Game Time: 9:00 PM CST | Location: Moody Coliseum – Dallas, TX | TV: ESPNU | Series: SMU leads 106-86 | Game Line: TCU -1
The TCU Horned Frogs (5-1) leave Fort Worth for the first time this season, but they’ll only be across DFW as they face the SMU Mustangs (6-3). The Frogs coasted to a win over Central Michigan last time out, 89-62. Desmond Bane led the Frogs in scoring with 24, a season high for the team’s leading scorer. Alex Robinson contributed another double-double with 11 points and 12 assists, which placed him in the lead in the NCAA in assists per game. Kouat Noi and Jaylen Fisher also continued their strong returns to the lineup, ending up with 16 and 14 points respectively. JD Miller had his first game of the season without double digit points, but he did add 12 rebounds. The Frogs were dominant in all phases of the game, limiting the Chippewas to 4/23 three point shooting while dominating inside to the tune of 65% shooting on two point attempts. The 27 point margin of victory was easily the largest of the season for the Frogs.
SMU struggled a little bit to open the season, but like the Frogs, they have found their rhythm over the last few games. Their most recent win was over a common opponent with TCU, Oral Roberts. In the 79-67 win, Ethan Chargois was the standout with 17 points and 9 boards. Jahmal McMurray had 16, Isiaha Mike had 14, and Jimmy Whitt had 11 as well. Every player who played more than 10 minutes for the Mustangs had an offensive rating over 100, showing how well the entire team played on that end of the floor. They won the rebounding battle 36-26, and ended up with a final score that looks a lot like the one that TCU had against the same team.
McMurray has been the Mustangs’ best player this season. He did not play in the matchup in Fort Worth last season, but the one time USF Bull leads SMU with 19 points per contest. He’s greatly increased his playmaking ability from a season ago, as his assist rate is up 8 points to 19.4. He’s a solid three point shooter who can score from anywhere, but his size makes him a defensive liability. Chargois serves as a nice big man who can anchor down the middle. The sophomore has improved massively over the summer, grabbing boards at a fierce rate and actually shooting a better percentage than last season despite increased usage. He can step out and shoot the three, while maintaining an almost 6% block rate. He fouls quite a bit, but is also skilled at drawing fouls himself. Jimmy Whitt gets the start at small forward, and actually leads the team in assists from that spot. He had a triple double a few games ago against McNeese State, and is basically SMU’s JD Miller. He isn’t really a threat from three, but his ability to work himself open and dish to his teammates is dangerous, and makes him potentially the X factor in this game. Mike joins Chargois in the frontcourt, manning the four. The Duquesne transfer has found his rhythm over the last few games, shooting the ball very well and scoring inside and out. He has a penchant for turnovers, and when they come they come in big numbers (4 in 21 minutes against Lipscomb). He is taking on a bigger role by the game, and JD Miller’s ability to check him will be a key in this matchup. The final starter is Nat Dixon, though he did come off the bench against Oral Roberts. A grad transfer from Chattanooga, he ranks second in the team in three point shooting and was a top level mid major player a season ago. He hasn’t seen as big of a role on an SMU team full of weapons, and he may have lost his starting spot, but if Dixon is your #5 option you are in good shape.
SMU rarely goes to their bench, ranking 313th in bench minutes. Jarrey Foster is their top reserve, though he was the one to replace Dixon in the starting five against ORU. The senior has only played in three games this season, but has already become a heavy part of the rotation and a top tier scorer for the team. He’s coming off a season ending ACL surgery from a season ago, but it hasn’t seemed to affect his play so far this season. Freshman Feron Hunt is also a key member of the Mustangs’ rotation. A frontcourt member, Hunt is one of the top offensive rebounders in the country so far (17.6%, 14th nationally) and also is a force defensively. He has a steal in every game except one, and sports a 4.5% block rate. He is pencil thin for a center at only 190 pounds, so the physical bigs of TCU could give him trouble, and he hasn’t shot the ball very well for a big man so far this season. Another key freshman is C.J. White, who has already flashed as a facilitator in the third string point guard role. He too has struggled with his shot (in an even more profound way than Hunt), and has seen his minutes drop over the last three games with the return of Foster. Finally, look for William Douglas, who missed the last game against Oral Roberts. A swingman, he’s played a fair amount of minutes this season, though his only notable stat is his pretty decent free throw shooting.
SMU overall has had a top flight offense so far this season, but their defense has left something to be desired. In particular, they allow way too good a percentage from three (38.6%), and their opponents get 40% of their total points from three, 18th in the nation. However, their offense is good enough to keep up with this torrid pace, largely thanks to their ability to get second chances. With players like Hunt and Chargois patrolling the offensive glass, the Mustangs rank 15th in offensive rebound rate, and can use those extra possessions to get the ball in the hands of playmakers like McMurray. Additionally, the Frogs should watch out for a healthy dose of zone defense, which they sometimes take a second to adjust to. Looking at SMU’s body of work overall, they have played one of the weakest schedules in Division 1. They sport bad losses to Bradley and Southern Miss, while also falling to Lipscomb. Their best win is a one point victory over Wright State, supplemented by plenty of wins over cupcakes.
Three Things to Look For
When I said above that SMU struggles with the three, every Frog fan should have gotten really excited. TCU has plenty of shooters, from Kouat Noi to Jaylen Fisher to Desmond Bane, and if SMU doesn’t improve their perimeter D, those guys will make them pay over and over again.
Don’t Abandon the Interior Game
While the Frogs should have the green light from three, I think there is an underrated opportunity to get some scores inside. SMU isn’t a short team, but TCU’s bigs are simply massive compared to the 6’9 Chargois and 6’8 Mike. Sure, they will grab some offensive boards, but I think Kevin Samuel will have yet another opportunity to do some work in the post, and perhaps Yuat Alok can have a breakthrough game as well. Additionally, if the Frogs can work inside they can get some key SMU players in foul trouble. SMU ranks very low in KenPom’s “two foul participation” stat, which measures how much players with two fouls play in the first half. Combine that measure with their lack of depth, and the Ponies will have little recourse.
Handle the Environment
This is still a very young TCU team, and this will be their first test away from Schollmaier Arena. SMU is having a blue out, and their crowd is expected to be loud and active. Young players will need to keep their head on straight, and steadying veteran prescences like Alex Robinson and JD Miller will be key. Provide the leadership and play your game.
SMU is actually the second best opponent that TCU has faced on paper (Fresno State being #1), but with the addition of the road element and the rivalry aspect this game is clearly the biggest of the season. That being said, I think TCU is the better ball club this season. The Frogs much improved defense will be put to the test, but I think SMU’s attempts to slow the game and control the glass won’t work well against this iteration of the Frogs.
Desmond Bane appears to have bounced back after a few rough games, and I like him to lead the Frogs in scoring again. It would be great to see the young guys thrive as well, particularly looking at Kevin Samuel, Yuat Alok, and Kendric Davis. The game will be close throughout, but the Frogs pull it out in the end.
Prediction: TCU 76, SMU 72
Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com
- TCU and SMU meet for the 193rd time on Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Moody Coliseum.
- It will be TCU’s first road contest of the season after starting the year 5-1 at home.
- Senior guard Alex Robinson leads the nation with 9.3 assists per game and has had at least 10 assists in each of his last two games. He (475) is five assists away from matching Kyan Anderson for third 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 73.5 percent and ranks second in blocked shots at 2.2 per game. He’s had multiple blocked shots in four-straight games.
- Sophomore guard Kouat Noi averaged 21.5 points and was 18 of 26 from the field over the past two games including a career-high 27 against Eastern Michigan. His 15.7 points per game average rank second on the team.
- The Horned Frogs lead the nation with 22.2 assists per game and have totaled 31 and 29 assists in each of the last two games.
- 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, topping out at No. 18, and are currently receiving votes in the AP Poll.