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How to Beat OU

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Is there a magic formula to knocking off the fighting Trae Youngs? We investigate.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Oklahoma Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

TCU heads to Norman Saturday in a campaign to avenge their one-point home loss to the Sooners to start conference play. TCU sits at 1-3 in the conference, losing all three games by 8 points total, and has some work to do on their tournament resume. In conference play, the Frogs have the most efficient offense, hampered by the least efficient defense. The Sooners are 3-1 in conference play with a lone (and understandable) loss in Morgantown to the league-leading Mountaineers. Trae Young and the Sooners have the 4th most efficient offense in conference play, and have been on an absolute tear this season, scoring 80 points in all but one game, ninety in 11 games, and have scored 100 points in regulation 5 times. TCU faces a tall task, and Norman is a particularly daunting home environment - most metrics have Lloyd Noble in the top 25 or 30 of Home Advantage.

The Frogs must emphasize three key areas to stop the Sooners:

1. 3pt D and Offensive Rebounding

TCU’s 3-point defense has been spotty this year - they rank 150th overall, well above average, but they have allowed nine opponents to shoot 40% or better from the arc. OU thrives on the three: 41.8% of their points this season have come from three (79th in the nation), where they shoot 39.8% (25th in the nation). When they do miss, though, they struggle - OU is 247th in offensive rebound rate. This is TCU’s opportunity to control the game and unsettle OU’s rhythm: TCU’s defense allows only 24.7% of offensive rebounds to opponents, thirtieth in the nation, and forcing the Sooners to take and miss bad shots will be a deciding factor of the game. TCU plays mostly zone, but OU’s opponents have stuck to man to address the three, and you’d have to imagine the Frogs will follow suit. This is somewhat disconcerting, as against Texas on Tuesday, the Horned Frogs were very uncomfortable outside of the zone, and a fluke amazing shooting night from Texas effectively simulated OU’s high-octane three offense.

2. Prevent Trae Young Helping Others

Player-of-the-Year and Freshman-of-the-Year frontrunner Trae Young has at least 7 assists in every game this season except two- OU’s strange loss to Arkansas at PK80 and the loss in Morgantown - and double-doubles in eight games (one against the Frogs). Trae Young isn’t in the mold Markelle Fultz from last year’s Washington Huskies team, one of those players who “gets his” on an island (Just for fun, here are KenPom’s player comparisons for Trae Young: Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, Cam Payne, and Dennis Smith). He is the driving force behind every facet of the 11th most efficient offense in the nation: the Sooners utilize Young on 40.1% of all possessions - the most for any single player on any team in the NCAA. You can’t lock down everyone else and let him try and beat you, because he will. Limiting his opportunities for assists will control the pace of the game and allow the Frogs to stem the tide of OU’s offense.

3. Turnover Mitigation

OU is 39th nationally in blocks and 143rd in steals. These are both opportunities to create turnovers for the Sooners, and TCU is going to have to be on guard especially. The Frogs are 164th and 83th nationally in preventing blocks and steals, respectively, and have cleaned up their turnovers well enough in conference play - if they can protect the ball, they can again control the game and prevent OU feasting on easy baskets, as they did for most of the game last time.

Defensively, OU relies heavily on assists to create open shots - 56.4% of their field goals made come with an assist, 90th in the nation. TCU allows 60.6%, good for 302nd in the nation, which has definitively improved during conference plays. That in itself only means what you want it to mean, but TCU has not done well disrupting pass-heavy offenses, and are going to have to do so against an OU team that is more complete and talented than any team they’ve faced this season. TCU ranks 149th and 106th in blocks and steals, and they’ll just have to apply that outward to tackle OU’s offense.

The Bottom Line

In Frogs-Sooners Round One, TCU had taken care of business to the tune of a 13 point lead at the midway point of the second half. From there, they allowed Trae Young to run the court - he put up 19 points and 4 assists in the final 12 minutes of the game (although, 9 of those were free throws, which is pretty convenient). With a double overtime loss in Austin this week, TCU needs this game, and they are absolutely capable of winning this game by limiting Trae Young’s ability to spread a defense, defending the three, and avoiding turnovers.