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TCU Basketball Preview: Omaha

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Points won’t be hard to come by as the Frogs host the Mavericks

Can Kenny Hustle get going on offense tonight?
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: Fox Sports SW Plus | Series: First Meeting | Game Line: TCU -23.5

TCU (3-0) will look to remain undefeated on the season as they take on the Omaha Mavericks (0-4) Monday night. The Frogs survived a tough test against South Dakota last Wednesday, pulling out a 76-71 victory. Vladimir Brodziansky had a big game, scoring a season high 23 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kouat Noi contributed 14 points and 6 rebounds off the bench, while Desmond Bane was once again in double figures with 10. The Coyotes’ Matt Mooney and Tyler Hagedorn made life tough for the Frogs, going for 31 and 22 respectively, and the game was close from start to finish. Now tonight TCU will get a look at another Summit League team in the Omaha Mavericks.

UNO played a pretty good game on the road against the #18 ranked Louisville Cardinals, losing by a score of 87-78. Four of their five starters went for double figures, and they played the Cardinals tight despite being down one of their best players in Mitch Hahn. The Mavericks were down 15 at the half, yet clawed back to make Louisville nervous by forcing 17 turnovers (with 12 steals) and hounding the Cardinals to a mere 25% shooting percentage from behind the 3 point line.

Taking a look at the Mavericks’ roster, it’s clear the style of basketball they want to play. UNO’s tempo of 78.9 possessions a game ranks 4th in the NCAA, and they have yet to allow less than 87 points or score less than 71. In short, even if they aren’t being efficient, they will still put the ball in the basket through sheer volume. The Mavs will have to hope that is the case, because their effective shooting percentage is a subpar 45.8% (265th overall), and they especially struggle in the paint, shooting just 43.6% (280th) and getting blocked 19.7% of the time (347th). They will have to score from the outside, which will likely come from Zach Jackson, their leading scorer. Jackson is averaging 16.8 points per game on 45.7% shooting, as well as a team leading 40% on threes. Fellow guard Daniel Norl has struggled from behind the line (27.8%), but is the team’s best finisher inside and second leading scorer at 16.5 points per game. Norl is the leader of the team, playing the highest share of the minutes and being one of the two seniors seeing significant playing time. Mitch Hahn is the team’s third key player, but he missed the Louisville game and may not even play. If Hahn doesn’t play, the Mavs’ frontcourt is very thin between senior Lamar Wofford-Humphrey and minimally used starter Daniel Meyer. The other two notable players for the Mavs are starting guard KJ Robinson, who has shot a mere 29% this season and has an absurd 33% turnover rate, and sixth man JT Gibson, who is the main distributor of the team and the only other inside threat.

Three things to watch

Exploit the size mismatch

UNO has struggled in the paint this season, which doesn’t bode well for them against TCU. Vlad will only be checked by a 6’9 guy at best, and any foul trouble for the Mavs’ two rotation bigs could mean big problems for them defensively. Even small ball lineups with Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher on the court at the same time shouldn’t be defensive liabilities considering how poor UNO is at finishing at the rim. Anas Mahmoud of Louisville had 8 blocks against the Mavs last week, and Vlad should fare similarly Monday night.

Make your shots

Considering how fast Omaha likes to play, it is key that you make the shots their subpar defense gives you. Oklahoma and New Mexico were both able to eclipse 100 points against UNO by remaining efficient and simply outgunning the Mavs at that crisp pace. TCU has been incredibly efficient thus far, ranking 21st with a 61.4% eFG, so this should be the primary reason why the Frogs can put away the Mavs early. Players like Bane, Vlad, and Noi who have been efficient thus far should see their offensive good fortune continue.

Don’t beat yourself

If South Dakota was the best opponent the Frogs have faced this year, UNO is likely the worst. However, you have to come ready to play no matter who the opponent is, and Louisville nearly faced the pitfalls of overlooking an opponent instead of finishing them off. TCU will need to play smart the whole game, taking smart shots and forcing the Omaha offense to be chucking shots at a high volume but low efficiency. Taking care of the ball will be a key, as Omaha’s biggest area of strength is forcing turnovers (12.3%, 27th rank), but I have been impressed thus far with how the Frogs have taken care of the ball. Play the full 40 minutes and stay mentally engaged, and the Frogs should be in a good spot Monday night.

Prediction:

Omaha represents a good opportunity for the Frogs to showcase their offense and continue to fine tune the team during the non-conference slate. The South Dakota game was closer than most expected, and TCU will be looking to make a statement as a result. UNO is going to get their points, that’s just the style they play, but TCU has a good shot at eclipsing 100 points for the second time if they play their game. Vlad looks primed for another huge game against an undersized team, and efficiency stars like Bane, Noi, and JD Miller all have reason to celebrate this matchup.

Perhaps this game can be a good momentum starter for some of the guys who haven’t been as great on offense to this point in the season. Kenrich Williams has been playing great defense and crashing the boards, but his shot hasn’t quite been there this season as he’s only hit double figures in the opener. Similarly, Alex Robinson hasn’t scored more than 9 points this season, focusing more on his role as a distributor. Given the sheer volume of possessions and the defensive stats of the Mavericks team, tonight may be a night where they can get into a nice scoring rhythm. Regardless of who gets the offense going, the Frogs should light up the scoreboard en route to another win.

Prediction: TCU 98, UNO 79

Here are the game notes courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

- The Frogs are coming off a 76-71 win over South Dakota behind 23 points by Vladimir Brodziansky.

- TCU has started the season 3-0 for the third time in the last four seasons. The Frogs started 13-0 in 2014 and 8-0 in 2016.

- It is the third consecutive game that TCU will play a team for the first time in school history.

- After averaging 7.1 points as a freshman last season, Desmond Bane is averaging 15.3 points through three games.

- TCU has used the same starting lineup of Alex Robinson, Desmond Bane, Kenrich Williams, JD Miller and Vladimir Brodziansky for the last seven games, all wins. Four of those games were the final four of last season and all occurred in the NIT.

- Vladimir Brodziansky is 46 blocks away from James Penny’s school-record of 171 from 1995-98. Brodziansky currently ranks fifth in blocked shots with 125.

- TCU is receiving votes in the preseason top 25 poll. The Frogs earned 43 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 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.

About Omaha

- The University of Nebraska Omaha was founded in 1908 and has an enrollment of 15,627.

v- The Mavericks went 18-14 last season with a 9-7 record in the Summit League and finished third.

- Omaha returned seven and welcomed nine newcomers this season.

- Junior forward Mitch Hahn was a member of the Summit League All-Newcomer Team last season after averaging 11.7 points.

- Omaha is coming off an 87-78 loss at Louisville on Friday. Lamar Wofford-Humphrey led the Mavs with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

About the Series

- This is the first meeting between TCU and South Dakota.

- TCU is 3-4 all-time against current members of the Summit League.

- It is the second-straight game for TCU against the Summit League after defeating South Dakota Wednesday.

Emerald Coast Classic

In its fourth season, this year’s Emerald Coast Classic involves Jackson State, Maryland, Maryland Eastern Shore, New Mexico, Omaha, St. Bonaventure, TCU and Tennessee Tech. Past champions include Virginia (2016), Iowa State (2015) and Mississippi (2014).

On Nov. 24-25, third round and championship games will be played at The Arena on the campus of Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Fla. All participating teams will stay at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Destin, Fla. TCU will arrive in the Sunshine State on Wednesday.

TCU’s third round game with New Mexico and Saturday’s championship game will air on CBSSN. The third-place game will be streamed at the following link: www.EmeraldCoastTV.com/ecc17

TCU will have radio coverage of every Horned Frog game with Jeff Williams and Colin Boddicker on the call.

All About Shooting

- Desmond Bane ranks No. 13 in true shooting percentage (92.4) and No. 14 in field goal efficiency (95.7) according to KenPom.com.

- Bane ranks third in the Big 12 in field goal shooting (73.9%) and fourth in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, 10-of-15 (66.7).

- Seven different TCU players have made multiple 3-pointers.

- TCU has shot over 49 percent from the field in every game.

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 22nd in the NCAA in field goal shooting (52.6%) and second in the Big 12 and 33rd in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (43.7%).

KenPom Continuity

One of the newest KenPom stats is minutes continuity. What percentage of a team’s minutes are played by the same player from last season to this season. TCU ranks 24th in continuity, the best in the Big 12, at 70.2 percent. The national average tends to be 50 percent.

Good in November

The Frogs hope to continue the momentum in November like they have in the past. TCU has won 11-straight games in November, dating back to the 2015-16 season. Over the last three years, the Frogs have gone 20-2 in the month of November and was a perfect 7-0 last season as they won their first eight games of the season.

Hot Shooting Frogs

TCU used a hot shooting night to route Tennessee Tech, 100-63 on Nov. 13.

- The Frogs shot 62.5 percent from the field, the ninth best in school history and the best since Dec. 27, 1998 when they shot 65.9 percent against Oklahoma.

- TCU was 16-of-29 from 3-point range, the most made threes since March 13, 2008. On that date, TCU had 17 3-pointers against UNLV to match the school record set against Grambling State on Dec. 30. The 16 made threes was tied for the third-most in school history.

Desmond Bane Goes Off

Sophomore guard Desmond Bane exploded with a career-high 24 points in just 25 minutes of play against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 13. He matched his previous career-high of 19 (vs. Alabama St., Nov. 14, 2016), in the first half. Bane was 6-of 10 from 3-point range, a career high for made threes. It was the most 3-pointers in a game by a TCU player since Hank Thorns hit eight threes against UNLV on Feb. 14, 2012.

Coaching with Experience

This season, Jamie Dixon will be the head coach of a team that returns all five starters for the first time in his 15-year career. In 2010-11, Dixon’s Pittsburgh team returned four starters from the 2009-10 season. The 2011 team went 28-6, won the Big East Conference and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.