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TCU Basketball Preview: Oklahoma

The Frogs kick off their conference slate against Trae Young and a very dangerous OU squad

TCU Basketball vs SMU, December 5, 2017
Can Desmond Bane match Trae Young this afternoon as the Frogs’ tangle with the Sooners?
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 1:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Oklahoma leads 17-4 | Game Line: TCU -1

The #10 TCU Horned Frogs (12-0) will open up Big 12 play Saturday afternoon, as they take on the #12 Oklahoma Sooners (10-1). The Frogs will be playing as a top 10 team for the first time in program history, and still sport the longest winning streak in America, now at 17 straight victories. The most recent win came against William & Mary by a score of 86-75. With Kenrich Williams out, guards Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher led the way with 23 and 21 points respectively. All other starters were also in double figures, with JD Miller (12), Vladimir Brodziansky (11), and Desmond Bane (11) all contributing to the win. The Frogs outshot the Tribe 62/42, but had W&M’s ability to hit the long ball kept them in the game longer than they normally would have been. TCU also continued a season long trend of dominating the glass, winning the rebounding battle 39/22.

The Sooners are coming off a 104-78 beatdown of the Northwestern Wildcats. Trae Young put up another insane performance, with 31 points and 12 assists on 8/13 shooting from three. The offense opened up for players like Christian James (19), Brady Manek (11), Jamuni McNeace (11), and Kameron McGusty (11) to score in double figures. The Sooners as a team shot 61% from the field and an insane 60% from three, and took their foot off the gas after winning the first half by 30 points. The Sooners have some impressive wins on the season, defeating a top 10 Wichita State team on the road, wins over Pac-12 opponents Oregon and USC in semi-away games, and the aforementioned beatdown of Big 10 opponent Northwestern.

Any discussion of Oklahoma basketball starts and ends with Trae Young, the kid is absolutely sensational. A five star true freshman, Young is currently the leading candidate for National Player of the Year. He leads the nation in points per game (28.7) and assists per game (10.4) shooting with 48.5/41.1/86 splits. He is being compared to Steph Curry, and for good reason, as he can and does pull up from deep NBA range and even has a comparable in and out dribble move. He tops the nation in assist rate (57.0), is tied for national leader in KenPom MVPs with 8, and has scored under 20 points only once this season (the first game, where he dropped 15 in 26 minutes). Simply put, he is incredible and is a handful for any team to deal with. The dilemma teams face with Young is that even if you are somehow able to limit his scoring, he is an elite distributor, recently dropping 22 assists in the game against Northwestern State. His one weakness is that he can occasionally be turnover prone, averaging almost 4 a game, but with how many possessions he eats up, it isn’t the glaring weakness that you might see in lesser players.

Other players benefit from Young’s sensational player, the main benefactor being Christian James. He is the team’s second leading scorer at 13.4 points a game, and has benefitted greatly as a shooter thanks to the open looks he is getting, shooting 41% on shots from behind the arc (up from 34% a year ago). A very consistent player, you can bet on James scoring around 12 points and grabbing a handful of rebounds every game. Brady Manek is another key starter for OU, another freshman often overshadowed by Young. Manek starts at the 4 for the Sooners, and has shown a willingness to step outside and drain open 3s at a decent clip. He broke out of a cold spell with big games against Wichita State and USC, and plays well as a guy who avoids mistakes and plays within himself. Manek’s frontcourt mate is senior Kadeem Lattin. The team’s anchor inside, he leads the Sooners in rebounding and blocks shots at a top 100 rate. He fouls a lot, so he’s limited to about 20 minutes a game, but he is quite effective when he is in. Rounding out the starting lineup is Rashard Odomes, a junior who gets a bit lost in the fray with all the scoring in the starting lineup. He has not scored in double figures this season, and also can’t hit free throws at all. He generally shoots it well when he actually uses possessions, but he has definitely seen a reduced role since last season.

Kameron McGusty is the top reserve for the Sooners, a volume shooter who has found his rhythm over the past three games. He only shoots 30% on threes, but has been creative in finding ways to score inside (56% shooting). He has struggled to get to the line at the same rate as last year, which hurts because he has only missed once from the line this season. Jamuni McNeace is the team’s backup center, and is their tallest regular contributor at 6’10. He crashes the glass and anchors the defense as well as anyone, but like Lattin he is prone to foul trouble and generally only shoots when he gets open dunks. Jordan Shepherd has been a nice piece off the bench as well, serving as the team’s secondary distributor and scoring very efficiently on the few shots he takes. All this has translated to a team leading 134 offensive rating (34th in the nation), which shows that the Sooner offense runs well when he is in the game. Matt Freeman also adds some size to the Sooner bench, but he is far more perimeter based than McNeace and has some three point range in his game. He is basically the team’s Matt Bonner; a player who is tall but sticks to the perimeter (and also fouls at a high rate). The final notable reserve is Ty Lazenby, who has played in all 11 games. He hasn’t scored in four straight games, and has struggled mightily in his seven minutes per game. Don’t expect a huge impact from Lazenby, but do expect to see #14 in the game.

The Sooners will be the best team that the Frogs have seen on both sides of the ball, with their offensive rating ranking 14th (116.4) and defensive rating ranking 32nd (95.2). While Trae Young is known for pulling up from three, the Sooners are actually at an elite level inside the arc, owning the 8th best two point field goal percentage in the nation (59.8%). Their ability to hit from inside and out lands their eFG% at 59.0, also ranked 8th in the country. They love to get up and down the floor fast, having the 5th fastest tempo, and maximize their possessions by not turning it over and draining their shots at a high rate. Simply put, the Sooners are built in a similar vein to the Warriors, they can bury you at any moment with deadly shooting and a quick fire offense. Defensively, they are solid across the board, with nothing really standing out as exceptional or dreadful in any one category of their defense. Their fast tempo leads to more points given up in the aggregate, but in terms of percentages and per possession defense, they rank in the upper echelon of teams.

Three Things to Look For

Trae Young

Honestly, this could be all three points, but for the sake of your reading I’ll avoid the redundancy. Young is an unreal player, and the Frogs are going to have to accept that he will get his. Throwing unique defensive looks at him could potentially play into his propensity for turnovers, ultimately neutralizing his threat as a distributor. Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher will have their hands full, and they’ll have to defend the whole 94 feet against such an explosive talent, but if they can hold him to reasonable level, they can win the game.

Win the bench battle

This is the first team the Frogs have faced that has enough depth to spell their starters for extended time. In fact, the Sooners have more depth than TCU at this point. This means the Frogs need good performances out of guys like Kouat Noi, Ahmed Hamdy, and Shawn Olden. Against William & Mary, the bench only had 8 points. While some of that can be explained by Robinson’s ascension to the starting lineup, the Frogs will simply need more in order to keep up against OU.

Make them play your game

Believe it or not, the Frogs actually have the overall more efficient offense coming into this matchup. The pure talent and ability to spread it around make the Frogs a high flying offense that is hard to gameplan against. Teams will often try to take away what the other team does best and force them to adjust, but that is a tough request against a team as diverse in its options as the Frogs. Slowing down the pace (not to a snail’s crawl like Virginia, but a reasonable rate below a track meet) will advantage the Frogs, and allow their edge in rebounding to pull them ahead. Of course, a large portion of this is contingent on Kenrich Williams’s knee being okay, but with 8 days off since their last game, I count on Hustle being able to play.

Prediction

TCU is 12-0; they own the nation’s longest winning streak and have reached their highest ranking in team history. Yet, after all of that, they are still attacked as having “not played anyone” (never mind teams like SMU, Nevada, St. Bonaventure, etc. who are all likely tournament teams) and are expected to fall off at any moment. This is the perfect game to answer those doubters, and I think the Frogs have the horses to do it. Trae Young is an incredible player, no doubt, but the NPOY favoritesp team up and down the roster can’t stack up to a highly skilled Frogs squad. While Fisher and Robinson try to clamp down Young, I like the skill advantage that Desmond Bane, Vladimir Brodziansky, Kenny Hustle, and JD Miller bring to the table against the remaining OU players. The game will be close, I think it comes down to one or two buckets, but the Frogs pull out a close one and start Big 12 play 1-0.

Prediction: #10 TCU 91, #12 Oklahoma 87

Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:

- It is the first time a ranked TCU team has faced a ranked opponent at home since Feb. 21, 1998 when No. 15 TCU defeated No. 11 New Mexico 95-64.

- TCU was picked to finish third in the Big 12 after finishing tied for seventh last season. Both were program bests.

- The Frogs are looking for their first win in a Big 12 Conference opener (0-5).

- Oklahoma and TCU begin conference play first (95.1) and second (87.5), respectively, in scoring offense.

- TCU has won 17-straight games, a school record and the longest active streak in the nation.

- TCU has won 19 of its last 21 games.

- The Frogs are coming off an 86-75 win over William & Mary behind a season-high 23 points from Alex Robinson.

- Kenrich Williams did not play against William & Mary due to a knee injury.

- TCU is one of three unbeaten teams in NCAA DI, joining Arizona State and Villanova.

- TCU is ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25, its highest ranking in school history. TCU is No. 8 in the USA Today Poll.

- TCU is 44-16 all-time as a ranked team, including a 22-2 record at home.

- TCU’s 12-0 start to the season is second-best in school history behind the 13-0 start to the 2014-15 season.

- TCU leads the Big 12 Conference in field goal percentage at 52.7.

- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assists (5th, 19.7), field goal percentage (2nd, 52.7), 3-point percentage (18th, 41.2) and scoring (12th, 87.5).

- After averaging 7.1 points as a freshman last season, Desmond Bane is averaging 12.7 points as a sophomore.

- Kenrich Williams has recorded six double-doubles and leads the team with 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds this season.

- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks fourth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 66.7.

- Brodziansky ranks fourth all-time at TCU in blocked shots with 137. He is 29 away from third and 34 away from the school-record of 171.

- 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

- Oklahoma has won its last eight games including a 104-78 victory over Northwestern last time out on Dec. 22.

- The Sooners are led by freshman guard Trae Young, who leads the nation in points (28.7) and assists (10.4).

- Young was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Wednesday after averaging 28.5 points and 17 assists in two wins. His 22 assists against Northwestern State tied the NCAA record. OU’s Brady Manek was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.

- Oklahoma’s biggest nonconference win was a 91-83 win at No. 3 Wichita State on Dec. 16.

About the Series

- Oklahoma leads the all-time series 17-4 including a 6-2 lead in games in Fort Worth.

- TCU went 2-1 against OU last season with wins coming in Fort Worth, 60-57, and Kansas City, 82-63.

Top 25 Ranking

TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll for the fourth-straight week at No. 15. The Frogs debuted in this season’s rankings at No. 23 on Nov. 27. Prior to this season, TCU was last ranked on Dec. 22, 2014, coming in at No. 25 after sporting an 11-0 record at the time. TCU’s highest ranking this season was No. 14, its highest ranking since Feb. 23, 1998 when the Frogs were ranked 13th, the highest in school history.

- As a ranked team, TCU is 41-16 all-time, including 19-2 at home.

- TCU has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for four consecutive weeks. The school record for consecutive weeks in the poll is seven, which occurred during the 1958-59 season.

- When No. 20 TCU faced No. 22 Nevada in Los Angeles, it was the first time TCU faced a ranked team, while also ranked since March 6, 1998 when No. 20 New Mexico defeated No. 15 TCU 80-73 in the second round of the WAC Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev.

- TCU is one of four NCAA DI schools ranked in the Top 25 in football and men’s basketball joining Miami, Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.

TCU vs. Top 25 Teams

- TCU is 17-147 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including 11-45 at home.

- TCU was 1-7 against ranked teams last season with the win coming against No. 1 Kansas on March 9, 2017 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

- TCU’s last win over a top 25 team at home came on Feb. 14, 2015, a 70-55 win over No. 21 Oklahoma State at Wilkerson-Greines.

- TCU is 0-8 against top 25 teams in the Schollmaier Arena, which opened during the 2015-16 season.

- The last time a ranked TCU squad defeated a top 25 team was on Feb. 21, 1998 when No. 19 TCU beat No. 11 New Mexico, 95-64 in Fort Worth at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. It was also the last time a ranked TCU team played a ranked team at home.

Shooting and Scoring

- TCU leads the Big 12 and ranks second in the NCAA in field goal shooting (52.7%).

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 18th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (41.2%).

- Over 60 percent of TCU’s field goals (380) were assisted (236), a percentage of 62.1. The Frogs rank second in the Big 12 and fifth in the NCAA in assists per game (19.7).

- TCU's offensive efficiency ranks 11th at 116.9 according to KenPom.com.

- TCU has scored over 90 points five times this season. It's the most times the Frogs have scored 90 or more in a season since the 2001-02 season when they did it 13 times.

- Desmond Bane ranks No. 3 nationally in field goal efficiency (73.6) and No. 8 in true field goal percentage (73.6) according to KenPom.com. Vladimir Brodziansky ranks No. 8 in field goal efficiency (72.2) and No. 11 in true shooting percentage (72.4).

- TCU has three among the top 15 in shooting percentage in the Big 12... 4. Vladimir Brodziansky - 66.7, 10. Desmond Bane - 58.4. 13. JD Miller - 54.5.

- TCU has three among the top seven in 3-point field goal percentage in the Big 12... 1. Desmond Bane - 52.9, 2. Kenrich Williams - 50.0, 7. Kouat Noi - 44.8.

Nation’s Longest Win Streak

TCU boasts the nation’s longest win streak, having won 17-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 Saturday, TCU’s last loss was 295 days ago.

- TCU’s streak of 17 games is tied for the longest in school history with the 1997-98 season.

- TCU’s 12-straight wins this season are its most to start a season since the first 13 games of the 2014-15 season before finishing 18-15.

- TCU won 14 straight during the 1987-88 season, Jamie Dixon’s senior season as a player.

- During the 17-game streak, Kenrich Williams has produced 11 double-doubles and is averaging 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He has played in 16 of the 17 games.

Vlad 1K

Senior Vladimir Brodziansky is the 34th member of the 1,000 point club. At 1,030 points, the Slovakian 30th and 14 points behind Damion Walker for 29th on the all-time scoring list.