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TCU Basketball Preview: Texas

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The Frogs hit the road to face a young, talented Longhorns squad

TCU Basketball vs Texas Southern 12.18.17
TCU Basketball vs Texas Southern 12.18.17
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Frank Erwin Center – Austin, TX | TV: ESPNU | Series: Texas leads 107-65 | Game Line: Texas -1

The #16 TCU Horned Frogs (13-2) retained their spot in the AP Poll after splitting games against Baylor and Kansas, and now hit the road again to face the Texas Longhorns (10-5). The Frogs are coming off a tough home loss to the Jayhawks by a score of 88-84. They were carved up on defense by Devonte’ Graham (28), Svi Mykhailiuk (20), and Udoka Azubuike (14), while surprisingly struggling against backup center Mitch Lightfoot. Vladimir Brodziansky led the Frogs in scoring with 20, with Jaylen Fisher and Desmond Bane scoring 16 and 13 respectively. Kenrich Williams also contributed a double double with 11 points and 11 boards. The Frogs lost despite winning the rebounding battle 42-28, a note that clearly frustrated Jamie Dixon. The key was in the shooting stats, where KU shot 50.9% from the field and 55% on threes compared to just 39.1% and 31% in those stats for the Frogs.

Texas is also coming off of a loss, falling at Baylor by a score of 69-60. Missing their point guard in Andrew Jones, the Longhorns’ sputtering offense shot only 34.3% from the field. Jase Febres led the team in scoring in his first career start, dropping in 18 points, while superstar freshman Mo Bamba had 15, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The loss dropped UT to 1-2 in Big 12 play, with their sole win coming in a 74-70 overtime win in Ames. They also sport a loss to Kansas by a score of 92-86. Despite their offensive struggles, Texas has beaten some good teams, knocking off Butler, Alabama, and VCU in non-conference play. They also took both Duke and Gonzaga to overtime before narrowly suffering losses in those contests.

Andrew Jones has been ruled out for the game by Shaka Smart, which is huge considering he is the team’s offensive engine. Jones has dealt with a wrist injury this season, but he missed the most recent game against Baylor due to an undisclosed illness. (editor’s note: sadly, it was announced today that Jones has been diagnosed with Leukemia and is out for the season. we wish him the best as he pursues treatment) If Jones doesn’t go, the title of best player on the Horns definitely goes to Mo Bamba. The true freshman is a pencil thin, incredibly tall man who is currently second in the nation in blocks per game (4.6). He received national attention after carving up Kansas’s interior defense, and he’s so tall and athletic that lots of teams have issues scheming around him. He crashes the boards as well as anyone, as he is one of the few players in the nation averaging a double double (11.9 points and 10.6 rebounds). Bamba has tried to add a three pointer to his game with mixed results thus far (23%), but he absolutely is one of the premier interior players in college basketball this year.

Bamba’s frontcourt mate is Dylan Osetkowski, a transfer from Tulane who actually leads the team in points per game (15). Osetkowski uses a ton of UT’s possessions, over 14 of them when he’s on the court, and he’s posted below average shooting splits at 43.5/30.3/72.5. However, these stats don’t tell the complete picture, as Osetkowski is very streaky in regards to his offensive output. He’s struggled against teams like Baylor (8 points on 3/12 shooting) while playing very effective against Duke (19 points on 9-15 from 2). The Frogs will certainly need to keep an eye on the Longhorns’ leading scorer, especially considering Jones’s absence. Senior Kerwin Roach has had a good season shooting from inside the arc, but had struggled since Big 12 play started. His 65% season shooting on twos is only 39% in conference play, and his overall eFG% has dropped from 57.1% to 32.7%. Roach has never been a reliable outside threat, so UT will have to hope he wakes up and regains his stroke from close range. Matt Coleman has also started every game for the Horns, and the freshman has done a good job passing the ball, leading the team in assists at 4.5 a game. However, he has struggled mightily to score the ball on his own this season, and his team low 39% eFG limits his overall potential as a facilitator. Coleman was a borderline 5 star prospect, and he played well in the Kansas and Iowa State games, but the early results have been a tad concerning. I’d expect the fifth starter to be Jase Febres, the freshman who had an outstanding game against Baylor. He’s played sparingly this season, and his breakout game came off the heels of a 0 point in 15 minutes performance just 5 nights earlier, but he could be important as a wildcard that jumpstarts UT’s dead offense.

Eric Davis has been a constant in Texas’s rotation over the past few seasons, and he has been the team’s top sub in terms of minutes per game so far. Davis has never been a super efficient scorer, but he has lost his three point shot after shooting 38% his freshman year. His 29% this season is up from 26% a year ago, but overall his scoring has been rather uninspiring. He plays the off guard most of the time, but contributes next to nothing in the passing game. Another backup guard for the Horns is Jacob Young, though as of writing this it is uncertain whether or not he will play after missing the Baylor game. Young still isn’t where Coach Smart I’m sure would like him to be, but he has improved quite a bit after a rather bad first season in Austin. After starting the season hot, however, he fell into a cold spell after the Louisiana Tech game, and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s played himself out of the rotation after the emergence of a guy like Febres. Freshman Jericho Sims has provided depth at the forward position, though thus far in conference play he has only one shot attempt per game on just around 9 minutes a game. Sims has potential, but if everyone is healthy it is unlikely he will see more than a few minutes in Big 12 play. James Banks has completely fallen out of the rotation in Austin, while Royce Hamm occasionally plays one or two minutes.

The numbers look really dreary on offense, especially when you look only at conference play. For example, Texas ranks last in conference play in 2 point field goal % at 42.3 (!?!?!) percent from the field. The reason Texas is even somewhat decent is their suffocating defense, which ranks top 100 in plenty of impressive categories. They are 5th nationally in defensive rating (88.5), 13th in opponent eFG% (44.2%), 17th in opponent 3 point percentage (30.1%), 20th in opponent 2 point % (43.6%), and 8th in block percentage (16.8%, mostly thanks to Bamba). Those numbers remain elite in conference play despite the Horns’ struggles, ranking in the top 4 in each category. However, Texas’s defensive rating jumps to 108.6 in Big 12 play (not too bad considering the nature of Big 12 offenses), but they don’t see a corresponding rise in offensive rating (indeed, it declines from 104.9 to 103.5). Texas has to establish an offensive identity to win ball games, while simultaneously keeping their edge on the defensive side of the ball.

Three Things to Look For

How does Vlad handle Bamba?

For the record, this also applies to Ahmed Hamdy. The past two games, the Frogs have been killed by big centers in the forms of Jo Acuil-Lual and Udoka Azubuike. Vlad has struggled asserting himself in the post, while Hamdy has had slow feet which got him in foul trouble against Baylor, and rendered him unplayable against KU. These guys need to step up against Bamba, who is in the same mold of player. Bamba will see more touches than usual considering who is out for UT, and I’m sure Shaka has watched the tape, so it’s huge for TCU to get good post defense.

Get back to business inside

On the other end, TCU has struggled scoring inside since conference play started. Their season 2 point percentage is 55.9%, and is only 45.5% through three Big 12 games. UT defends the two point shot better than anyone else in the league, so this may be easier said than done, but TCU’s ride or die on the three point line has put them in a position where they can go cold for long stretches of the game. Reestablishing an identity inside would be huge not just for this game, but also moving forward.

Tune up the defense

The defense has been the weaker half of TCU’s team all season, but it has become a real problem since Big 12 play started. Their 114.8 defensive rating in conference ranks 9/10, and would rank 341st overall if extended out over a season. Teams have thrashed TCU at all levels, though they have been particularly bad at defending the three. UT should be the perfect team to get the defense back on track, but again, this is all on paper. The guys have to go out and execute on that end, full stop.

Prediction

I have an oddly good feeling about this game. Maybe it’s because of the lack of certainty surrounding key UT players, but I think TCU can take this one on the road. I listed three keys (like usual) above, but if the Frogs can hit even one of those goals then they stand a great shot at winning the game. Despite the recruiting rankings, TCU has more talent than UT on the wing, and I have to imagine Coach Dixon is hammering home post defense to Vlad and Hamdy. Every game is a battle in the Big 12, and I expect this one to go down to the final five, but the Frogs pull away for a nice road victory.

Prediction: #16 TCU 74, Texas 67

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

- TCU shot 21-of-22 at the free throw line for a 95.4 percentage, the third-best effort in program history with at least 20 tries.

- TCU has won 20 of its last 24 games.

- TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the seventh consecutive week. The Frogs are ranked No. 16 by the AP and USA Today.

- TCU was ranked as high as No. 10 in the AP Top 25, which was its highest ranking in school history.

- A win would give TCU a 2-0 road record for the first time since the 2013-14 season when the Frogs started 3-0 on the road.

- TCU is 45-18 all-time as a ranked team, including a 22-4 record at home and 18-7 on the road.

- TCU’s 13-2 start to the season is the best in school history since a 13-2 record during the 1933-34 season.

- TCU’s two losses this season are by a combined five points to No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 10 Kansas

- TCU leads the Big 12 Conference with 19.7 assists per game.

- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assists (4th, 19.7), assist turnover ratio (11th, 1.56), field goal percentage (14th, 50.5), rebounding margin (19th, +8.1), scoring (13th, 86.9) and 3-point percentage (26th, 40.3).

- TCU ranks 10th in offensive efficiency, the second-best in the Big 12, according to KenPom.com.

- TCU has averaged just 9.8 turnovers over the last five games and has not had more than 12 over the last six games.

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

- Kenrich Williams has recorded seven double-doubles and leads the team with 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds this season.

- Williams is one of five players averaging double-figures. There are six TCU players averaging 8.9 points or more.

- Williams has scored in double figures in each of his last 11 games, including 11 against Kansas Saturday. All 11 of his points came in the second half. He had 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double.

- Brodziansky ranks fourth all-time at TCU in blocked shots with 142. He is 24 away from third and 29 away from the school-record of 171.

About the Opponent

- Texas is coming off a 69-60 loss at Baylor on Saturday.

- The Longhorns are led by Tulane transfer Dylan Osetkowski. His 15.0 scoring average ranks 12th in the conference.

- Freshman Mohamed Bamba was named the Big 12 Conference Preseason Newcomer of the Year. He leads the Big 12 with 10.6 rebounds per game.

About the Series

- Texas leads the all-time series 107-65 with a 65-21 advantage in Austin.

- For the first time since 1992, the Horned Frogs will play Texas having one the past two games in the series. TCU swept the season series last year for the first time since the 1986-87 season when Jamie Dixon was a senior at TCU.

Top 25 Ranking

TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll for the seventh-straight week at No. 16. The Frogs debuted in this season’s rankings at No. 23 on Nov. 27. TCU’s highest ranking this season was No. 10, the highest in school history.

- As a ranked team, TCU is 44-18 all-time, including 22-4 at home.

- TCU has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for seven consecutive weeks. The school record for consecutive weeks in the poll is 10, which occurred from the 1986-87 season to beginning of the 1987-88 season.

- 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.

- 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 six NCAA DI schools ranked in the Top 25 in football and men’s basketball joining Auburn, Clemson, Miami, Michigan State, Oklahoma.

Shooting and Scoring

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 14th in the NCAA in field goal shooting (50.5%).

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 26th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (40.3%).

- Over 60 percent of TCU’s field goals (465) were assisted (296), a percentage of 63.7. The Frogs rank first in the Big 12 and fourth in the NCAA in assists per game (19.7).

- TCU’s offensive efficiency ranks 10th at 118.1 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. 8 nationally in field goal efficiency (70.2) and No. 13 in true field goal percentage (70.5) according to KenPom.com. Vladimir Brodziansky ranks No. 36 in field goal efficiency (66.4) and No. 20 in true shooting percentage (69.5).

- TCU has three among the top 15 in shooting percentage in the Big 12... 6. Vladimir Brodziansky - 61.5, 10. Kouat Noi - 56.8. 11. Desmond Bane - 56.3

- TCU has four among the top six in 3-point field goal percentage in the Big 12... 1. Desmond Bane - 50.0, 4. Kouat Noi - 45.0, 5. Kenrich Williams - 44.9, 6. Jaylen Fisher - 44.4

TCU vs. Top 25

- TCU is 17-149 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including 11-47 at home and 1-76 on the road.

- 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’s last and only win over a top 25 team on the road came on Jan. 19, 1998, an 83-76 win at Hawai’i.

- TCU is 0-10 against top 25 teams in the Schollmaier Arena, which opened during the 2015-16 season.

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

Vlad 1K

Senior Vladimir Brodziansky is the 34th member of the 1,000 point club. At 1,080 points, the Slovakian is 27th on the all-time scoring list. He is one point from Jeff Jacobs for 26th (1,081).

Strong Schedule

TCU’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 20 by the NCAA through games completed on Jan. 7.

Offensive Rebounding

TCU has had at least 19 offensive rebounds in three of its last five games. The Frogs had 19 against Kansas, 20 against Oklahoma and 25 against Texas Southern. In TCU’s 91-72 win over Texas Southern, its 25 offensive rebounds were the most rebounds by the Horned Frogs since Jan. 28, 2015 when they had 26 against Kansas State.

Brodziansky Named Senior Class Award Candidate

Vladimir Brodziansky has been named a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award. He was one of 30 NCAA men’s basketball student-athletes to be named a candidate due to his success both on and off the court.

The class will be narrowed to fields of 10 finalists in February, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, coaches and fans, who will select one male candidate and one female candidate who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition.