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TCU Basketball Preview: Kansas

The perennial Big 12 champs are coming off a home loss prior to the matchup in Fort Worth

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 8:15 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Kansas leads 14-2 | Game Line: Kansas -1

The #16 TCU Horned Frogs (13-1) will look to start a winning streak against the #10 Kansas Jayhawks (11-3), after topping KU in their last matchup during the Big 12 Tournament a year ago. The Frogs will be riding high after a big overtime win in Waco, an 81-78 victory over Baylor. All five starters ended up with double figures scoring, led by Vladimir Brodziansky’s 18. Jaylen Fisher dropped 15 on 5-7 shooting, while JD Miller (13/8) and Kenrich Williams (12/7) did the dirty work on the glass. Desmond Bane also contributed 10 points and 6 assists. The Frogs gave up big games to Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston (28 and 20 points apiece), but outside of those two they completely locked down the Bears. TCU outshot Baylor 49/43 (49/23 not including Lual-Acuil and Maston) and held the Bears to a mere 8% from behind the three point line. The game was close because of the rebounding advantage Baylor had, especially on the offensive glass where they grabbed 19 offensive boards. This game was also the second matchup in a row where the Frogs blew a double digit second half lead, as they owned a 13 point lead in the second half of the loss to Oklahoma and a 12 point lead before needing overtime to win against Baylor.

The Jayhawks are coming off a rare home loss, never leading in an 85-73 defeat in Allen Fieldhouse to Texas Tech. Devonte’ Graham tried his best to keep KU in the game, scoring 27 points and dishing out 6 assists, but he didn’t get a whole lot of support from his teammates. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk cooled off after hitting his first three 3-point attempts, finishing with 11 points, while the only other Jayhawk in double figures was big Udoka Azubuike, who also had 11. KU was dominated on the glass by a margin of 44/29, which isn’t a great omen for a team that is trying to claw their way back into a game. The Red Raiders got out to a got start, winning the first 10 minutes 23-9, and then used their athleticism to control the boards and match the Jayhawks beat for beat the rest of the way.

Many of Kansas’s best teams over the years are led by strong guard play, and that’s exactly what the Jayhawks get out of Graham. He leads the team in points per game at 17.9, assists per game at 7.5, and steals at just under two a game. He ranks 65th nationally with a 31.4 assist rate, and shoots at an eFG% of 57.8%. He’s not Frank Mason out there, but he is a good enough player to lead KU to where they want to go. He is joined in the backcourt by Lagerald Vick, one of the most efficient scorers in the Big 12. While he struggled mightily against Tech (2 points on 1/9 shooting), he averages a healthy 16.3 points per game on 54/44/71 splits for the season. He has naturally transitioned into a much bigger offensive role after being a rotational player in 2016-17. The Graham/Vick backcourt is as good as any in the country, so Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher need to be on high alert once again. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk mans the 4, though in reality he is better suited as a small forward and plays the 4 out of convenience. Svi is one of the top three point shooters in Division 1, knocking triples down at a 45% rate. 61% of his points are off of the three point shot, while he doesn’t really crash the boards in any meaningful way (hence why he’s not a true 4). That role will fall on Udoka Azubuike, a 7 foot sophomore who lives for high percentage shots in the paint and crashing the boards. His 75.4% eFG is third nationally, and he leads the team in rebounding at 8.3 a game. TCU didn’t get a chance to face him last season, as he didn’t play in Big 12 play, but he has been a key cog for a Kansas team that has struggled a bit on the boards this season. The final starter, true freshman Marcus Garrett from Dallas Skyline, has only recently switched into the starting lineup over the past two games. He mostly defers to the more experienced players around him, using only 12% of the possessions while on the court, but he rebounds very well for a guy who is only 6’5. He is also top 35 in the country with a 4.2 steal rate. He’s done a good job shooting twos, but his three point shooting and free throw shooting have tanked his overall effectiveness.

Malik Newman is the top substitute, but in reality he is the starter as he averages 29 minutes a game and has gotten the start in 11 of the team’s 14 games. Newman transferred in from Mississippi State after a disappointing freshman year, but the former five star recruit has found a groove as a tertiary option for the Jayhawks. Admittedly, I’m not very high on Newman’s low efficiency style of play, but Bill Self is a solid coach in that he can find ways to mitigate the weaknesses of his players. Newman has poor shot selection, but he’s shot a decent 44% from the field and 35% from three this year. He was moved to the bench to provide some sort of spark off of a mostly useless bench. Mitch Lightfoot runs as the backup for Azubuike, but he stands at only 6’8 210 pounds, and is largely invisible on the court. He hasn’t been bad when he shoots, owning a 61.8% eFG, but he only shoots on 10% of possessions and fouls at Ahmed Hamdy levels. The only other bench player who has seen any reasonable level of time is Clay Young, but he has received DNPs since the schedule ramped up, and I wouldn’t expect to see him Saturday night.

Kansas, as usual, is a sound team on the offensive end. Aside from the glaring weakness of being unable to get to the free throw line (KU actually ranks dead last in free throw rate, 351st in the country at 19.9), the Jayhawks can score from just about anywhere. Graham, Vick, and Svi all shoot around 44% from three, while Newman shoots 35%, leading to a team that ranks 20th in the country at 40.9% shooting and gets 38% of their total points from the three ball (48th in the country). They are an elite team inside, shooting 58.6%, meaning that their eFG is a beautiful 59.7% (5th in the nation). In their three losses this season, to Washington, Arizona State, and Texas Tech, they have still scored very well (at least from two). The main key when Kansas struggles is with their defense.

On the aggregate, KU has a very good defense, sporting a 93.9 defensive rating that is good for 21st in the country. Looking at their metrics, nothing stands out, they are pretty solid at every aspect defensively. However, they are not infallible, and they’ve been beaten in several different ways so far this season. Arizona State rained threes on their defense, going 14/28 and getting hot right out of halftime. Washington overcame dismal free throw shooting and got a hot hand from Matisse Thybulle to lift them to victory (they were also blessed with Graham’s worst game of the season by far). And Tech, as was mentioned above, got out to a hot start and dominated the boards. There is no exact blueprint to exploit the Jayhawks’ defense, but a key element seems to be to run out to a lead either to start the game or out of halftime. The Frogs have experience building up a lead, but the second component, one that they’ve yet to master, is how to maintain that lead and put teams away.

Three Things to Watch

Win with depth

Kansas probably spreads the ball out the second most of any team in the conference behind TCU, as they have five players who average double figures and all use at least 18% of the team’s possessions. However, past those 5 players, KU has nobody. Their depth is completely barren. TCU can rotate in at least 3 guys in off the bench who are proven playmakers, which is a huge advantage in a game like this. The Frogs should sub often to keep everybody fresh, and attack inside and try to get key KU contributors in foul trouble.

Reestablish identity on the boards

For a good while, TCU was tops in the nation in not allowing offensive rebounds. To anyone who watched the Baylor game, that seems like a laughable statistic, as the Frogs couldn’t get a rebound to save their lives, allowing Baylor back into the game. The Frogs currently rank 23rd in that category, still very good, but slipping. TCU is the better rebounding team in this matchup, and controlling the boards is going to be essential for victory.

Handle the atmosphere

Anecdotally, I’m hearing a lot of excitement for this game from fellow students and friends. Schollmaier will be packed and loud, and there should be more students in the crowd as people begin to trickle back into town after Christmas break. The Frogs need to feed off of that environment, and use the energy in the building to springboard them into great basketball. It can get LOUD in that arena, and perhaps the energy will be infectious if TCU can run out to a big lead.

Prediction

Coming into the season, I thought this would be the first game I projected the Frogs to lose. I wasn’t very high on Kansas coming into the year, but betting against the Jayhawks is always a foolish proposition. They’ll be coming in angry after a loss at home, and have the benefit of five star talent and a Hall of Fame coach. However, I just think the Frogs have what it takes to win this game. Reports from practices have made it sound like Coach Dixon has these guys fired up, and they know they can beat Kansas after winning in the Big 12 Tournament. This TCU team is better than that TCU team, this KU team is worse than that KU team, and that was a semi-home game for Kansas while this is on TCU’s turf. All these factors add up for TCU to win in a very close game.

Prediction: #16 TCU 84, #10 Kansas 83

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

- TCU is looking for its first home win over a team ranked in the AP Top 10 since 2013 when it beat No. 5 Kansas, 62-55 on Feb. 6.

- TCU has won 20 of its last 23 games.

- TCU is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the sixth consecutive week, one week shy of tying the school record.

- The Frogs are ranked No. 16 by the AP and No. 15 by USA Today.

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

- TCU is 45-17 all-time as a ranked team, including a 22-3 record at home and 18-7 on the road.

- TCU’s 13-1 start to the season is the best in school history through 14 games.

- TCU leads the Big 12 Conference in assists (19.8), field goal percentage (51.4) and 3-point percentage (41.2)

- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assists (3rd, 19.8), field goal percentage (7th, 51.4), rebounding margin (27th, +7.7) 3-point percentage (15th, 41.2) and scoring (13th, 87.1).

- TCU ranks 11th in offensive efficiency, the second-best in the Big 12, according to KenPom.com.

- TCU has averaged just 9.3 turnovers over the last four games.

- After averaging 7.1 points as a freshman last season, Desmond Bane is averaging 12.6 points as a sophomore.

- Kenrich Williams has recorded six double-doubles and leads the team with 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds this season.

- Williams is one of five players averaging double-figures. There are six TCU players averaging 9.1 points or more.

- Williams has scored in double figures in each of his last 10 games, including 12 in Tuesday’s game at Baylor.

- 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 141. He is 25 away from third and 30 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

- Kansas, which has won the Big 12 Conference the last 13 seasons, was picked to win the conference again this season.

- The Jayhawks are coming off an 85-73 loss at home to Texas Tech on Tuesday.

- Devonte’ Graham, the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, leads KU with 17.9 points and 7.5 assists per game.

About the Series

- Kansas leads the all-time series 14-2, including a 5-1 advantage in Fort Worth.

- TCU won the last meeting, 85-82, over the No. 1 ranked Jayhawks in the quarterfinals of last season’s Big 12 Championship in Kansas City.

- The Frogs’ only win over the Jayhawks in Fort Worth was on Feb. 6, 2013 by the score of 62-55, when KU was ranked fifth.

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 first in the Big 12 and seventh in the NCAA in field goal shooting (51.4%).

- TCU ranks first in the Big 12 and 15th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (41.3%).

- Over 60 percent of TCU’s field goals (430) were assisted (277), a percentage of 64.4. The Frogs rank first in the Big 12 and third in the NCAA in assists per game (19.8).

- TCU’s offensive efficiency ranks 11th at 117.5 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. 9 nationally in field goal efficiency (71.3) and No. 9 in true field goal percentage (71.6) according to KenPom.com. Vladimir Brodziansky ranks No. 24 in field goal efficiency (67.9) and No. 25 in true shooting percentage (69.7).

- TCU has three among the top 15 in shooting percentage in the Big 12... 4. Vladimir Brodziansky - 62.5, 9. Desmond Bane - 57.4. 10. Kouat Noi - 57.3

- TCU has three among the top four in 3-point field goal percentage in the Big 12... 1. Desmond Bane - 50.8, 2. Kenrich Williams - 47.7, 3. Kouat Noi - 47.4

TCU vs. Top 25

- TCU is 17-148 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including 11-46 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 0-9 against top 25 teams in the Schollmaier Arena, which opened during the 2015-16 season.

- The last time a ranked 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 1,060 points, the Slovakian is tied with Ricky Hall for 27th on the all-time scoring list. He is 21 points from Jeff Jacobs for 26th (1,081).

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.

Hawaii For Christmas in 2018

TCU will play in the 2018 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. Joining the Horned Frogs in the 10th annual event are Charlotte, Colorado, Hawai’i, Indiana State, Rhode Island, Saint Mary’s and UNLV.

It will be TCU’s first-ever appearance in the event. The Frogs last played in Hawai’i during the 2000-01 season. They played in the Thanksgiving Classic in Honolulu, Nov. 24-26, 2000 before making a return trip to the island during Western Athletic Conference play on Feb. 22, 2001 against the University of Hawai’i. That same season, TCU played in the Thanksgiving Classic in Honolulu Nov. 24-26, 2000.