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TCU Basketball Preview: Oklahoma State

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Coming off a bad loss, the Frogs need a win in Stillwater

TCU Basketball at Vanderbilt, January 27th, 2018
TCU Basketball at Vanderbilt, January 27th, 2018
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 6:00 PM CST | Location: Gallagher-Iba Arena – Stillwater, OK | TV: ESPNU | Series: Oklahoma State leads 25-4 | Game Line: TCU -1.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (15-6) travel to Stillwater to face off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-8) on Tuesday night. The Frogs are fresh off a loss in Nashville against Vanderbilt, falling 81-78. With a short-handed lineup, most Frogs ended up in double digits, led by Kenrich Williams (17), who was one rebound short of a double double. Alex Robinson (13) was an assist short of his own double double, while Vladimir Brodziansky (15), Desmond Bane (12), and Kouat Noi (11) were the other double digit scorers. TCU’s defense, which looked like it turned a corner against West Virginia, reverted back to pre-Mountaineer turn style levels. The Commodores shot 52.5% from the field and 44% from three, way above their season averages, and Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance in particular just decimated the Frogs’ D. The Vanderbilt game was also yet another example of the Frogs putting themselves in a hole early, having to play catch-up as Vandy came out hot.

Oklahoma State lost to Arkansas in their most recent contest by a score of 66-65. Lindy Waters led the scoring for the Pokes with 17, and Brandon Averette and Mitchell Solomon each chipped in 10 apiece. The Cowboys were actually in a really good position to win, but they made only 2 field goals the last 16:29 when they were up 11. Despite this, OSU still had a shot at the very end, but Jeffrey Carroll and Mitchell Solomon couldn’t convert from close range with time ticking away. The Pokes return to Big 12 play sporting a 3-5 record, with their most impressive game being their OT win over the Sooners. In non-conference, they have a nice win over Florida State and losses to top 50 teams Texas A&M and Wichita State. Their non-conference strength of schedule ranks 300th by KenPom, but overall their SoS is 53rd thanks to the elite level of play in the Big 12.

Oklahoma State is led by Jeffrey Carroll, who feels like he’s been in college basketball for the last 40 years. He’s been inconsistent shooting the 3 ball this year (down to 31% this season from 44% a year ago), but he still leads the team in scoring at about 16 PPG and is second on the team in rebounding. He’s come up big when OSU has needed him, scoring 23 with 10 boards in the OU win and dropping 23 in the Florida State win as well. He’s one of the best players in the nation at getting to the free throw line, while also not getting into foul trouble himself (1.7 fouls per 40 in conference play ranks 3rd). Brandon Averette has entered the starting lineup over the past 5 games, and the diminutive sophomore has proven to be the team’s top distributor this season. He has stopped taking threes since conference play started, owing to his poor %, but his 45% shooting as a whole is tops on the team for non-centers. He’s cut his assist rate down from 29.2 to 17.5, and appears to be the point guard of the future as the Pokes move on from Jawun Evans. Mitchell Solomon gets the nod in the frontcourt for OSU, and he has taken on a bigger offensive load as a senior. He’s only averaging 8 PPG, but his true shooting ranks 76th in the nation at 64.6%. He’s OSU’s best defender, and while he is decidedly below average for a center on the defensive glass, he makes up for it with elite level offensive rebounding (a year ago he was 3rd nationally). Solomon has done this while also pumping up his assist numbers and decreasing his fouls committed, making him a more viable option throughout the game.

Lindy Waters is likely to draw the start at the 2. Waters had a very good freshman season a year ago, and has had his ups and downs in his expanded role this season. Like Carroll, his three point shot appears to have deserted him this season, as his percentage has gone from 45% to 31%. His less efficient scoring has been offset by his continuing improvement on the glass and as a passer. Sometimes you will see it all come together for him, as he is coming off a career high 17 against Arkansas, a game where he also grabbed 7 rebounds. The final starter for OSU is Yankuba Sima, who has started the last 7 games. Sima, a St. John’s transfer, is far from a primary option on offense, and his block stats aren’t quite where they were during his time at SJU. He also turns the ball over on over 14 of his team’s possessions. Despite all of this, Sima is a player who can be on the court and not demand the ball, all while anchoring a defense that is already solid with frontcourt mate Solomon.

The bench is led by Cal State Northridge transfer Kendall Smith. Smith, who started his college career at UNLV, actually started the first 16 games of the season, though he was moved to the bench in favor of Averette after the Kansas State loss. Smith is the team’s third leading scorer, though he is at his best when his 3 point shot (35%) is falling. He isn’t quite the passer that Averette is, and his production this season has been inconsistent. He missed the Arkansas loss due to sickness, but I’d expect him to be out there against the Frogs. Cameron McGriff has established himself as a legit inside-out player in his sophomore season, making 60% of his twos and ranking second on the team in dReb rate. His improvement has been quite dramatic across the board, and I’d expect to see plenty of him. Thomas Dziagwa doesn’t play as much as Smith or McGriff, but he’s a sharpshooter who leads the Pokes in 3 point shooting. He hasn’t quite hit the 46% mark he set last season, but that is due to more streakiness this year. He went 1/8 last game, but 2/3 a few games ago and 5/10 earlier this month. Dziagwa is the type of player you don’t really notice until he detonates on your team from long distance. The final player of note is Lucas N’Guessan, a 7 foot center from the Netherlands. I’m curious how much he’ll play against the Frogs, as they are a quick, explosive offense and N’Guessan has rode the pine in Big 12 play. If he does play, expect what you would typically expect out of an inexperienced player with that kind of size.

Defensively, OSU is barely ahead of TCU in defensive rating during Big 12 play, and Frogs fans should know just how bad that is. The difference being that TCU is allowing teams to score at will on their actual defense, while OSU ranks 9th in opponent free throw rate. Threes and free throws have been the death of OSU, they actually rank 10th in the Big 12 in % of opponent points coming from 2 point field goals. On the season they have pretty good defensive metrics, but against the high flying offenses in the Big 12 they have been struggling. Offensively, they have been average, ranking 5th or 6th in basically every metric. They crash the offensive boards better than most, owing to players like Solomon, but all their shooting stats are pretty similar to Big 12 level opponents TCU has faced.

Three Things to Look For

Defense, please?

I don’t want to relitigate my recap of the Vandy game, but seriously, could anything else be the #1 key to the game? I don’t care what the numbers say about Okie State, they have the ability to drop 100 on the Frogs if they play like they did Saturday. Sure, the team was missing Ahmed Hamdy, but he hadn’t been playing much the previous few games anyway. This team is so close to being great, but the defense is just an absolute killer right now. It’s going to be on the players to commit themselves physically and mentally on that end of the floor.

Avoid the slow start

As I mentioned above, the Frogs have looked like they’re sleepwalking out of the gate the past few games. Playing from behind all the time leads to poor shot selection and rushed offense, not conducive at all to the kind of basketball TCU needs to play. This point ties closely into the first point, as I’m more worried about the Frogs giving up a boatload of points early on. I’m confident in the offense to score enough to win, but can the defense string together a couple of stops in a row after spotting the opposition a 10 point lead?

Second chance opportunities

If there’s one area that the Pokes struggle, it’s defensive rebounding. They rank 288th in the country at 32%. Meanwhile, the Frogs have quietly crept up towards being elite on the offensive glass, ranking 23rd in the nation in offensive boards. Players like Kenny Hustle really get after it, and those second chance opportunities really can mask a lot of the defensive problems a team has.

Prediction

The Frogs are 3-2 coming off a loss this season, and have been competitive in every single contest this season. TCU faithful are frustrated with this team, not just because of the outcomes, but because you can feel just how close they are to being great. There’s still time to turn this around, and most bracketologists don’t have the Frogs on the bubble yet, but this is basically a must win. I think Jamie Dixon will have the guys ready to go, I got the feeling from his post game press conference that he will make sure the team is locked in defensively. Regardless, I think TCU’s strengths as a perimeter team will play well into the type of shots OSU gives up, and it seems unlikely that they’ll have 0 FTA against a team as prone to fouling as they are. TCU pulls out a tight one, and maybe gives that luck metric a little boost.

Prediction: TCU 84, Oklahoma State 80

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

- The Frogs are coming off an 81-78 loss at Vanderbilt in Saturday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge.

- One game after shooting its second-most free throws in a game this season (33), TCU attempted zero free throws at VU.

- Against Vanderbilt, TCU was without senior forward Ahmed Hamdy who was sick.

- TCU’s six losses this season are by a combined 19 points, an average of 3.2 points per game.

- TCU is 1-4 in road games. Its win was an 81-78 (OT) victory at Baylor. The four losses were by a combined 14 points.

- Three of TCU’s four road games have gone into overtime.

- Kenrich Williams is six points away from becoming the 35th person with 1,000 points in his TCU career.

- Alex Robinson (343) is 10 assists away from tying Jamie Dixon (353) for eighth in career assists at TCU.

- The Frogs were ranked for eight consecutive weeks. They are receiving votes in both the AP and the USA Today polls.

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

- TCU leads the Big 12 Conference and ranks second in the NCAA with 19.9 assists per game.

- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assist turnover ratio (4th, 1.61), field goal percentage (13th, 50.3), rebounding margin (19th, +7.1), scoring (6th, 86.8) and 3-point percentage (20th, 40.2).

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

- Kenrich Williams has recorded nine double-doubles and is averaging 14.5 points and a team-best 9.6 rebounds this season.

- Williams is one of five players averaging double-figures. There are six TCU players averaging 9.7 points or more.

- Williams ranks ninth all-time at TCU in career rebounds (772) and seventh in career steals (127).

- Vladimir Brodziansky leads TCU with 15.3 points per game and has scored in double figures in the last 12 games.

- Brodziansky ranks fourth all-time at TCU in career blocks (152) and 20th in career points (1,190).

- Freshman Kouat Noi is shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range in Big 12 play, the sixth-best in the conference.

About the Opponent

- Oklahoma State is coming off a 66-65 loss at Arkansas on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

- The Cowboys earned a signature win on Jan. 20 when they knocked off No. 4 Oklahoma, 83-81 (OT).

- OSU is led in scoring by Jeffrey Carroll, who is averaging 15.7 points per game, which ranks 10th in the Big 12.

About the Series

- Oklahoma State leads the all-time series 25-4 with an 11-1 advantage in Stillwater.

- TCU’s only win in Stillwater was a 37-16 victory during the 1924-25 season.

Three Pointers From Everyone

TCU has been one of the best shooting teams in the nation all season. Part of the reason the Frogs are so good is because of the number of weapons from 3-point range. TCU has eight players who have made 10 or more 3-pointers this season.

Close Losses

TCU’s six losses, have come by five or fewer points, a total of 19 points and an average of 3.2 points per game. The Frogs’ last three regular-season losses of the 2016-17 season came by five or fewer points, so TCU’s last nine regular-season losses have come by a margin of five or less. In the 64 Big 12 losses prior to the 2016-17 season, Jamie Dixon’s first year, only six were by five or fewer points.

Robinson Without Fisher

The loss of Jaylen Fisher has translated to a bigger role for junior guard Alex Robinson. In the first 17 games of the season, Robinson averaged 7.4 points, 4.9 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 26.7 minutes per game. Since Fisher was ruled out for the season on Jan. 17, Robinson has averaged 12.8 points, 10.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 38.5 minutes over four games. Robinson has played 154 of a total 160 minutes in those games.

No Free Throws

TCU did not attempt a free throw in its 81-78 loss at Vanderbilt on Jan. 27. The Frogs became the third team this season to not attempt a free throw, joining Virginia against Wisconsin on Nov. 27 and Northern Iowa vs. Villanova on Nov. 24.

- TCU became the second team in Big 12 history with zero free throw attempts in a game. Colorado had none on Feb. 23, 2008 at Missouri.

- It was the first time TCU had not attempted a free throw since prior to the 1996-97 season, which is as far as STATS Research dates back to.

Shooting and Scoring

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and sixth in the NCAA in scoring offense (86.8). TCU has not averaged 80 or more points per game in a season since the 2002-03 campaign where it averaged 80.4. Last year’s NIT championship team averaged 69.7 points.

- TCU ranks first in the Big 12 and 13th in the NCAA in field goal shooting (50.3%). TCU has never averaged 50 percent or better in a season.

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 20th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (40.3%).

- Over 60 percent of TCU’s field goals (659) were assisted (418), a percentage of 63.4. The Frogs rank first in the Big 12 and second in the NCAA in assists per game (19.9).

- TCU’s offensive efficiency ranks fifth at 121.5 according to KenPom.com.

- TCU has three among the top 11 in shooting percentage in the Big 12... 6. Vladimir Brodziansky - 58.2, 9. Kouat Noi - 54.7, 11. Desmond Bane - 52.9.

- TCU has three active players among the top 12 in 3-point field goal percentage in the Big 12... 2. Kouat Noi - 47.2, 4. Desmond Bane - 46.0, 12. Kenrich Williams - 40.8.

- TCU has scored over 90 points eight 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.

700-Rebound Club

Kenrich Williams is one of 10 players in TCU history with 700 career rebounds. The senior is in 9th on the all-time list with 772 boards. He is the first person since 1998 to join the 700-club.

1,000-Point Club

Senior Vladimir Brodziansky is the 34th member of the 1,000-point club. At 1,190 points, the Slovakian is 18th on the all-time scoring list. At 994 points, senior Kenrich Williams is six points from 1,000 for his career. Williams could become the eighth player in TCU history with 1,000 points and 700 rebounds. Both are in their third season with the Horned Frogs.