Game Time: 1:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPNU | Series: Texas Tech leads 79-51 | Game Line: TCU -3.5
The TCU Horned Frogs (16-6) return home on Saturday, looking to gain a key victory over the #10 Texas Tech Red Raiders (18-4) as Selection Sunday draws nearer. The Frogs won a key game in Stillwater, topping OSU by a score of 79-66. Kenrich Williams led the way, having a near triple double with a 13/9/6 statline. Also in double figures were Alex Robinson (13), Desmond Bane (12), Kouat Noi (12), and Vladimir Brodziansky (10). TCU dominated the game inside, outrebounding the Pokes 37/26 and holding them to 35.7% on two point field goals. The Frogs were able to pull out the win despite turning the ball over 20 times (as opposed to their 16 assists), and any road win you can get in Big 12 is something you will take.
The Red Raiders are coming off an overtime win over Texas 73-71. Keenan Evans single handedly willed Tech to the win, scoring 38 points while no one else even hit double figures. He nailed the game winning two as time expired to avoid a second overtime. The Raiders played solid defense throughout the game, holding players like Dylan Osetkowski to 8 points on 2/11 shooting. Tech has a really solid resume on the season, owning non-conference wins over Nevada, Northwestern, and Boston College, and sport a 6-3 record in Big 12 play. Their three conference losses have all come on the road, and their sole loss in conference play was a neutral site game against Seton Hall.
Tech’s driving force is Keenan Evans, who is possibly the most underrated player in the country. The senior guard leads the team in scoring and passing, and KenPom has him 8th in the player of the year race. He drives all their action, starting at the point and using 28% of Tech’s possessions when he’s on the court. He’s shot only 34% from three on the year, but his junior year he shot 43%, meaning he has range. He combines this deep range ability with elite scoring inside and an elite ability to get to the line. Evans really is the key to Tech’s team; he has had three straight exceptional games in wins that were prefaced by two terrible games in losses. Evans’s backcourt mate is freshman Jarrett Culver, a recent addition to the starting lineup. A great find by Chris Beard and staff, Culver is a complete player who has the athleticism to get out in the open court while also shooting 37% from three. He is top 100 in the nation for steal percentage (3.3%, 94th), and is a real weapon as a hometown kid. He is just a freshman, meaning his play can be inconsistent from game to game, but when he’s on he’s the perfect compliment for Evans’s game. Another freshman who has recently broken into the starting lineup is Zhaire Smith. The more highly regarded recruit out of high school, Smith is a more skilled rebounder and inside scorer than Culver. He has surprisingly struggled from three, 5/18 (27%) on the year, but other than that limitation he has emerged as a more than solid starter at the three on both offense and defense.
Norense Odiase has been the starter at center for most of the season. The Fort Worth native is one of the top rebounders in the conference, ranking 2nd in oReb% and 3rd in dReb% in Big 12 play. He also has been an elite defensive presence as one of the top shot blockers in the league. He doesn’t shoot it a ton, and he fouls a ton, so expect to see plenty of rotation at the center position this game. Justin Gray has been a starter all year at power forward, but he has had a minimal impact in 2018. He has only registered double digit scoring on January 2 against Kansas. He’s a good defensive player, but I’m sure Tech fans want more out of him after the injury to Zach Smith.
Brandone Francis is probably the most important reserve for Tech. He leads the team in three point shooting at 46%, and has the ability to flip between either forward position. He doesn’t rebound or shoot free throws well, but his versatility makes him one of the better matchups against Kenny Hustle in the league. Tommy Hamilton, a DePaul transfer, gets a lot of the minutes at center when Odiase gets in foul trouble. Hamilton is a much more assertive offensive player, jacking up threes at a 39% clip while standing at 6’11 250. His post game offensively needs work, though he’ll still through shots up, and he is a pretty good rebounder as well. Niem Stevenson also plays a good amount of minutes, and he plays all over from backup point guard to even some spot power forward and center in small ball lineups. He has had a rough go of it in Big 12 play, really disappointing from a senior, but he has had very good games in the past against teams like Baylor and West Virginia. He, like Gray, hasn’t been able to crack double digit scoring in 2018, but perhaps he can get back on track soon. The final reserve we will cover is Davide Moretti, a freshman from Italy. He hasn’t scored in almost a month, and he recently has been relegated to the backend of the rotation. He’s shooting in the low 30s, but I think Beard has high hopes for the kid in the long term.
Tech is the anti-TCU, in that they are a cream of the crop defensive team and the worst offensive team in the league by offensive rating. Their #1 ranking in defense has come courtesy of West Virginia short circuiting as of late, and they are barely behind Texas and Baylor in terms of offensive production. Nationally, they are the #3 defense, ranking #20 or better in basically every meaningful defensive statistic. Offensively, their struggles in conference play can be attributed to rough three point shooting, 30.7%, which is 2 percentage points worse than the next team. They’ve also been turning it over on around 1/5 of their possessions, giving opponents extra opportunities to crack their defense. Their main strength is their free throw to field goal ratio, which is tops in the conference, so players like Evans will get plenty of chances to get theirs. They’ve played well against top opponents, but overall their schedule was pretty weak out of conference (314th in the country).
Three Things to Look For
I mean, this seems pretty obvious after looking at the UT game. Evans is a true superstar point guard, and I can’t praise the guy enough for the season he’s had thus far. A Rob will have a tall task this game, trying to contain a top player while facilitating against a top defense, but I think he’s up to task. Limiting him to around 20 points would be considered a victory for this category.
Unstoppable force meets immovable object
This really is an intriguing matchup, with the #1 offense against the #1 defense. On the flip side, we see the #10 offense against the #8 defense (so I guess a very stoppable force against an easily movable object?). I have no special insight into how this matchup will play out, as these things are typically volatile, but no doubt it should make for some interesting basketball in Fort Dixon.
TCU has been a killer home team this season, while Tech’s four losses have all been away from Lubbock. The crowd for the West Virginia game was the best in recent memory for TCU, and it will need to be taken to higher level this Saturday. There is a throwback theme, with TCU donning their awesome throwback unis, so the crowd needs to take a page out of This Is Spinal Tap and crank the noise to 11.
This should be a very good game, as basically every TCU Big 12 game has been this season. I think the deciding factor is the home court advantage, which seems to really give the Frogs a huge boost. TCU hasn’t fallen onto the bubble yet, and the Oklahoma State win helped, but they really need this game. A 9-9 conference record basically ensures you’re in, and they could get there just by winning at home. TCU wins a close one, perhaps in overtime, through the great play of Kenny Hustle.
Prediction: TCU 75, #10 Texas Tech 74
Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- The Frogs’ other top 10 win was an 82-73 victory over No. 7 West Virginia on Jan. 22.
- TCU has never defeated three top 25 teams in the same season.
- It will be TCU’s “retro rewind” game where it will wear throwback uniforms first worn in 1949-50 season.
- TCU will honor the 1967-68 Final Eight team in the first half at the under four-minute media timeout.
- The Frogs are coming off a 79-66 win over Oklahoma State Tuesday, their first win in Stillwater since the 1924-25 season.
- During the win over the Cowboys, Kenrich Williams became the 35th TCU player to eclipse 1,000 career points.
- TCU is 11-2 at home this season with its two losses coming to then No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 10 Kansas.
- TCU’s six losses this season are by a combined 19 points, an average of 3.2 points per game.
- The Frogs were ranked for eight consecutive weeks. They are receiving votes in both the AP and the USA Today polls.
- TCU was ranked as high as No. 10 in the AP Top 25, which was its highest ranking in school history.
- TCU leads the Big 12 Conference and ranks second in the NCAA with 20.0 assists per game.
- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assist turnover ratio (10th, 1.55), field goal percentage (11th, 50.5), rebounding margin (17th, +7.3), scoring (6th, 86.5) and 3-point percentage (15th, 41.0).
- TCU ranks fifth in offensive efficiency, the best in the Big 12, according to KenPom.com.
- Kenrich Williams has recorded nine double-doubles and is averaging 14.4 points and a team-best 9.6 rebounds this season.
- With a balanced scoring attack, TCU has six TCU players averaging 9.8 points or more.
- Williams is one rebound shy of tying Kurt Thomas (782) for eighth all-time at TCU.
- Vladimir Brodziansky leads TCU with 15.1 points per game and has scored in double figures in the last 13 games.
- Freshman Kouat Noi leads the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage (48.0).
About the Opponent
- Texas Tech is coming off a 73-71 overtime win against Texas on Wednesday.
- The Red Raiders enter Saturday’s contest on a three-game winning streak.
- Senior Keenan Evans ranks second in the Big 12 with 18.6 points per game. He scored 38 points against Texas including a buzzer-beater in overtime to give the Red Raiders a two-point win.
- Texas Tech leads the all-time series 79-51.
- In Fort Worth, the series is tied 31-31 with TCU winning last season’s meeting 62-61 on Feb. 7.
- It is the first time a ranked Texas Tech team has played in Fort Worth since Dec. 8, 2009 when it was ranked No. 23.
- TCU will wear its white FROGS (script) uniforms on Saturday. The “new” uniforms were worn twice last season, first in a 78-63 win over Texas on Feb. 4 and again in a 61-60 loss to West Virginia on Feb. 25. This season, TCU wore them in a 73-68 loss at Kansas State on Jan. 20.
- The original FROGS script uniforms debuted during the 1949-50 season and were last worn during 1963-64.
1967-68 Final Eight Team
- TCU will honor the 1967-68 team on Saturday. The Frogs won the Southwest Conference that season and defeated Kansas State (77-72) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to No. 1 Houston (103-68) in the Midwest Regional championship in Wichita, Kan. The Cougars were led by Elvin Hayes who scored 39 against the Frogs.
- The TCU team featured James Cash, the first African-American basketball player in the Southwest Conference and one of four TCU players to have his jersey retired.
Three Pointers from Everyone
TCU has been one of the best shooting teams in the nation all season. Part of the reason the Frogs are so good is because of the number of weapons from 3-point range. TCU has eight players who have made 10 or more 3-pointers this season.
TCU’s six losses, have come by five or fewer points, a total of 19 points and an average of 3.2 points per game. The Frogs’ last three regular-season losses of the 2016-17 season came by five or fewer points, so TCU’s last nine regular-season losses have come by a margin of five or less. In the 64 Big 12 losses prior to the 2016-17 season, Jamie Dixon’s first year, only six were by five or fewer points.
Kenrich Williams is one of 10 players in TCU history with 700 career rebounds. The senior is in 9th on the all-time list with 781 boards, one behind Kurt Thomas. He is the first person since 1998 to join the 700-club. For more on the list, see page nine.
Seniors Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams both went over 1,000 points for their careers. Brodziansky went over 1,000 during the game with Nevada and Williams entered the club at Oklahoma State. Later this season, Williams will become the fifth player in TCU history with 1,000 points and 800 rebounds, the first since 1992.
Shooting and Scoring
- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and sixth in the NCAA in scoring offense (86.5). TCU has not averaged 80 or more points per game in a season since the 2002-03 campaign where it averaged 80.4. Last year’s NIT championship team averaged 69.7 points.
- The Frogs rank first in the Big 12 and second in the NCAA in assists per game (19.7).
- TCU ranks first in the Big 12 and 11th in the NCAA in field goal shooting (50.5%). TCU has never averaged 50 percent or better in a season.
- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 15th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (41.0%).
- TCU’s offensive efficiency ranks fifth at 120.8 according to KenPom.com. - TCU has three among the top 11 in shooting percentage in the Big 12... 5. Vladimir Brodziansky - 58.4, 10. Kouat Noi - 54.7, 11. Desmond Bane - 52.8. TCU is the only team with three players ranked in the top 15 in shooting percentage in the Big 12. - Freshman Kouat Noi (47.2) leads the Big 12 in 3-point percentage. Sophomore Desmond Bane ranks third (46.6). - TCU has scored over 90 points eight times this season. It’s the most times the Frogs have scored 90 or more in a season since the 2001-02 season when they did it 13 times.