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TCU Basketball Preview: Tennessee Tech

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Let’s go get win number two

TCU Basketball vs University of Louisiana Monroe, November 10, 2017.
TCU Basketball vs University of Louisiana Monroe, November 10, 2017.
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: FCS | Series: First Meeting | Game Line: TCU -22

The Horned Frogs (1-0) are all geared up for their second game of the season, and look to extend their six game winning streak (including last season). The meeting will be against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (1-0) as part of the Emerald Coast Classic. TCU looks to build off its 83-73 over Louisiana-Monroe that kicked off the year. In that game, Vladimir Brodziansky led the Frogs with 16 points. Kenrich Williams had a near triple double with a 13 point, 14 rebound, 7 assist performance. Newcomer Kouat Noi contributed 12 points, while JD Miller and Desmond Bane also were in double figures with 12 apiece.

The Golden Eagles were also victorious in their first game over NAIA opponent Midway by a score of 94-56. They were led in scoring by senior Curtis Phillips with 18 points. They also got double digit scoring performances out of Mason Ramsey (16), Shaq Calhoun (15), Aleksa Jugovic (10), and Kajon Mack (10). Their defense held Midway to 31.3% shooting on the night and they only trailed for 1:36. Tennessee Tech was simply able to dominate the lesser competition inside, outscoring Midway 48-18 in the paint.

Tennessee Tech is coming off of a 12-20 season a year ago. They only lost one senior off that squad, and top scorers Aleksa Jugovic and Kajon Mack are back. Shaq Calhoun is a grad transfer from South Alabama who packs a scoring punch off the bench, and key contributors Curtis Phillips and Mason Ramsey return as well. The team runs pretty small, with none of their main lineup standing at taller than 6’6, though they do run 6’9 Miciah Henry in with their bench unit. They are an aggressive team on both sides of the ball, as their strengths lie in their ball pressure to force steals (8.0% steal rate, good for 99th a year ago, and a 20.4% opponent turnover rate, ranked 52nd) and attacking the rim on offense to draw fouls (38.5 FTA/FGA rate ranked 81st). Despite this, they are a rather inefficient team shooting the ball, with a 48.1% eFG ranking 274th overall last year.

Three things to look for:

Limit the 3 pointer

Tennessee Tech shot 37% from three against Midway, and the Frogs are going to need to knock that percentage down a few points Monday night. One of the areas that could be improved from the ULM game could be contesting the three, as the Warhawks shot 44.4% from beyond the arc. The three point shot can be the ultimate equalizer in basketball, as the Frogs struggled to pull away Friday, so TCU needs to be attentive to closing out and bothering shooters.

Keep crashing the boards

Players like Kenny Hustle and Kouat Noi were praised by Coach Dixon for their work on the glass against ULM, and that will need to continue against the Golden Eagles. The tallest player for Tech stands at 6’9, so while they were able to out-physical Midway, they should have a harder time against the much longer Frogs. Vlad should feast on the inside and improve his rebound rate, and I’m not sure anyone on Tennessee Tech has seen someone that crashes as hard as Kenny.

Take care of the basketball

As I mentioned above, Tennessee Tech is efficient at forcing turnovers on defense, so this will be a good test to see how players like Jaylen Fisher have improved from a year ago. TCU as a team turned it over only 13 times against ULM, with 9 of them coming from the trio of Alex Robinson, Kenrich Williams, and Desmond Bane with three apiece. It is especially key this game that A Rob take care of the ball with the first unit, as it seems that Fish will be handling the second team ball handling duties for now. Keeping the turnovers down will allow the Frogs to exploit an overmatched Golden Eagles defense that can struggle without unforced errors by the opposition.

Prediction:

I was dead on with the TCU offense scoring 83 points last game, but I underestimated the Warhawks’ offense. The TCU defense may still be finding its way, but I have a hard time seeing how the inefficient Tennessee Tech offense can keep up with the Frogs. Vlad should be primed for a huge game against an undersized frontcourt, and the Golden Eagles won’t be able to out-athlete this TCU team to make up for their size. Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher will get good experience moving forward for teams like West Virginia that will also force turnovers, and I see them each proving something to the Frog faithful tonight. Kenny Hustle will do Kenny Hustle things, and I expect JD Miller to be another matchup nightmare for the Golden Eagles.

I expect the defense to have a better game than they did against ULM. Tennessee Tech may have shot 37% from three against Midway, but the fact that they only shot 32.5% a year ago combined with the talent gap between TCU and an NAIA team makes me think that they will have a much rougher time from behind the arc. Look for TCU to handle their business against another non-conference opponent and extend their winning streak to seven.

Prediction: TCU 86, TTU 65

Here are the official game notes via GoFrogs.com

- TCU has won its last five games with the starting lineup of Alex Robinson, Desmond Bane, Kenrich Williams, JD Miller and Vladimir Brodziansky. Four of those games were the final four of last season and all occurred in the NIT.

- Vladimir Brodziansky is 52 blocks away from James Penny’s school-record of 171 from 1995-98.

- TCU received votes in the preseason top 25 polls. The Frogs earned 46 points in the AP Poll, which would be ranked 29th, and 32 points in the USA Today Coaches Poll, which would be ranked 30th.

- TCU returns its top six scorers from last season’s team that went 24-15, finished tied for seventh in the Big 12 and won the NIT, including all five starters.

- TCU returns 79 percent of its scoring and 79 percent of its rebounding from last season.

- One season after winning its first postseason tournament, TCU will try to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Since 1985, 58 percent of the teams that won the NIT made the NCAA Tournament the following season.