TCU basketball starts the season on Wednesday. The Frogs bring back some stars, but have some uncertainty after losing two of the program’s most productive players. Can the new talent step up? Who will be the leaders? Who will take their game to the next level? The FOW team discuses below.
Which returning player on the 2018/2019 Frogs team are you most excited for?
Melissa: I really want to see what Desmond Bane can do in year three. He’s a player that can score in bunches, but hasn’t been consistent in his first two years. The Frogs have more firepower around him than ever before, so expecting double digits from him each night isn’t unrealistic. If Des can be the go to guy down the stretch, the Frogs could be special.
Chris: I am really excited to see what Kouat Noi does in his sophomore campaign. He should once again be in the conversation for best shooters in the Big 12 but I think he will be key to filling in the hole left by Kenrich Williams’ graduation. With his length and athleticism, Noi will need to be able to guard bigger opponents on the defensive end and will need to bring up his rebounding numbers.
Jamie: JD Miller is primed to have a big season. I love his game and with the exit of Kenrich Williams, Miller will be called upon to be a leader on the defensive side of the ball. My hope is that he can improve on his 31.1% three-point shooting and be the 3&D guy TCU can lean on in big minutes.
Christian: I’m tempted to pick Jaylen Fisher here, but I have to go with Desmond Bane. He’s such a dynamic player across the board, and was one of the players who made a huge leap from his freshman to sophomore season. I think he takes another huge step forward as the #1 scoring option on the team, and surprises everyone with an All Big 12 level season.
Parker: Desmond Bane had a sneaky breakout last year, and established himself as one of the better shooters in the Big 12 (and the country). How much he can round out his game will determine the Frog’s ceiling this season.
Which newcomer on the 2018/2019 Frogs team are you most excited for?
Melissa: I feel like everyone is going to say Kaden Archie, and I too am super pumped for the young phenom. BUT - in my opinion, the dude that needs to be great right out of the gate is Kevin Samuel. If he can provide 60% of what Kenrich did on the glass and on defense, then that side of the floor should be solid enough to really contend.
Chris: Melissa is absolutely right - I am 100% going to say Kaden Archie. The long, athletic wing from Midlothian was an absolute stud in high school and will probably be able to provide some highlight plays to get Schollmaier Arena pumped up this season. His ability to get to the hoop may not fill the stat sheet right away, but he can create a lot of space for shooters like Bane and Noi.
Jamie: I see a lot of Kaden Archie, but the guy I’m most excited about is Kendric Davis. Davis was a McDonalds All-American nominee, a Top 10 player in the state of Texas, and as we glance at Jaylen Fisher’s injury history, he may be called on for big minutes should an injury occur in TCU’s backcourt.
Christian: I’m going to have to go with Kaden Archie as well. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited for an incoming freshman. He’s such a smooth player who can stuff the stat sheet in a hurry. He’s going to be on a short leash on the defensive end, but he is able to cause havoc on the ball, forcing turnovers and getting out on the run in the open court. If he develops even a league average outside shot, then the Big 12 needs to be put on notice. He’s going to challenge for major minutes in a crowded guard/forward rotation, which speaks to his ability and development.
Parker: I don’t know how you can pick anyone other than Kaden Archie, but I will, for the sake of shaking it up. Yuot Alok, besides having an immensely fun name, is a polished JUCO transfer ready to contribute immediately. His size and talent could be an anchoring force for the Frogs in the non-con stretch, as they figure out how to incorporate everyone into a cogent gameplan.
Who wins the Big 12, and how does TCU place in the race? Does Kansas keep the streak alive?
Melissa: Kansas is really good and really deep - and that’s uncharted territory for a team that generally ends up only playing six guys in conference play. They also could have their program shut down by the FBI at any moment. I like K State, Texas, and TCU to give them a run when it comes to breaking the streak, but I won’t pick against the Jayhawks until they give up the title. I think the Frogs can absolutely contend at the top of the conference and be in title contention late, but this team has too many questions marks to be a sure fire title contender right now.
Chris: I’m going to say Kansas wins the Big 12 this season - their roster is absolutely loaded - but the streak does not stay alive as I’m sure the NCAA will vacate some season during their streak. I think TCU will finish either 2nd or 3rd this season. The Frogs and West Virginia I believe are going to be the top challengers, while Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Texas resemble a strong middle pack in the conference. Iowa State will definitely be improved as well and will likely find some upsets that will shake up the conference title race.
Jamie: It’s going to be Kansas from me, too. They’re stacked, and realistically there’s not another team that I can say with confidence will break the streak. There are hopefuls, of course, and TCU is one of them. The Frogs, Mountaineers, Wildcats, and Longhorns would have to work together to hand Kansas enough losses for one of them to have a chance, and then not feast on each other.
Christian: You can’t pick against Kansas at this point, right? They’re on an insane run, and this might be their most talented team in years. I thought they would fall last year, and I was dead wrong, so I’m correcting course this year. The middle of the Big 12 is really though, but the Frogs should be good enough to stay in the top half of the conference. Anywhere from 2nd-5th in the conference seems reasonable for the Frogs.
Parker: Kansas, by a mile. So, the exact opposite of football. (I know, I know, let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.) Kansas State has turned heads this fall, with their returning production and impressive tournament showing. I think they’ll unseat WVU/Texas/TCU/Tech as the bona fide “contender” to Kansas, but they’ll stay number 2. I think the Frogs have as clear a shot at the 3 seed in the Big 12 tourney as they’ve had in years.
Who is your pick for:
Melissa: Alex Robinson. The senior leader is the backbone of this team, and if he can be good to very good, the Frogs can be great. I think he’s in for a huge year.
Chris: Desmond Bane - If he can show the same growth he did going from his freshman year to his sophomore year, look out.
Jamie: Jaylen Fisher. If he’s healthy, he’s an elite guard and game-changer.
Christian: Desmond Bane. He takes a huge step forward this year and becomes the face of the team.
Parker: Kaden Archie. Ride or die.
Big 12 MVP
Melissa: Dean Wade. The Wildcats are really good, and he’s the straw that stirs the drink. If they manage to make a run, and I think they will, it will be because he’s exceptional.
Chris: Lindell Wigginton - If you don’t know this name yet, you will. He will be the key player in the resurgence of the Cyclones this season.
Jamie: Dedric Lawson. The Memphis transfer is a Jayhawk now, and he’s primed to lead Kansas this season. He averaged 19.2 points/9.9 rebounds per game in his final season as a Tiger.
Christian: Dean Wade. I honestly thought he was a senior last year and now I’m sad we have to match up with him again.
Parker: Jamie stole my thunder. There’s only one correct answer here, and it is Dedric Lawson. He’s incredible, and he’s spent an entire year learning from Bill Self and working on a three point shot. He’s already dominated in two exhibitions, and he will be in the conversation for National Player of the Year.
What’s your biggest concern for this season?
Melissa: DEFENSE. And rebounding. Kenny Hustle was an exceptional rebounder and there isn’t a guy like that on the TCU roster right now. Getting everyone to be just a little bit better on the boards and work a little bit harder on D will determine just how good they’ll be.
Chris: The biggest concern in my mind is the lack of a veteran interior presence like Vlad. JD Miller is a senior this season but his style of play has never been that of a true post, which means guys like Kevin Samuel, Yuat Alok, and Angus McWilliam will all need to contribute.
Jamie: I’ve got to echo Melissa here, I’m pretty concerned about the defensive side of ball. If Miller, Noi, and Samuel step up, that would be huge. Realistically, though, TCU needs to see much better perimeter defense, specifically from their guards, if they want to take a step forward on that end of the floor.
Christian: Unproven depth. We have a very strong main 5 guys (Fisher, Robinson, Bane, Miller, Noi), and after that no one has suited up for the Frogs. Guys like Archie, Alok, and Davis have sky high potential, but until we see them on the court it is all speculation. We can’t have another season where one injury means our guards have to play the entire game.
Parker: The interior defense will be rocky to start, but that is a shadow of the real issue; TCU brings in a critical mass of size and talent. It’s going to take some time to figure out how all the pieces work and what the rotation looks like. TCU has always had clear “starters” and “bench players”, and things are more crowded this season than they’ve ever been. ‘Chemistry’ is a buzzword, but it’s the buzzword for this season.
What will be biggest strength of this team?
Melissa: The shooting should be excellent. Especially from deep. With Fisher, Bane, and Noi leading the charge, the Frogs can really light it up from beyond the arc.
Chris: This team should not have any trouble being able to keep up scoring with any opponent.
Jamie: The Frogs are going to score points in droves. I’m talking buckets on buckets on buckets.
Christian: Athleticism. This team is stacked up and down with guys who love to get out and run. Expect a high tempo, high scoring team this season.
Parker: Reckless abandon scoring and in transition. The Frogs could conceivably put a lineup out there with five forwards, and just annoy the living daylight out of opponents, or they could go all small and quick. It’ll be fun to watch the versatility.
Which non-conference game are you most looking forward to?
Melissa: USC in LA at Staples Center. It’s not a great non-con schedule for TCU, but that is a big game at a famous arena, and should be a ton of fun.
Chris: Not a specific game, but I am excited for the Frogs to be heading to the Diamond Head Classic this season, even if the field is not as stacked as in previous years. It is definitely the most notable MTE that TCU has been invited to in recent years.
Jamie: Smoo. The Frogs snapped a five-game losing streak against SMU last season, and now they head to Moody Coliseum to face a top-40 KenPom team. The Frogs were criticized for not playing many non-conference road games last year, but a win here would eliminate that in 2018-19.
Christian: Florida in the Big 12/SEC challenge. It’s always nice to take a break from conference play and see another opponent, and the Gators should have another quality squad this year.
Parker: SMU is the bellwether. Last season, it was fun to earn a win, but SMU is better this year, and we’ve got to go over to Moody. Seeing as that is TCU’s marquee OOC matchup, they’ve got to take advantage. It’ll be hype with so much on the line.
What’s the best case scenario for TCU this winter?
Melissa: TCU is consistent on offense and good enough on defense to run through the preseason relatively unscathed, and the young guys hit their stride just in time for conference play. If this team plays to its full potential, winning the Big 12 isn’t out of the picture. If they’re just mostly really good, finishing in the top three and earning a four or five seed is very realistic. I am predicting a Sweet 16 berth in 2019.
Chris: There is a high ceiling for this team, especially if the newcomers can get some experience before conference play rolls around. I think the best case is the defense stays solid enough to win 10-12 games in conference and the Frogs roll through non-conference to a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and pick up their first March Madness victory since 1987.
Jamie: I think the best case scenario for the Frogs is a top two finish in the Big 12, and a nice run in the NCAA tournament. This is, of course, dependent on staying healthy and unproven depth stepping up and playing well when it matters.
Christian: Absolute best case scenario is the team winning the Big 12 and making a deep run in March. The Tourney is so crazy that anything could happen. Realistically, challenging for the Big 12 title and winning one or two tournament games would have to be considered a resounding success. This team is so young, and we need to keep that in mind, but the sky is the limit if everyone plays to their potential.
Parker: Second-place finish, beat Kansas in the regular season once, beat Florida. That probably earns a 2-4 seed in the NCAA tournament, and hopefully they’ll play some directional school in the first round instead of, oh, I don’t know, an underranked perennial tournament team with a hall of fame coach. That Baylor-Florida stretch to start conference play will dictate most of the season’s success.
9.5 games with 90 points
Melissa: OVER -After the offensive issues with football, seeing a TCU team light up the scoreboard will be a welcome change.
Chris: OVER - This team will light it up from the field.
Jamie: OVER - TCU is going to score a lot, and they’ll pad this against some pretty soft non-conference games.
Christian: OVER - And we get there pretty easily.
Parker: OVER - I will say, TCU would probably be a better team if it was under.
25.5 Kenpom end of season rating (under means ‘in top 25’)
Melissa: UNDER - I think right around 30 is where we end up.
Chris: UNDER - I think this team will definitely have the offensive efficiency, but the question will be how good can the defense be.
Jamie: OVER - I wonder if everything we need to break right for the Frogs actually will (i.e. defense, young depth, health)
Christian: UNDER - We’re at #34 preseason, so if the young guys step up this should be an attainable goal.
Parker: UNDER - The preseason ranking is too low, as I’ve mentioned before. TCU is going to be very good, and they’ll score a lot. If the defense can be decent, this is a sure bet.
7 tournament seed for TCU
Melissa: UNDER. Give me a five seed all the way.
Chris: UNDER - The Frogs should be looking in the 4-6 seed range this season.
Jamie: UNDER - TCU should be around a 5-seed.
Christian: UNDER - We were a 6 last year, and I can’t see us dropping two spots with this roster
Parker: UNDER - To be honest, lower than a five will be disappointing.
18.5 season wins for TCU
Melissa: OVER - They’ll hit double digits by January 1 and should be able to pick up nine conference wins.
Chris: OVER - I think a relatively easy non-conference slate should pad the number of wins.
Jamie: OVER - I think the Frogs get to around 22-24 wins this year.
Christian: OVER - Classic Jamie Dixon non-conference schedule helps us get there.
Parker: OVER: The non-con is easy, and KenPom has TCU projected for only 8 conference wins, which is low.
8.5 conference wins for TCU
Melissa: OVER - Just answered this, but I think 10-11 wins isn’t unrealistic.
Chris: OVER - I think this year’s team is deeper than the squad from last year, which went 9-9 in conference with six of those losses coming by 5 points or less.
Jamie: OVER - TCU needs to take care of home court, and coming out on the other side of some of these close games will help.
Christian: OVER - Similar reasoning as above, I think this team at least equals last year’s record.
Parker: OVER - No reason the Frogs can’t get an outright winning record, especially since the schedule is kinder than last year (had to play red hot OU twice in the first five conference games).
6.5 tournament teams from Big 12
Melissa: OVER - All four Texas teams, both Kansas teams, ISU, and WVU should all make it in.
Chris: OVER - This year will probably be rough for the schools in Oklahoma, but the other eight teams are definitely tournament-caliber.
Jamie: UNDER - I say this just because it always feels like a team or two that should get in, doesn’t.
Christian: OVER - No Trae Young to bail out Oklahoma this year, but with teams like Iowa State much improved, the Big 12 will once again prove to be the elite basketball conference.
Parker: OVER - There’s some potential for cannibalization in the middle class, but there are enough elite teams, and I want to trust the hype that Iowa State will be good.