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TCU Basketball Preview and Gamethread: Belmont

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The Frogs return to Schollmaier Arena sporting plenty of new accolades

TCU vs Omaha, November 20, 2017
TCU vs Omaha, November 20, 2017
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: Fox Sports Plus | Series: First Meeting | Game Line: TCU -12

It’s been a good week for the TCU Horned Frogs (6-0). They just reappeared in the AP Top 25 at #23. They won a regular season championship in the Emerald Coast Classic. And with North Carolina losing on the 26th, the Frogs now have the nation’s longest active winning streak at 11 games. Pretty solid stuff. While it’s always great to celebrate the accomplishments, the team will need to refocus for a Wednesday night showdown with the Belmont Bruins (4-3).

TCU defeated St. Bonaventure 89-79 to capture the Emerald Coast Classic title. Jaylen Fisher led the way with 20 points, while Kenrich Williams added another double double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Kouat Noi (14), Desmond Bane (12), and Vladimir Brodziansky (11) joined them in double figures. The Frogs were bitten by the turnover bug again, committing 18, but they were able to persevere by dominating the glass (38-23 rebounding advantage) and parlaying that into second chance opportunities (59-43 FGA advantage).

Belmont is coming off a 74-66 loss to Lipscomb. It was simply an off shooting night for the Bruins, as they shot a mere 35% from the field while allowing Lipscomb to shoot 50% from 3. The leading scorer for Belmont was Nick Hopkins with 14, with Dylan Windler contributing a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Austin Luke and Amanze Egekeze also contributed 13 points apiece, but beyond those four no one scored more than six points.

The Lipscomb game was an outlier for Belmont, as they typically shoot the ball very well, especially in the paint. They shoot a robust 58% on two pointers, ranking 30th in the country, and that is led by Egekeze and Windler. Windler is Belmont’s Kenny Hustle, averaging a double double with 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He is ruthlessly efficient, owning a 66.7 eFG% (82nd in the country), and will be the life force of the Bruins’ squad, as he rarely leaves the court. Egekeze is the team’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game. He is also an efficient scorer considering his volume, and can beat you anywhere on the floor. Belmont likes to run a smaller lineup with Windler and Egekeze running the 4 and 5, so TCU will have to capitalize on that matchup in order to be successful.

Luke also runs in the starting lineup at the point, owning the 19th best assist rate in the country at 39.8. He is turnover prone, however, coughing the ball up on a third of his possessions. The team will also rely heavily on Kevin McClain, who had a rough game against Lipscomb. McClain averages 12.9 points per game, however that number (as well as his shooting numbers) are inflated by a 27 point outburst against Houston Baptist. McClain has had a rough go of it from behind the 3 point line even with the HBU game, shooting only 30.8%, but TCU will need to keep an eye on him as one of the key role players for the Bruins. Rounding out the starting lineup will likely be big center Mack Mercer. Mercer is an abysmal rebounder for his size, owning a mere 8.5% defensive rebound rate, but he is out there mostly to set screens and body up the big men on the opposing team.

Hopkins will be the big threat off the Belmont bench, and he runs a lot with the starters at a solid 18.4 minutes per game. He’s their top 3 point threat at 44% shooting, and is also a solid threat within the arc. He also has only turned the ball over 3 times in 129 minutes of play as a freshman. I’m really impressed with this kid, and the Frogs bench will need to keep pace. Burton Sampson, a senior, also gets solid minutes off the bench, but he doesn’t really do a whole lot, only averaging a point a game (he’s only taken 4 shots all year). Outside of Hopkins and Sampson, no one on Belmont’s bench averages more than 10 minutes per game, as the Bruins will look to rotate plenty of guys in to give TCU different looks

Three things to look for:

No second chances for the Bruins

If there’s one area where TCU has been elite this season, it has been in controlling the defensive glass and maximizing the number of possessions they get. Their 20.6% opponent oReb rate ranks 10th in the country and will pose a major problem for a Bruins team that can’t crash the glass very well. Kenny Hustle is a perfect neutralizer for Windler, their only real threat on the glass, so this matchup looks very good for the Frogs.

Inside domination

Going along with dominating the glass is controlling the paint. Belmont has some big guys on their team, but generally they like to run smaller lineups with three point guard sized players. If Belmont runs a lineup of Hopkins (5’11) / Luke (6’3) / McClain (6’2) / Windler (6’7) / Egekeze (6’8) (which is their third most common lineup), the Frogs need to take advantage and use their size to overwhelm the Bruins’ offense. Expect a block party by TCU, who has one of the best block rates in the country, against a Belmont team that is efficient inside, but also is blocked quite often due to their size. Forcing long twos can neutralize Belmont’s superb two point scoring ability, which would lead to a runaway for the Frogs.

Turnovers

I’m just going to put this here until it stops being an achilles heel for this team. In games like St. Bonaventure and New Mexico where TCU has struggled to pull away, it has largely been due to turnovers. Vlad has struggled a little bit dealing with the incessant double teams thrown his way, but this is a look teams threw at him last year and he ultimately adjusted. Also concerning is the recent play of Alex Robinson, who turned the ball over 4 times in just 14 minutes against St. Bonaventure. If he’s coughing up the ball at that rate while also not scoring (3 points on 1-4 shooting), he becomes near unplayable no matter how many assists he throws out. I’m willing to attribute it to his foot injury, but A Rob will have to take care of the ball going forward. The whole team needs to step up their ball security, but luckily Belmont is pretty horrendous at forcing turnovers (opponent TO% is ranked 293rd in the country), so maybe TCU will do well this game with taking care of the ball.

Prediction

I think Belmont is a pretty good team and a possible tournament participant if they can win their conference. Despite this, they matchup horribly with the Frogs. They rely too much on their offense to win them shootouts, but that doesn’t work against a team like TCU. Look for TCU to extend their winning streak and send Belmont into a three game losing streak.

The matchup to watch is Kenny versus Windler. Two very similar styles of play on the wing make that a fun little duel that will last the entire game. I also see this as a big game for Kouat Noi, as he may be the perfect counter for the small ball lineups Belmont runs. Expect more of the Omaha game TCU than the New Mexico game TCU Wednesday night, as the #23 ranked Horned Frogs have this game under wraps early.

Prediction: #23 TCU 84, Belmont 68

Here are the game notes courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

- Wednesday's game features TCU's Kenrich Williams (12.7 ppg., 10.2 rpg.) and Belmont's Dylan Windler (15.7 ppg., 11.6 rpg.), two of 29 players averaging a double-double nationally.

- TCU has won 11-straight games, the longest streak in the nation, dating back to last season. Its last loss was March 10, 2017 against Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championships. TCU has also won 13 of its last 15 games.

- The Frogs are starting a three-game homestand after winning the Emerald Coast Classic on Saturday. Those three games are against team picked towards the top of their conference in Belmont (1st, OVC), Yale (2nd, Ivy), SMU (4th, AAC).

- TCU is ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25, its first ranking in the poll since 2014. TCU was last ranked this high on Jan. 11, 1999 at No. 21. The Frogs have recieved votes in every poll this season.

- TCU is 38-16 all-time as a ranked team, including a 17-2 record at home.

- TCU has started the season 6-0 for the third time in the last four seasons. The Frogs started 13-0 in 2014 and 8-0 in 2016.

- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assists, field goal percentage and steals.

- After averaging 7.1 points as a freshman last season, Desmond Bane is averaging 13.8 points as a sophomore.

- Bane ranks No. 2 in the nation in 3-point percentage (62.5%) and No. 6 in field goal percentage (71.2%).

- TCU ranks 10th in the nation and second in the Big 12 with 19.8 assists per game.

- TCU is one of 29 unbeaten teams in the country.

- Vladimir Brodziansky is 45 blocks away from James Penny's school-record of 171 from 1995-98. Brodziansky currently ranks fifth in blocked shots with 128.

- TCU returned 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. It's the first time Jamie Dixon has had a team with every starter returning from the year before.

- TCU returned 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 the Opponent

- Belmont went 23-7 last season and won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season with a 15-1 record.

- The Bruins returned nine players including three starters from last season's team that fell in the second round of the NIT.

- Belmont has played in either the NCAA Tournament or NIT in each of the last seven years.

- The Bruins have wins over Middle Tennessee and Vanderbilt this season and were picked to win the OVC.

- Belmont is coming off losses to Providence (66-65) and Lipscomb (74-66).

- Amanze Egekeze leads the team in scoring at 18.3 points per game, the second-most in the Ohio Valley Conference.

About The Series

- It is the first meeting between TCU and Belmont.

- TCU is 5-2 all-time against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Frogs defeated OVC member Tennessee Tech 100-63 on Nov. 13 this season.

Feels like the First Time

Belmont is the fifth team TCU will play this season for the first time in program history. With a first-time meeting with Yale coming up on Saturday, TCU will be facing six of its first eight opponents for the first time.

Tournament Champions

Since Jamie Dixon became the head coach at TCU, the Frogs have won three of the past four tournaments it's played in. TCU won the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas with wins over UNLV and Washington (Nov. 25-26, 2016). TCU won the NIT with wins over Fresno State, Iowa, Richmond, UCF and Georgia Tech (March 15-30, 2017). The Frogs most recently won the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla. with wins over New Mexico and St. Bonaventure (Nov. 24-25, 2017). The only tournament TCU did not win under Dixon was the 2017 Big 12 Championship where the Frogs fell to Iowa State in the semifinals after wins over Oklahoma and No. 1 Kansas.

Top 25 Ranking

TCU has earned an AP Top 25 ranking for the first time in three years, coming in at No. 23 on Nov. 27. The Horned Frogs were last ranked on Dec. 22, 2014, coming in at No. 25 after sporting an 11-0 record at the time. The No. 23 ranking is TCU's highest since Jan. 11, 1999 when the Frogs were ranked No. 21. TCU earned 133 points and joined four Big 12 Conference teams, No. 2 Kansas, No. 16 Baylor, No. 19 West Virginia and No. 22 Texas Tech, in this week's rankings. Texas and Oklahoma received votes as seven of the 10 Big 12 teams earned recognition in the poll.

As a ranked team, TCU is 38-16 all-time, including 17-2 at home. The last game the Frogs played as a ranked team, No. 25 TCU defeated Grambling State 80-39 on Dec. 22, 2014 before falling out of the poll the following week.

Nation's longest win streak

TCU boasts the nation's longest win streak, having won 11-straight games dating back to last season. The Frogs' last lost came on March 10, 2017, against Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship. As of Wednesday, that last loss was 265 days ago.

TCU's streak of 11 games is the third-longest in school history. TCU won the first 13 games of the 2014-15 season and won 14 straight during the 1987-88 season, Jamie Dixon's season year. The school record for consecutive games won is 16 set during the 1997-98 season.

Good in November

TCU has won 14-straight games in November, dating back to the 2015-16 season. Over the last three years, the Frogs have gone 23-2 in the month of November and was a perfect 7-0 last season as they won their first eight games of the season.

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 29th in continuity, the best in the Big 12, at 69.4 percent. The national average tends to be 50 percent.

All About Shooting

- Desmond Bane ranks No. 2 in field goal efficiency (89.5%) and No. 2 in true shooting percentage (86.0%) according to KenPom.com.

- Bane ranks second in the Big 12 in field goal shooting (72.1%) and second in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, 15-of-24 (62.5).

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

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 21st in the NCAA in field goal shooting (51.5%) and second in the Big 12 and 49th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (40.2%).

- Over half of TCU's field goals (186) were assisted (119), a percentage of 64. The Frogs rank second in the Big 12 and 10th in the NCAA in assists per game (19.8).