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TCU Basketball Preview: Eastern Michigan

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The Frogs look to bounce back against the MAC foe

TCU vs Lipscomb | Fort Worth, TX | November 20, 2018
TCU vs Lipscomb | Fort Worth, TX | November 20, 2018
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: FSSW | Series: TCU leads 1-0 | Game Line: TCU -13.5

The #18 TCU Horned Frogs (3-1) will look to bounce back after their first defeat of the season, as they square off against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-3). The Frogs lost their first game of the season against Lipscomb, 73-64. Alex Robinson had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat, joined by Kendric Davis (14) and JD Miller (11) in double figures. Nothing looked quite right for the Frogs from the opening tip, and the experienced Bisons took full advantage. Both offenses started out cold, allowing TCU to take a 22-8 lead, but the Frogs flirted with disaster by consistently leaving shooters wide open. Eventually the Bisons started hitting backdoor cuts and getting to the free throw line as the TCU offense went cold. The return of Jaylen Fisher and Kouat Noi proved to not make much of an impact, as both players were clearly rusty. Fisher played only 7 minutes after starting, and Noi was ice cold from three, hitting only 1-7. Desmond Bane also had easily his worst game of the season with 4 points of 2-8 shooting, and Kevin Samuel was in foul trouble throughout. All in all, it was a forgettable performance by the Frogs, and they’ll look to come out of Thanksgiving break strong.

Eastern Michigan is also coming off a disappointing home loss, 78-74 to Detroit. James Thompson was easily their best player, totaling 24 points on 10-11 shooting to pair with 14 rebounds. Boubacar Toure also had a double double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Paul Jackson added 10 before fouling out. The Eagles were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons a week ago, scoring only 4 points in the first half of a 63-36 drubbing by Rutgers. They were also taken to task by Duke, but that is nothing to be ashamed of. Two of their wins came against sub-Division 1 competition, while they also scored wins over Drexel and Boston.

Jackson is the team’s point guard, and has their leading scorer through 7 games this season. The one time Eastern Kentucky Colonel averages 13 points, but doesn’t shoot it particularly well at only 38% on the year. He’s a reasonably good distributor, leading the team in assists, but his turnover rate has ticked up a bit so far this season. Thompson gets the start at power forward, and he’s averaging a near double double at 10.6 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. He’s consistently one of the best rebounders in the MAC, and in the past has served as a solid rim protector as well. He’s a solid player who provides real size in the interior. Toure starts at center, and comes in after playing half a season at Grand Canyon 3 years ago. He’s got plenty of size, and already is 59th in the nation with an almost 10 percent block rate. He’s gotten into foul trouble a few times already this season, so look and see if Kevin Samuel can get to the line a few times this game. Elijah Minnie starts at small forward, and he’s having a tough start to his senior season after leading the Eagles in scoring a season ago. His 32% shooting (18% from three) had led him to halve his scoring average from a season ago, and his turnover rate has skyrocketed even as he uses less possessions. It’s clear from his previous successes that he can play, the question is can he show up in 2018-19? Damari Parris is the final starter for EMU, manning the shooting guard spot. The Western Kentucky transfer via TVCC has been ice cold to start the year, shooting 29/30/83 to start the season, and is often replaced by Kevin McAdoo down the stretch. Parris is a small dude who should shoot the three at a reasonable clip, but may need the ball in his hands more often to be effective.

McAdoo is clearly the most important reserve for EMU, as he’s been on fire from three to start the year. He brings that shot and a little bit of playmaking ability to a lineup that sorely needs some kind of scoring threat. McAdoo is joined by Ty Groce off the bench, who started the first two games of the year before settling into a 10-15 minute a game type role. A native of Ypsilanti, he hits the glass really hard while sporadically scoring. He has almost identical stats to his freshman season, so expect #31 to hit the glass hard and stay out of the way on offense. Isaiah Green is a former prized recruit for the Eagles, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get more minutes moving forward. He was one of the only players to play halfway decent against Rutgers, and he’s shown a willingness to compete when he’s on the floor. Freshman Daivon Stephens received a DNP against Detroit, but he functions in a very similar role to Green when he’s out there. A similar situation exists in the frontcourt with Jalen King, who got a DNP against Detroit yet has rebounded and shot well in limited playing time. Tariq Silver and Bud Jones may also check into the game for EMU, but they have not had a statistically significant number of minutes played so far this year.

The Eagles have seriously struggled on the offensive side of the ball, ranking near the bottom of the NCAA in categories such as 3 point field goal percentage (25.8% ranks 335th) and effective field goal percentage (43.6% ranks 320th). They are especially bad at free throws, besting only two teams in the country with their 52.2% mark. They rank 2nd in the nation in percentage of points coming from two pointers, so they will look to work the ball inside, preferably to their bigs like Thompson or Toure. They are a tall team, starting two 6’10+ guys in the frontcourt, and rely quite heavily on those starting five plus one to carry the load. Meanwhile, they also cannot defend the three, giving up 38% to opponents, which won’t bode well for them if the Frogs can get back to their average percentage from three.

Three Things to Watch For

Defensive Fundamentals

The defense was always going to be a concern for this team, but watching Lipscomb carve them up was quite discouraging. EMU is nowhere near the offensive team that the Bisons are, so this is a good chance to fix the little things that make a defense run. Close out effectively, have good rotations, don’t allow the backdoor cuts that Lipscomb ran, etc. Fix the little things, and the overall defense will improve.

From MIA to MVP

Three Frogs in particular cannot be happy with how Tuesday went: Fisher, Noi, and Bane. Desmond has the ability to be an All Big 12 level player, but he has to be a consistent option for the offense, a security blanket for when things aren’t going smooth. Alex Robinson has way too much on his plate right now, and Bane bouncing back from a season worst game will help him out immensely. I’m intrigued by how much Fisher will play this game, or if he’ll even start this game (the pre game notes say R.J. Nembhard will get the start, but they also said that last game). Coach Dixon loves to roll out the Fisher/Robinson backcourt, but if Jaylen is not 100% I don’t want him risking his health for this game. Kouat simply needs to find his rhythm again. Most of the shots he took on Tuesday were wide open, they just didn’t fall. He simply needs to readjust to the pace of the game, and he’ll be fine.

Playmaking Not Named Robinson

The Frogs had 15 assists to 16 turnovers last game, the first time they had a sub-one assist to turnover ratio. However, they have been flirting with it all year, never having less than 14 turnovers, and it is because Alex Robinson is really the only one starting anything for the offense. Jaylen Fisher’s return will help with this in the long term, but it can’t be acceptable for the offense to just be passes around the perimeter until we finally settle for a pick and roll with whoever the 5 is. Someone other than Alex needs to get creative out there and make something happen off the dribble.

Prediction

Last game was a nightmare on all fronts for the Frogs, showing how far they have to go. However, Lipscomb is a legitimately good team, and you’ll likely be picking with them in your bracket in March. EMU is not nearly the same caliber of team, and I like the Frogs to bounce back in a big way this game. I know they are even more unhappy with their performance than the Frog faithful, and they’ll come out looking for redemption. I think Desmond Bane breaks out for at least 20 points, and the Frogs roll in their most complete game of the season.

Prediction: #18 TCU 80, Eastern Michigan 62

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

  • TCU hosts Eastern Michigan Monday at 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Southwest.
  • TCU is coming off its first loss in the month of November since 2015, a streak of 18-straight games, which was the second-longest active streak among NCAA Division I programs.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson, who was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award leads the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game and ranks fourth in the nation in assists at 8.0 per game. Robinson is nine assists away from matching Darrell Browder for fifth on TCU’s all-time list.
  • The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 with 18.3 assists per game. TCU has led the Big 12 in assists in both of its seasons with Jamie Dixon as the head coach.
  • Seven players have their TCU debuts this season. Overall, the Frogs have nine newcomers this season. However, 71.3 percent of the scoring has been done by five returners.
  • For just the second time in school history, TCU begun a season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 21. 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.