Game Time: 8:00pm CST | Location: Madison Square Garden - New York, NY | TV: ESPN | Series: First Meeting | Game Line: TCU -2.5
After knocking off Richmond a week ago at Schollmaier Arena, the Frogs are headed to Madison Square Garden, a place where Jamie Dixon had great success in Big East tournaments during his time at Pitt. Coach Dixon has a 26-15 record at the Garden and won the Big East Tournament as a #7 seed in 2008.
TCU advanced to New York by taking down the #6 seed in their quadrant, Richmond, 86-68. After a slow start for both teams, the Frogs were able to take control and put on a show in front of the home crowd. As a team, TCU shot 51.6% from the field and were 12/13 from the free throw line. They also dominated on the glass, holding a 39-22 rebounding advantage.
Against the Spiders, Vladimir Brodziansky led the team with 20 points, but the star of the game was Kenrich Williams. Kenny Hustle recorded the second triple-double in school history, finishing with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. Desmond Bane and Alex Robinson also played well, each finishing with double-digit points.
The Frogs must now turn their attention to UCF, a #4 seed in the Illinois State quadrant, who started their NIT run against Colorado at home. They took down the Buffaloes 79-74 thanks to a great night from the field. The Knights shot 54.3% from the field and an even better 54.5% from three point range, but struggled at the free throw line, where they shot 53.1%. B.J. Taylor led the way for UCF that night, dropping in 26 points and going 5/8 from deep.
Next, UCF traveled to the #1 seed Illinois State, who they took down 63-62 despite trailing by 18 in the 1st half. B.J. Taylor once again led the team with 22 points and was 11/11 from the free throw line, two of which he knocked down with a second remaining to win. As a team, the Knights shot 46.7% from beyond the arc and out-rebounded the Redbirds 38-31.
After taking down Illinois State, UCF got to host #2 seed Illinois, who had a prior engagement booked at their home arena. The Knights took advantage of the ability to host and defeated the Fighting Illini 68-58. UCF turned the ball over 10 more times than Illinois, but was able to overcome it by shooting 44.9% from the field and having a +17 rebounding advantage.
B.J. Taylor again led the way in scoring, finishing with 17 points. A.J. Davis dropped in another 16 points to go along with 9 rebounds and Matt Williams added in another 16 points while showing off some impressive shooting range. Williams finished 4/11 from beyond the arc, but a majority of his shots seemed to be a few feet behind the line, so TCU will need to stay with him.
In addition to those three guards, TCU will have to deal with an impressive pair of forwards: Tacko Fall and Nick Banyard. If there is one player you won’t miss on the court tonight, it’s Fall, who stands in at 7’6” and wears size 22 shoes. He only averages about 26 minutes per game, but he is third on the team in scoring with 11 points per game and leads the team with 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. The Frogs will likely have a couple shots sent back, but they cannot let that frustrate them.
Nick Banyard, a graduate transfer senior from Flower Mound, will likely be an important piece for the Knights due to his experience. He had 10 rebounds against Illinois and is averaging 6 boards to go along with 6.3 points per game. His averages may seem low, but he was a key player for UCF as they won 6 of their last 8 games before the NIT.
As a team, UCF enters tonight 24-11 overall and they were 11-7 in American Athletic Conference play. The Knights lost to Villanova by 10 earlier in the season and their only wins over teams from a P6 conference were a win over Mississippi State and their victories over Colorado and Illinois in the NIT. They are ranked #69 in the RPI, two spots below TCU, and #61 in ESPN’s BPI, nine spots below the Frogs. According to KenPom.com, the Knights are ranked #164 in offensive efficiency and #17 in defensive efficiency.
Three Things to Watch:
1 - Battle of the Bigs
The most interesting matchup on the floor will be Fall vs. Brodziansky. Vlad has not had to face someone as tall as Fall and it could limit his ability around the rim. However, Brodziansky has shown an ability to stretch the floor and knock down some shots. If he can do that, TCU should be able to come away with a win, but the Frogs may not be able to execute their two-man game as well with Fall waiting in the paint.
2 - Three Point Shooting
With both teams having good shot blockers hanging out in the paint, it will be critical for both teams to shoot well from deep. Matt Williams for UCF and Brandon Parrish for TCU can both get it going from beyond the arc and can have a major impact on the momentum of the game. However, neither team has an advantage statistically from three point range, as both teams are shooting 35.5% from there. The team that has the advantage from deep will put themselves in a good position to win this game.
3 - Making the Most of the Trip
If you hadn’t seen, TCU arrived in New York on Sunday and held their practice at West Point, a place that has special significance for Jamie Dixon. His sister, Maggie Dixon, coached the women’s basketball team there for the 2005-2006 season and led them to a 20-11 record and their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. After the season, Maggie Dixon passed away due to a heart ailment and was buried at the Academy, an honor usually reserved for high-ranking Army officials. Win or lose tonight, it is awesome that the team was able to go to a place that has such a personal connection with Coach Dixon.
This game will likely be very close and should be won by whoever can shake off the nerves of being in Madison Square Garden first. Since the Frogs have shown they can win on the big stage by taking down Kansas at the Sprint Center, I think TCU should be able to settle in early and make enough plays to win this game. The key players to watch for the Frogs will be Bane and Parrish, as they will need to help create scoring from outside the paint.
Score Prediction: TCU 78, UCF 73
Who do you think will win tonight’s game?
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Here are some additional game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- March 28 will be the latest date TCU has ever played a men's basketball game. It was March 26, 2015, an 85-73 loss to Maryland.
- TCU's three postseason wins is the most in program history.
- It is TCU's first game at Madison Square Garden. Jamie Dixon was 26-15 at MSG during his 13 seasons at Pitt.
- TCU has its most victories in a season (22) since going 27-6 during the 1997-98 season, its last NCAA Tournament appearance. The 22 wins is tied for sixth all-time at TCU.
- Jamie Dixon has had a 20-win season in 13 of his 14 seasons as a head coach.
- Vladimir Brodziansky (Second Team and All-Defensive), Jaylen Fisher (Honorable Mention), Alex Robinson (All-Newcomer) and Kenrich Williams (Honorable Mention) all earned postseason honors from the Big 12 Conference.
- Brodziansky was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention by the AP as well as NABC All-District 8.
- TCU finished eighth in the Big 12, the highest in its five seasons in the league. TCU was picked 10th in the preseason poll.
- At 15-6, it's TCU's most wins at home since a 15-1 record in 2000-01.
- Jamie Dixon has won the most games of any TCU head coach in his first year with the program.
- In its five seasons in the Big 12, TCU has three road conference wins, two of those wins coming this season.
- Jamie Dixon has coached as many conference wins (6) as TCU had in the last three years combined.
- In its last two games combined, TCU has 49 assists and 18 turnovers without usual starting PG Jaylen Fisher.
- TCU is 20-5 when outrebounding its opponent.
- TCU is 10-2 when shooting over 50 percent from the field.
- TCU is 19-2 when leading at halftime (Baylor, WVU).
- TCU is 12-4 when forcing more turnovers than it commits.
- TCU's 74.5 points per game is the highest average since the 2002-03 season (80.4).
- TCU is shooting 46.5 percent from the field, the most since the 1998-99 season (49.1).
- TCU's 16.9 assists per game is the most since the 2000-01 season (18.9).
- TCU's 35.6 rebounds per game is the most since the 2002-03 season (38.9).
- TCU currently ranks No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 15 in the NCAA in assists (16.9).
- Kenrich Williams ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 29 in the NCAA with 9.5 rebounds per game.
- Williams ranks No. 29 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds with a 3.2 average on the season.
- Williams ranks first in the conference and 14th in the NCAA with 17 double-doubles this season.
- Williams ranks No. 6 all-time at TCU for most rebounds in a season. (333)
- Williams recorded the second triple-double in TCU history with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against Richmond.
- Williams has had a double-double in every NIT game and is averaging 13.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists over that time.
- Williams (13/10 vs. FS) recorded TCU's first double-double in the postseason since Lee Nailon (27/14) in the 1999 NIT vs. Oregon.
- Brandon Parrish is TCU's career leader in games played.
- Alex Robinson has led TCU in assists 29 times this season and has had at least four assists in all but five games this season.
- Robinson ranks fourth for the most assists in a season at TCU with 211.
- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks second in the Big 12 and 30th nationally with 2.2 blocks per game.
- Brodziansky's 80 total blocks ranks as the second most in school history for a single season.
- Jaylen Fisher is out for the season with a broken left wrist, sustained during TCU's game with Fresno State on March 15.