.
Score Prediction: TCU 83, West Virginia 81 (OT)
Here are some additional game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- TCU currently ranks No. 44 in turnovers forced in the NCAA and No. 46 in turnover margin.
- Brandon Parrish played in his 111th game last Friday and is a 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team® nominee.
- Parrish needs to play in only eight 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 six of his last seven 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 14 games of five or more assists in his career.
- Robinson,who was named to the all-tournament team in Vegas, has led TCU in assists nine times this season.
- Kenrich Williams leads the Big 12 with 9.8 rebounds per game.
- Williams' 18 boards are the most in the Big 12 Conference this season and tied for the 16th most in the NCAA.
- Williams ranks No. 21 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds with a 3.7 average on the season.
- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks second in the Big 12 with 2.4 blocks per game after recording three against OU on Tuesday.
- Brodziansky recorded a career-high 28 points against Kansas marking his second 20+ scoring outing this season.
- The junior is one of two players averaging double-digits in scoring with 11.2 this season.