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TCU Basketball Preview: @ #10 Kansas

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The Frogs travel to one of the loudest arenas in the country in search of a big win

Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Allen Fieldhouse – Lawrence, KS | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Kansas leads 15-2 | Game Line: Kansas -7.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (16-7) have a quick turnaround, as they head to Lawrence to face the #10 Kansas Jayhawks (18-5). TCU is coming off a bitterly disappointing loss to Texas Tech by a score of 83-71. Kenrich Williams had a double double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Vladimir Brodziansky and Desmond Bane added 18 and 13 respectively. Tech ran out to a big lead early, winning the first 10 minutes by a score of 27-9, and had a huge margin that completely took the Frog faithful out of the game. Once again, defense was the big culprit, as the Red Raider offense that ranked last in the Big 12 in efficiency torched the Frogs to the tune of 55/46/81 splits. The silver lining is that the Frogs battled back to make the score respectable. A 12 point home loss is years better than a 30 point home loss, but ultimately it’s impossible to see the game as anything more than a massive letdown.

The Jayhawks also dropped a home game in their most recent contest, an 84-79 decision against Oklahoma State. Udoka Azubuike led the team with 20 points, joined in double figures by Devonte’ Graham (17), Svi Mykhailiuk (17), and Malik Newman (16). The Pokes dominated the boards and also got Kendall Smith hot early, forcing KU to play catch up all game. Kansas has already dropped two home conference matchups, opening the door for Tech to end their streak of Big 12 championships. Since the Frogs last met up with KU, the Jayhawks sport a 6-2 record, and have tightened their lineup even more than they had it before. It’s a 7 man rotation for KU, so both teams will be short on bench minutes this game.

I try not to be repetitive on these previews if the Frogs have already faced an opponent, so I’ll simply breakdown how KU’s players have done in the games since the last matchup (to read the first KU preview, click here). Devonte’ Graham has taken on a huge load for the Jayhawks, playing all 40 minutes in the last 6 games. He has remained an elite distributor in this time, but the fatigue may be getting him a little as he had back to back rough games against Oklahoma and Texas A&M. However, he was very efficient against Oklahoma State, and KU will continue to go as he goes. Mykhailiuk has been on fire from three, routinely knocking down four or five three point shots a game. He is another guy who doesn’t really sub out, running the small ball four or sitting for the bigger lineups. He nailed 5/7 threes last game against the Frogs, so it’s safe to say he will remain a priority. Azubuike garnered national attention after his free throw shooting was key in the Oklahoma loss. His great game against Oklahoma State came off the heels of a string of rough performances. In terms of eFG%, he still ranks #1 in the country, and he gave the Frogs fits last game until they fouled him out. Getting Azubuike out of the game has to be high on the list of priorities for TCU, as he is too big for Vlad and too fast for Hamdy.

LaGerald Vick has really fallen off a cliff in 2018, and his continued struggles really hamper the maximum potential of this KU team. Just compare his overall shooting splits with his conference ones: 50/40/64 to 40/31/44. He remains a lynchpin on defense, but it’s incredibly how poorly he’s been playing as of late. Malik Newman scored only 1 point against TCU in their last matchup, but the following game he had 27 points, and he has been back in the starting lineup ever since. He’s been on a roll, scoring in double figures in 5 straight games and also rebounding at a really strong rate. I said in my last preview that I’m not high on Newman’s game, but when he’s on he’s on. The Frogs will have to figure out something for Newman, which they didn’t have to do last matchup. With Newman’s ascension, Marcus Garrett has moved back to the bench. He’s basically the exact same as I wrote last time, as he’s scored more than 5 points just once since the TCU game, but expect to see him out there for 15-20 minutes. Mitch Lightfoot is a familiar name for Frog fans, as he inexplicably killed the Frogs last matchup. If it’s any consolation to TCU fans, he hasn’t had anything approaching the game he had in Fort Worth in the 8 games since. TCU will have to do a better job against him this game, as his 6 blocks and 6 offensive rebounds last time were unacceptable.

Looking at Kansas’s Big 12 ranks, they have #2 offense (behind the Frogs) and the #5 defense. Offensively, they’ve been tops in the conference at taking care of the ball, while shooting at a very efficient clip. That’s a combination that will win basketball games. Their one weak spot has been free throw shooting, notably Azubuike, ranking dead last in the conference. I wonder how much they practice free throws up in Lawrence, as it seems like free throw shooting is a common achilles heel for the Jayhawks. Defensively, they are tops in the conference at opponent eFG%, as well as opponent 3P%. They have been weaker inside, and their notable defensive deficiency is boarding. They rank last in the league in offensive rebounding allowed. Regardless of these metrics, the Frogs will be walking into one of the toughest places to play in America. They’ve never won in Allen Fieldhouse, though they have topped the Jayhawks before. It’ll take a complete game to win this one.

Three Things to Look For

The paint is your friend

Azubuike and Lightfoot had great games in Fort Worth, but on paper this matchup should favor the Frogs. The Frogs’ number one eFG% will go against the number one eFG% defense, ditto for three point shooting. The Frogs rank 4th in the conference in 2 point field goals, and will need to play above their level inside to pull out a win. This key also comprises the necessity of boarding well, as second chances will be key against as good an offense as KU is. KU doesn’t turn it over, so the defense will be put on maximum stress. Speaking of the defense...

Can we find an answer on defense?

This has been a key on so many of these articles. The Frogs are simply terrible defensively. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think one area that works to the Frogs advantage is their ease in slipping between man and zone. I’m a big fan of the full court 1-2-2 press they break out sometimes, and perhaps giving KU a plethora of different looks could help keep them off balance. I’m sure Coach Dixon has been pulling his hair out trying to find a solution on this end, but until he finds one it will continue to destroy the Frogs in the Big 12.

Guard the three

In Fort Worth, KU couldn’t miss from three, nailing 11 of their 20 attempts. The main culprit was Svi, but Graham and Vick also drilled some. Sure defense overall is important, but in particular the three is going to be big, especially if the Frogs can etch out an advantage inside. At the very least, run them off the line and take the two points.

Prediction

Oh man, I don’t feel good about this one. The Jayhawks off a home loss, the Frogs looking lost, the general struggles on the road... the list goes on and on. Things are never as good or bad as they seem in sports, but it’s hard to say that things are going swimmingly for the Frogs right now. They need to be in front of the home fans against an unranked team in order to regain their mojo, and this is the exact opposite of that. I don’t trust this Frogs D to hold up against Kansas’s attack, and even if Vlad has another great game I fear it won’t be enough. I hope the Frogs keep it close, or even prove me wrong, but I just don’t see them winning this go around. Who knows though, the Big 12 has been crazy.

Prediction: #10 Kansas 87, TCU 80

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

- The Frogs recorded its first win inside a historic facility once this season when it won at OSU in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

- The Frogs’ are 1-3 against top 10 teams. Their win was an 82-73 victory over No. 7 West Virginia on Jan. 22.

- TCU has never defeated two top 10 teams or three top 25 teams in the same season.

- TCU is looking for its first win over a ranked team on the road since Jan. 19, 1998 at No. 24 Hawaii.

- TCU is 2-3 in Big 12 road games this season.

- TCU is 3-0 on Tuesdays this season and 7-0 on Tuesdays under Jamie Dixon.

- Alex Robinson is tied with Jamie Dixon for eighth in career assists at TCU with 353 assists.

- The Frogs were ranked for eight consecutive weeks. They are receiving votes in this week’s AP poll.

- 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 19.7 assists per game.

- TCU ranks among the national leaders in assist turnover ratio (11th, 1.53), field goal percentage (11th, 50.4), rebounding margin (15th, +7.2), scoring (9th, 85.8) and 3-point percentage (13th, 41.2).

- TCU ranks fifth in offensive efficiency, the best in the Big 12, according to KenPom.com.

- Kenrich Williams has recorded 10 double-doubles and is averaging 14.3 points and a team-best 9.7 rebounds this season.

- With a balanced scoring attack, TCU has six TCU players averaging 9.6 points or more.

- With one more rebound, Kenrich Williams will move into the top five all-time at TCU. He is currently sixth at 794.

- Vladimir Brodziansky leads TCU with 15.2 points per game and has scored in double figures in the last 14 games.

- In the last four games against KU, Brodziansky has averaged 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

- Desmond Bane (47.8) and Kouat Noi (47.4) rank first and second, respectively, in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage.

About the Opponent

- Kansas is coming off an 84-79 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday.

- The Jayhawks are led by Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, Devonte Graham whose 17.2 points per game rank third and 7.5 assists rank second in the Big 12. Sophomore Udoka Azubuike leads the nation in field goal shooting at 76.2 percent.

- The Jayhawks were the preseason pick to win their 14th-straight Big 12 championship.

About the Series

- Kansas leads the all-time series 15-2, including a 6-0 advantage in Lawrence.

- In the last meeting, the then-No. 10 Jayhawks defeated the No. 16 Horned Frogs 88-84 in Schollmaier Arena. Vladimir Brodziansky led TCU with 20 points. Kenrich Williams had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

- TCU’s last win over KU came in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Big 12 Championship in Kansas City. The Frogs beat the No. 1 Jayhawks 85-82.

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.

The Losses

TCU’s first six losses of the season, came by five or fewer points, a total of 19 points and an average of 3.2 points per game. The Frogs’ 83-71 loss to Iowa State on Feb. 3 was their largest margin of defeat at home under Jamie Dixon.

Robinson Without Fisher

The loss of Jaylen Fisher has translated to a bigger role for junior guard Alex Robinson. In the first 17 games of the season, Robinson averaged 7.4 points, 4.9 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 26.7 minutes per game. Since Fisher was ruled out for the season on Jan. 17, Robinson has averaged 11.8 points, 8.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 36.0 minutes over five games.

700-Rebound Club

Kenrich Williams is one of 10 players in TCU history with 700 career rebounds. The senior is in 6th on the all-time list with 794 boards, one behind Kurt Thomas. He is the first person since 1998 to join the 700-club.

1,000-Point Club

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.

TCU vs. Top 25

- TCU is 18-151 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including 12-48 at home and 1-77 on the road.

- TCU’s 82-73 win over No. 7 West Virginia broke a 12-game losing streak against teams ranked in the top 25 at home. It’s last win was over a ranked team at home came on Feb. 14, 2015, a 70-55 win over No. 21 Oklahoma State at Wilkerson-Greines. It was also TCU’s first win over a ranked team in Schollmaier Arena, which was renovated and renamed from Daniel-Meyer Coliseum during the 2015-16 season.

- TCU was 1-7 against ranked teams last season with the win coming against No. 1 Kansas on March 9, 2017 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

- TCU’s last and only win over a top 25 team on the road came on Jan. 19, 1998, an 83-76 win at Hawai’i.

Shooting and Scoring

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and ninth in the NCAA in scoring offense (85.8). 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 (50.4%). TCU has never averaged 50 percent or better in a season.

- TCU ranks second in the Big 12 and 13th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting (41.2%).

- TCU’s offensive efficiency ranks fifth at 121.0 according to KenPom.com.

- TCU has three among the top 11 in shooting percentage in the Big 12... 5. Vladimir Brodziansky - 58.8, 10. Kouat Noi - 54.2, 11. Desmond Bane - 53.8. TCU is the only team with three players ranked in the top 11 in shooting percentage in the Big 12.

- Sophomore Desmond Bane (47.8) and freshman Kouat Noi (47.4), rank first and second, respectively, in 3-point percentage in the Big 12.

- 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.