Game Time: 6:00 PM CST | Location: Ferrell Center – Waco, TX | TV: ESPN News | Series: Baylor leads 100-81 | Game Line: Baylor -1.5
Happy New Year Frog fans! The #16 TCU Horned Frogs (12-1) will look to get 2018 started on the right foot, as they take on the Baylor Bears (10-3) in their first true road game of the season. The Frogs are 0-1 in conference play after their 90-89 loss to Oklahoma. The loss snapped the nation’s longest winning streak, and knocked the Frogs off as one of the only three remaining unbeaten teams in the nation. Kenrich Williams filled up the stat sheet in the loss, registering 22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals. Kouat Noi narrowly missed a double double with 14 points and 9 rebounds, while Desmond Bane (15), Ahmed Hamdy (15), and Vladimir Brodziansky (12) all also contributed double figures. The Frogs won the rebounding battle 46/40, including 20 offensive rebounds, but were outshot in a pretty substantial fashion. Trae Young outplayed Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher, and the Frogs also had issues stopping super sub Kameron McGusty.
The Bears are also 0-1 in conference play after they were destroyed by Texas Tech 77-53. Only three players: Mark Vital (12), Tristan Clark (10), and King McClure (10) were in double figures, as the team shot a horrid 37% from the floor, while allowing 50% shooting from the Red Raiders. Baylor lost the first half 40-19, were outrebounded 39/21, and scored their lowest points output on the season by 12 points. In short, it went about as poorly as a conference opener could have gone. While Baylor has three losses, they are all to ranked opponents (the aforementioned Raiders, Wichita State, and Xavier), while they also sport impressive wins over Wisconsin and Creighton.
The Bears top player has been Manu Lecomte, a Miami transfer whose struggles against Tech set Baylor back early. Lecomte is a serious scorer, averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting 43% on threes. He takes, and makes, a lot of Baylor’s shots while he’s on the court, running the point at a stout 5’11. He’s gotten better as a distributor as his career has gone on, but he is still below average in that regard in terms of Big 12 play. A big key to the game will be the availability of Australian center Jo Lual-Acuil, who is a game time decision and missed the Tech game. He’s their second leading scorer at 15.1 points per game, top rebounder at 10 a game, and shot blocker at just under two a game. He hasn’t been quite the same shot blocker as last season, but has taken on a bigger share of the offensive load and has upped his rebounding numbers. If Lual-Acuil is unavailable, the inside game by the Bears will greatly suffer. Nuni Omot is another key starter who can play either forward position, and distributes at an elite rate for a non-point guard. He also scores it to the tune of 11.6 points per game on 53% shooting, and he had an elite 4 game run where he averaged 21 a game from December 4-17. Omot is an overlooked player for Baylor, but he is incredibly solid as a ballplayer and can hurt you if you forget about him. King McClure is Lecomte’s backcourt mate, and he shoots the three at a very solid rate. He’s a tad undersized for a 2 at 6’3 215 pounds, and his ability as a distributor is questionable with a 13.3 assist rate, but as an offball three point threat he is very solid. The final starter for Baylor is freshman Tristan Clark. A former four star from Converse, TX, Clark is a pretty solid inside presence who can score, hit the boards, and anchor the defense. Like any freshman, he has been inconsistent, but if Lual-Acuil doesn’t play the Bears will need him to step up.
The top reserve for the Bears is Terry Maston, who just returned from injury after missing almost all of December. He can do a little bit of everything from the forward position, averaging double figures scoring and ranking second on the team in rebounding rate. He has tried to stretch his range out to the three point line, and he is 3/7 so far this year (attempting one a game). It remains to be seen how recovered he is from his injury, as he struggled mightily against Texas Tech. Mark Vital will likely get the start if Lual-Acuil doesn’t play, and the super athlete has played very well as a freshman. He doesn’t provide a perimeter threat despite playing on the wing, but he scores well inside and is also one of the team’s top distributors. Jake Lindsey is the team’s backup point guard, and he’s having a very good junior season. He leads the team in assists, has cut down on the turnover problems he’s had in the past (though he has struggled again here as of late), and shoots with a 58% eFG. He has been very passive, only using 13% of his team’s possessions, but when he does put a shot up it has been a positive result. The final notable reserve for the Bears is Tyson Jolly, a redshirt freshman who has played a little bit after riding the bench for the first six games. It’s hard to gather much about the kid because of how little he’s played, but he has dished out a lot of assists and turned it over at a very high rate.
Playing against Baylor will be basically the exact opposite of playing against Oklahoma in terms of the feel of the game. The Bears play at one of the slowest paces in Division 1, with only 16 teams playing slower. They shoot it very well across the board, only Tyson Jolly shoots below 53% eFG out of their players who play major rotation minutes. They score well inside and out, and crash the offensive boards to maximize the value of every possession. When Lual-Acuil plays, they have one of the biggest and longest teams in the nation, and tend to dominate the paint. They do a great job not fouling, forcing the other team to execute against their stingy defense and beat their athletes. In the games that they’ve struggled, they’ve lost that dominance inside. They either don’t score efficiently inside, allow the other team to score at will in the paint, or both. For a team that gets 53% of its points off two pointers, losing the battle in the paint is a death sentence.
Three Things to Look For
How do the Frogs respond to adversity?
The Frogs were riding high, having not lost since last March and winning games despite easing up and letting the other team back into game several times. That tendency finally bit them against a talented Sooners squad, and Jamie Dixon said as much in his postgame press conference. Now the focus turns to how the team will bounce back following a tough loss. Last year, a major losing streak hit the team towards the end of Big 12 play and kept them out of consideration for March Madness. Losses can compound, especially in as tough a conference as the Big 12, so the Frogs need to respond well to adversity and play their game against Baylor.
Limit their points in the paint
TCU has really struggled recently with allowing teams to score in the paint. Baylor is exceptional at scoring inside, so the Frogs really need guys like Vlad and Hamdy to lock it down inside. The Frogs are going to need to keep scoring efficiently on offense, and it makes their job on that end so much harder if they are giving up 2 basically every possession. This point is easier said than done, but beating Baylor is possible only if you can execute in the paint.
Get better guard play
Jaylen Fisher really struggled against Oklahoma in all facets, and Alex Robinson had a rough individual performance shooting (he did distribute well and spark the offense when he was in, to be fair). They will once again be tested by a big time scorer in Lecomte, and the Fisher/Robinson duo outdueling Lecomte/Lindsey would be a great sign that the Frogs won the game. Jaylen Fisher was last shutout in a game last season against Bradley right before Big 12 play started, and it led to a slow start in conference play. He can show his improvement and maturation as a player by responding with a big game against Baylor.
The Frogs lost last game, but it was by only one point and that will be the nature of Big 12 play. Playing at Baylor will be tough, especially considering the Frogs haven’t won against the Bears since 2002. Added to that is that Baylor is a bad matchup against the Frogs just in terms of style. Despite this, I believe in this group and think they bounce back from a loss with a big win in Waco. If Baylor’s big guy cannot go, then they are susceptible against the top tier teams in the country, and TCU is in that category. Kenny Hustle will be playing in his hometown for the last time, so I expect a big game from him, as well as solid performances from Fisher and Robinson (as in point 3 above). Frogs pull out a close one in Waco, and get back on track to finish in the upper half of the Big 12.
Prediction: #16 TCU 80, Baylor 76
Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- TCU has won 19 of its last 22 games.
- TCU was one of final three unbeaten teams in NCAA DI, along with Arizona State and Villanova, before falling to OU.
- TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the sixth consecutive week. The Frogs are No. 16 by the AP.
- TCU was ranked as high as No. 10 in the AP Top 25, which was its highest ranking in school history.
- TCU is 44-17 all-time as a ranked team, including a 22-3 record at home and 17-7 on the road.
- TCU’s 12-1 start to the season is its second-best in school history through 13 games behind a 13-0 start to the 2014-15 season.
- TCU ranks 11 in offensive efficiency, the second-best in the Big 12, according to KenPom.com.
- In each of its last three games, TCU has recorded 20 or more assists and 10 or fewer assists.
- TCU leads the Big 12 Conference in assists (19.6) and rebounding margin (+9.3).
- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assists (3rd, 19.6), field goal percentage (7th, 51.6), rebounding margin (14th, +9.2) 3-point percentage (17th, 41.3) and scoring (14th, 87.6).
- After averaging 7.1 points as a freshman last season, Desmond Bane is averaging 12.8 points as a sophomore.
- Kenrich Williams has recorded six double-doubles and leads the team with 15.1 points and 9.4 rebounds this season.
- Williams has scored in double figures in each of his last nine games, including 22 in Saturday’s game with Oklahoma.
- Vladimir Brodziansky ranks fourth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 64.0.
- Brodziansky ranks fourth all-time at TCU in blocked shots with 140. He is 26 away from third and 31 away from the school-record of 171.
- TCU was picked to finish third in the Big 12 after finishing tied for seventh last season. Both were program bests.
- 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
- Baylor had won five straight games before dropping its conference opener at Texas Tech on Friday by the score of 77-53.
- The Bears are led in scoring by Manu Lecomte (17.5), one of three returning starters from a year ago.
- Lecomte and the Bears leading rebounder, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (10.0), were named Preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.
About the Series
- Tuesday is the 182nd all-time meeting between TCU and Baylor. It is TCU’s second-most played series behind SMU (192).
- Baylor has won the last 11 meetings with the last TCU win coming on Dec. 7, 2002, a 72-64 victory in Waco.
- It is the first time TCU will face Baylor with a higher ranking than the Bears since Feb. 4, 1987, when Baylor defeated No. 15 TCU, 66-63, in Waco.
Top 25 Ranking
TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll for the sixth-straight week at No. 16. 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. 10, the highest in school history.
- As a ranked team, TCU is 44-17 all-time, including 22-3 at home.
- TCU has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for six 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 five NCAA DI schools ranked in the Top 25 in football and men’s basketball joining Clemson, Miami, Michigan State, Oklahoma.
Shooting and Scoring
- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and seventh in the NCAA in field goal shooting (51.6%).
- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 17th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (41.3%).
- Over 60 percent of TCU’s field goals (410) were assisted (259), a percentage of 63.1. The Frogs rank first in the Big 12 and third in the NCAA in assists per game (19.9).
- TCU's offensive efficiency ranks 11th at 117.3 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. 7 nationally in field goal efficiency (72.6) and No. 9 in true field goal percentage (72.8) according to KenPom.com. Vladimir Brodziansky ranks No. 18 in field goal efficiency (69.0) and No. 23 in true shooting percentage (70.3).
Senior Vladimir Brodziansky is the 34th member of the 1,000 point club. At 1,042 points, the Slovakian 30th and two points behind Damion Walker for 29th on the all-time scoring list.