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TCU Basketball Preview: Central Michigan

The Frogs look to top the Chippewas before their showdown with SMU

TCU Basketball vs Eastern Michigan | Fort Worth, TX | November 26, 2018
TCU Basketball vs Eastern Michigan | Fort Worth, TX | November 26, 2018
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 6:30 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: FSSW | Series: First Meeting | Game Line: TCU -13.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (4-1) play the last game of their six game home slate to open the season on Friday afternoon, as they face the Central Michigan Chippewas (6-1). The Frogs rode a strong second half en route to a blowout of Eastern Michigan Monday night, 87-69. Kouat Noi was the star, dropping a career high 27 points off the bench on incredible 11/15 shooting. Most of the team ended up in double figures, including Kevin Samuel (15), Jaylen Fisher (12), Desmond Bane (11), and JD Miller (11). Alex Robinson also did his part facilitating the offense, going 2/4 from the field and dishing out 13 assists. The Frogs had 31 assists compared to only 10 turnovers, their best mark in both categories so far this season. They forced the Eagles into 16 turnovers and made 77% of their two point attempts as well.

The Chippewas are coming off a blowout win of their own, 81-65 over Sam Houston State. Larry Austin was the standout player for CMU, scoring 23 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Kevin McKay dropped 18, while Shawn Roundtree and David DiLeo had 14 and 10 respectively. The Chippewas were actually down by nine early in the second half, but completely shut down the Bearcats’ offense and rallied for their sixth win of the season. They have two wins over non D-1 teams, and have a win over a common opponent with the Frogs (67-55 over CSU Bakersfield). They haven’t beaten anyone ranked above #206 in KenPom, and sport a loss to #151 Weber State on a neutral court.

Austin is the team’s best player, and the Vanderbilt transfer has been lights out to start the season so far. He is averaging 19 points per game on 61% shooting, while also leading the team with just over 4 assists a game. He’s not an outside threat, having only taken 7 threes on the season, but he will drive into the lane looking to draw a foul or dish to an open man. Austin runs the point while McKay dominates in the frontcourt. A prolific offensive rebounder, McKay ranked 1st in the MAC and 81st in the country in offensive rebounding rate a season ago, and is in the top 100 once again so far this season. His scoring average is right under Austin’s at 18.3 per game, and he’s been their most consistent player so far this year. He’s a huge part of what the Chippewas do across the board, so hopefully the Frogs can capitalize on his propensity for foul trouble. Roundtree starts in the backcourt next to Austin after being the starting point guard a year ago. The positional change is still a work in progress for Roundtree, as his assist rate has plummeted with marginal at best improvements elsewhere on the court. He’s reinvented himself as more of a scorer this season who can get to the line and sink his shots. DiLeo starts at the three, and he has been their only threat from three so far this season (41.5%). He has the ability to rebound, as he was 10th in the MAC a season ago, but he seems to have been relegated to spot up shooting as opposed to front court play in the post this season. Rob Montgomery is the final starter for the Chippewas, and he is the man in the middle. The community college product stands at only 6’6, but is basically tied for the team lead in rebounding with McKay. He’s incredibly skilled at getting to the free throw line (4th best in the nation so far), which would mean more if his shooting splits weren’t so abysmal (36/0/54).

Off the bench, look for sophomore Matt Beachler to get off the bench first. The young wing takes a ton of threes, knocking down about 1 out of every 3. He’s a perimeter player who is still growing into his own at this level. Romelo Burrell is another JUCO product who takes a lot of shots, but he has found much less success than Beachler at putting the ball in the basket. His main value thus far has coming from hitting the glass hard, as he average almost 4 boards a game. Dallas Morgan, a newcomer from a JUCO, has thrown up the fourth most threes on the team, nailing around 31% of them. He’s careful with the ball, only 1 turnover against D1 competition, but also hasn’t made a ton of plays in the aggregate. The last player to know is Innocent Nwoko, the 6’11 backup center who didn’t play in CMU’s only loss this season. He’s only averaging about 8 minutes a game, but he has a great rebounding rate and the size to matchup with the likes of Kevin Samuel and Yuat Alok. We may see more Nwoko than other teams if the Frogs refuse to go small to match the Chippewas.

Central Michigan is a small team that relies heavily on their starting 5. They rank 325th in percentage of minutes used by the bench, and 302nd in the KenPom statistic of effective height, which weights the average height of players by how many minutes they log. However, they are a disciplined offensive team, not turning it over very often and working from the inside out. Defensively, they make up for their lack of size by playing pressure D and forcing turnovers. They get destroyed inside, often having to foul to prevent easy looks at the rim and giving up offensive rebounds like crazy, but so far this season their defense in terms of shot percentages looks pretty good. TCU is by far the most talented and athletic team the Chippewas have faced, so it will be interesting to see how coach Keno Davis adjusts.

Three Things to Look For

More of the Same Passing

Really great game from the Frogs last time out, but the 3:1 assist to turnover ratio may have been the most encouraging stat. Against a team like CMU, ball protection will become essential as TCU looks to capitalize on their size advantage. Austin is a pesky defender, 100th in steal rate in the nation, so Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher will need to steady to offense and look to make the smart pass.

Feast Inside

I expect big things from Kevin Samuel and Yuat Alok this game. Even JD Miller has a big size advantage in his matchup, and the Frogs need to take advantage. Not only do the Frogs have a size advantage, but they have proven athletic enough to stick around on the perimeter, allowing them to remain big and clog the inside. The Chippewas struggle to clean the defensive glass, which may be a death sentence against a rebounder like Samuel.

Make Your Free Throws

It’s no secret that even some of TCU’s best players struggle a bit at the line. However, five games in the Frogs rank 298th in free throw percentage. That’s a really bad number, and poor free throw shooting can sink even the best teams in close games. This is a little thing, but the little things separate the good teams from the great ones.

Prediction

Really like the Frogs in this one. The Chippewas are a good team, not quite as experienced as Lipscomb, but they are disciplined and won’t beat themselves. The Frogs seem to take a half to get going, so don’t be surprised if the game is close early on. I think Alex Robinson outclasses Larry Austin, and the Frogs finally get to rotate in some of their backups who can take advantage of such a small team.

Pick to click this game will be Kevin Samuel. He has such a great matchup on paper, it wouldn’t shock me if he sees a few double teams early on. He’s been such a bright spot so far this year, and I think that continues against a team without an effective counter against him.

Prediction: TCU 85, Central Michigan 69

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

  • TCU completes its six-game homestand when it hosts Central Michigan Friday at 6:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Southwest.
  • After exploding for a career-high 27 points in 27 minutes on Monday, sophomore forward Kouat Noi is leading the Frogs in scoring at 15.5 point per game.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson is tied for first in the nation with 9.0 assists per game after dishing out 13 Monday against Eastern Michigan. Robinson (463) is 11 assists away from matching Jeff Jacobs for fourth on TCU’s all-time list. Robinson was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award.
  • Redshirt freshman center Kevin Samuel ranks second in the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 72.4 percent and tied for fifth in blocked shots at 2.2 per game.
  • Senior forward JD Miller has scored in double-figures in all five games this season, the longest streak of his career. The Dallas native turns 22 years old on Saturday.
  • The Horned Frogs lead the Big 12 and rank second in the nation with 20.8 assists per game.
  • Seven players have made their TCU debuts this season. Overall, the Frogs have nine newcomers this season and 41.6 percent of the team’s minutes played have been from newcomers.
  • For just the second time in school history and the first time since prior to the 1998-99 season, TCU begun a season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 21. The Frogs were ranked for three straight weeks to begin the season.