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TCU Basketball Preview: Oral Roberts

The Frogs look to build off a victory to start the season

TCU Basketball vs Cal State Bakersfield | November 7, 2018 | Fort Worth, TX
TCU Basketball vs Cal State Bakersfield | November 7, 2018 | Fort Worth, TX
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 4:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: FSSW | Series: TCU leads 2-1 | Game Line: TCU -20.5

The #20 TCU Horned Frogs (1-0) take the court again Sunday afternoon to face the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (1-1). The Frogs won their home opener against Cal State Bakersfield by a final of 66-61. Desmond Bane started slow, but ended up with a double-double and the team lead in scoring (14 points/10 boards. JD Miller heated up from outside en route to 13 points, while Alex Robinson (12 points, 9 assists) and Yuat Alok (11 points, 6 rebounds) also scored in double figures. The team looked a bit disjointed on offense, which is not unusual considering the number of young and new faces on the team. 3/16 from three is concerning, but the team did register an 86.8% defensive rebounding rate, which was encouraging considering rebounding was an area of potential concern. The Frogs trailed in the first half due to lights out shooting from the Roadrunners; it seemed like everything they threw up went in. When they reverted back to the mean in the second half, the Frogs capitalized and picked up win #1.

Oral Roberts won their most recent game over NAIA Southwestern. Emmanuel Nzekwesi dominated, scoring 24 points on 11/17 shooting while also grabbing 12 boards and blocking 3 shots. Sam Kearns also had a nice game, scoring 14 points along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Carlos Jurgens, Aidan Saunders, and Kaelen Malone all also contributed 11 points apiece. Since that game was against an NAIA opponent, we can probably draw more insight from their 84-50 loss to Missouri State. Only two players, Nzekwesi and Kerwin Smith, were in double figures in that matchup, and across the board the Golden Eagles could not get anything going.

Looking at the Golden Eagles roster, it’s pretty evident that Nzekwesi is their best player. An all-league honorable mention a season ago, he has led the team in scoring in both games so far this season. He’s more of an interior player, though he will step out and shoot the three (without much success, 23% a year ago and 14% so far this season). He is joined in the frontcourt by Smith, a transfer player from Grand Canyon. Smith didn’t play much in 2018, but in 2017 he carved out a role as a high efficiency big who could rebound at a league average rate. He showed up against Missouri State, but struggled a bit against the NAIA program they faced. Kearns is the team’s starting point guard, and while he is a solid distributor, he has a pretty high turnover rate. He’s been their only decent three point shooter this year, and he averaged 36% from three a year ago, so look for him to try and probe TCU’s perimeter defense. Two newcomers round out their starting lineup: Saunders and Jurgens. Saunders, a JUCO product, has been an inefficient scorer so far this season, and he’s a smaller 6’4 shooting guard. Jurgens, a freshman from Estonia, has similarly struggled to score the ball so far this season.

The bench doesn’t look much better for ORU. Their top reserve is Malone, who is a transfer from Wichita State. After not breaking the Shockers’ lineup, Malone has struggled a bit in expanded playing time. He’s one of their only options at guard, so look for any combination of Malone/Kearns/Saunders to be on the floor at all times. There are also two more freshmen who come in off the bench: D.J. Weaver and Francis Lacis. Weaver seems like a passive player, using very few possessions compared to his amount of minutes, but he has shot 50% from three on limited attempts so far this year. Lacis, a Latvian product, has struggled mightily to get anything in the bucket this year, as he is shooting just 10% from the floor. Finally, expect to see Emir Ahmedic off the bench in the frontcourt rotation. He’s seen an expanded role so far this season. Don’t expect him to put up many shots, instead grabbing rebounds and dishing it off to one of their high volume guards.

ORU as a team really struggles to shoot the three ball, converting only a quarter of their attempts so far this season. Despite this struggle, they typically are a better offensive team than defensive, as their interior defense consistently ranks as one of the worst in Division I. This should be amazing news for players like Yuat Alok and Kevin Samuel, who are still getting their footing as offensive big men. Their assist to turnover ratio is a dreadful 1:1.7, and even that is inflated by half of their stats coming against an NAIA team. While TCU struggled a bit out of the gates, this Oral Roberts team hasn’t shown anything so far to signal worry for the Frogs.

Three Things to Look For

Who is the Guy on Offense?

Part of what made TCU look so stagnant in game one was a seemingly lost offense. Plenty of guys were content to just pass it around the perimeter and wait for a play to apparate. Desmond Bane showed that he has the ability to take over a game, and Alex Robinson was aggressive all night, but the true answer of who “the guy” is for the Frogs is still a mystery. ORU has a penchant for giving up big games, as Jarred Dixon from Missouri State dropped 26 on them and Cameron Hunt from Southwestern dropped 40. Look for a big game from one TCU player, identity to be determined.

No Threes This Time

Sure, Oral Roberts is terrible from behind the three point line. So was CSU Bakersfield, and they proceeded to light it up from downtown in the first half last game. Regardless of the reason, TCU cannot allow that to happen again. Close out hard on the two guys who can actually shoot, and keep the Golden Eagles honest across the board.

Settle in Early

Frog fans who were expecting an easy blowout (this fan included) had a rude awakening last game, but perhaps this was for the best. You have to play the games, and taking a matchup for granted is one way you get beat. The Frogs need to play within themselves and establish an early lead. On paper, this is clearly a major mismatch, but the Frogs have to prove it. Don’t mess around and close the game quickly.

Prediction

I went a little bit overboard last game, predicting a huge TCU blowout. I have to correct after that, but it should also be noted that CSU Bakersfield is a much better team than Oral Roberts. ORU is the third worst team the Frogs the Frogs will match up with this season per KenPom, only beating out Charlotte and D-II Hawaii Pacific. Everything in this matchup points to a Frogs victory, but I’ll be more conservative this time.

I think Desmond Bane will carry his momentum from last game into a breakout performance tomorrow night. I also think JD Miller will be a key on the defensive end, and this is a great matchup for him to earn his stripes guarding Nzekwesi. The Frogs will be bolstered by better three point shooting (especially if Noi or Fisher return), and treat the Frog Faithful to an easy Sunday victory.

Prediction: TCU 85, Oral Roberts 70

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

  • No. 20 TCU will look for a 2-0 start to a season for the fifth straight year when it hosts Oral Roberts Sunday at 4 p.m. TCU has also started 2-0 in seven of the past eight seasons.
  • For just the second time in school history, TCU has begun the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The last time the Frogs were ranked in the preseason was when they were No. 24 prior to the start of the 1998-99 season.
  • TCU was picked tied for fourth with Texas in the Big 12 Preseason Poll.
  • The Frogs hope to continue the momentum in November like they have in the past. Since the 2014-15 season, the Frogs have gone 25-2 in the month of November and have gone 7-0 in each of the last two seasons.
  • TCU returns five players who made a significant amount of starts last season. Altogether, the Frogs return 56 percent of their scoring, 69 percent of their assists and 57 percent of their minutes. They also welcome nine newcomers, seven on scholarship, six of which are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson was named Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and is one of 20 on the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award. He had 12 points and nine assists in the season-opener on Wednesday