Game Time: 7:00pm CST | Location: Madison Square Garden - New York, NY | TV: ESPN | Series: Georgia Tech Leads 2-0 | Game Line: TCU -3.5
Tonight, the TCU Horned Frogs will have a chance to do something that no TCU men’s basketball team before them has ever done: win a national postseason tournament. It is the first time the Frogs have ever made it to a postseason championship game and winning it would be quite the feat for Jamie Dixon in his first year at his alma mater.
The Frogs advanced to tonight’s matchup with the Yellow Jackets by knocking off UCF 68-53 on Tuesday night. TCU only shot 43.3% from the field and turned it over 12 times in that game, but were able to come away with the victory through stifling defense and strong work on the glass, finishing with a 44-35 rebounding advantage. The Knights started off shooting the ball well, but finished the game at 33.3% and 6/25 from beyond the arc.
The star of the game was Kenrich Williams who posted his fourth double-double in as many games in the NIT. Kenny Hustle dropped in 14 points on 6/11 shooting and pulled down 14 boards to go along with 7 assists. Vladimir Brodziansky led the team in scoring with 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, but was uncharacteristically off from the free throw line, where he went 4/8. JD Miller also put in a strong performance and did a good job of attacking the basket, finishing with 9 points.
TCU’s opponent tonight, Georgia Tech, advanced by knocking off Cal State Bakersfield, the first-ever NIT #8 seed to make it to Madison Square Garden, 76-61. The Yellow Jackets only turned it over 7 times and shot 43.3% from the field while forcing the Roadrunners into 15 turnovers and holding them to 35% shooting. Freshman Josh Okogie led the team with 22 points and also pulled down 9 rebounds. Center Ben Lammers added in 15 points and was a force in the paint, grabbing 11 boards and blocking 5 shots.
Both Okogie and Lammers will be the key players to watch tonight for Georgia Tech. Okogie is the main scorer for the Yellow Jackets, averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game on the season, and will likely take a majority of their shots. However, he does a majority of his damage by attacking the rim and getting to the line. Dixon acknowledged this in his press conference today, saying he “gets to the basket and is always trying to get fouled, get to the free throw line.” So far in the NIT, Okogie is averaging 8 free throw attempts per game and is making 78.1%.
Lammers is the main guy down low for Georgia Tech and could have a major impact on both ends of the floor. In the 3rd round of the NIT, when the Jackets won at Ole Miss to advance to Madison Square Garden, he finished with 20 points while shooting 81.8% from the field and blocked an incredible 8 shots. On the season, Lammers is 2nd on the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game and leads the team at 9.3 rebounds per game.
In addition to those two, there are three more players to keep an eye on: Tadric Jackson, Quinton Stephens, and Josh Heath. Jackson is an electric scorer off the bench who can light it up in a hurry, like when he scored 29 points off the bench against Boston College in ACC play. Stephens is another post player and is 2nd on the team with 7.7 rebounds per game. Heath is the main facilitator on offense for the Yellow Jackets and leads the team with 4.4 assists per game.
Georgia Tech enters tonight at 21-15 overall and they went 8-10 in ACC play, which put them in 11th out of 15. Some of their biggest wins came at home, knocking off North Carolina, Florida State, and Notre Dame in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets are ranked #106 in the RPI, 39 spots below TCU, and #78 in ESPN’s BPI, 30 spots below the Frogs. According to BPI, TCU has a 63.9% chance of winning tonight’s game. KenPom.com ranks the Yellow Jackets #6 in defensive efficiency, which is better than the Frogs at #54, but Georgia Tech is #252 in offensive efficiency, whereas TCU is ranked #38.
Three Things to Watch:
1 - Brodziansky v. Lammers
The battle in the paint between these two skilled big men should be fun to watch. Both can create shots on the offensive end while altering opponents’ shots on the defensive end. Vlad already has shown that he can work his way around people to score down low, like he did against Tacko Fall, but what he does defensively may be more important. Lammers is a much more talented offensive player than Fall, so it’ll be up to Vlad to lock him down. If either big outshines the other in a big way, that could go a long way toward determining the winner.
2 - Battle of the Boards
Also down low, it’ll be important for the Frogs to keep Georgia Tech off the glass, especially at the offensive end. Vlad and Kenrich will likely be responsible for keeping Lammers and Stephens off the boards for the Yellow Jackets, but it will need to be a group effort from guys like Miller and Desmond Bane crashing the glass as well. Georgia Tech is not the best shooting team out there, but any team can light up a scoreboard if they get multiple chances.
3 - Foul Trouble
If TCU wants to win this game, they will need their key players, such as Kenrich, Vlad, and Alex Robinson on the floor as much as possible. The Yellow Jackets get most of their offense by cutting and getting to the rim, so the Frogs will need to be ready and not get caught out of position forcing them to foul. On the flip side, if TCU can get either Lammers or Okogie into foul trouble for Georgia Tech, they will put themselves in a good position to win, assuming they knock down their free throws.
I expect the Frogs to cap off this incredible season by bringing home the hardware from New York. Look for Kenrich to have a big game (probably another double-double) and to be named MVP of the tournament when it is all said and done. I also expect some key performances from the seniors off the bench as they play in their final game as Horned Frogs.
Score Prediction: TCU 73, Georgia Tech 68
Who do you think will win tonight’s game?
This poll is closed
Here are some additional game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- TCU will be playing in its first postseason championship game.
- 38 games played is the most in school history. The previous record was 35 on two occasions.
- March 30 is the latest date TCU has ever played a men’s basketball game. It was March 26, 2015, an 85-73 loss to Maryland.
- Tuesday was TCU’s first game at Madison Square Garden. Jamie Dixon is 27-15 at MSG.
- 23 wins ties for the fourth-most in a season (1983, 1992). It’s the most wins in a season since the 1997-98 season (27-6).
- 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 three games combined, TCU has 69 assists and 30 turnovers without usual starting PG Jaylen Fisher.
- TCU is 21-5 when out-rebounding 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 74.4 points per game is the highest average since the 2002-03 season (80.4).
- TCU is shooting 46.4 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 35.8 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 9.6 rebounds per game.
- Williams ranks No. 26 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds with a 3.3 average on the season.
- Williams ranks first in the conference and 14th in the NCAA with 18 double-doubles this season.
- Williams ranks No. 6 all-time at TCU for most rebounds in a season. (347)
- 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 13.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 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 30 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 217.
- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks second in the Big 12 and 30th nationally with 2.1 blocks per game.
- Brodziansky’s 81 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.