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TCU Basketball Preview: Kansas State

Another chance for a Big 12 road win

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Kansas State
The key to beating the Cats is containing Dean Wade.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 3:00 PM CST | Location: Bramlage Coliseum – Manhattan, KS | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Kansas State leads 13-6 | Game Line: Kansas State -1

The TCU Horned Frogs (13-3) hit the road again on Saturday in search of their first Big 12 victory on the road this season. They will face the Kansas State Wildcats (13-4) in the Little Apple. Last time out, the Frogs absolutely dismantled West Virginia by a score of 98-67. Nearly every player on the team was in double figures, led by Desmond Bane’s 26. Alex Robinson had another double double of 14 points and 10 assists, while JD Miller (13), Kouat Noi (12), Lat Mayen (12), and Kevin Samuel (10) were the other Frogs in double figures.

Kansas State’s last game was an impressive road win over Oklahoma, 74-61. The Wildcats were carried by their two stars: Barry Brown (25 points) and Dean Wade (20). Outside of a puzzling loss to Tulsa, the Wildcats sport a strong resume. Their losses are all tough games (@Marquette, @Texas Tech, Texas), while they pulled out big road wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma (as mentioned above). Additionally, their two conference losses came without the services of Dean Wade, who has been struggling with an injury, and they are a completely different team on both ends when he is out there.

This is an experienced Wildcats team, with one of the top teams nationally in returning minutes. K State rolls out one of the top defenses in the country; their defensive efficiency is 5th nationally per KenPom. They lock down the defensive glass (3rd nationally in opponent offensive rebound rate) and every player on their squad can guard multiple positions. They guard from inside out, especially when Wade is in the rotation, and have contained offenses like Iowa State and Oklahoma to 57 and 61 points each. Offensively, it’s more of a mixed bag, with the Wildcats relying heavily on their two stars to pick up the scoring slack. They don’t turn the ball over, which is a real plus for a team that doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well. Look for the Wildcats to work the ball inside to Wade, trying to set up open shots for players like Brown and Kamau Stokes. Everything for K State runs through the inside; win that battle and you win the game.

Projected Starting Five

#32 Dean Wade (Senior from St John, KS)

2018-19 Stats: 13.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 51/42/80 shooting splits

Wade, my preseason pick for Big 12 player of the year, has struggled with the injury bug this season, and the Wildcats have gone as he has. His per game numbers are dragged down by a few games where he played through injury, so don’t be fooled. He’s still the same player that has terrorized TCU the past 3 seasons. Frog fans are very aware of his skillset. He can step out and drill a jump shot, but also can facilitate out of the high post. If anything, he has gotten even better at passing this season, upping his assist rate to a solid 22.6 from 18.3 a season ago. He leads the team in rebounding; only Xavier Sneed has more and Sneed has played in 5 more games. His 9.2 offensive rebound rate and 21.4 defensive rate are both improvements over his already solid numbers from a season ago. Wade is a complete player from top to bottom, and a player whose game I love to watch when we aren’t playing him. His return has been a key component of Kansas State’s recent surge, and the Frogs will need to go toe-to-toe with #32 to have any chance of pulling this one out.

#5 Barry Brown (Senior from St Petersburg, FL)

2018-19 Stats: 15.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 43/31/75 shooting splits

Big 12 fans thought they had seen the last of Brown last year, as he declared for the NBA Draft. He withdrew a month later, and is back in his combo guard role for the Wildcats. Brown has remained mostly the same player from a season ago: a scoring guard who will throw up a ton of shots, with the ability to get hot at any time. In many ways, he reminds me of Lou Williams. He chucks up a ton of threes despite making less than 13 of them, but it often pays off for him. Just in the last matchup against OU he made 3 of 4 from three en route to a 25 point game. He has had three straight incredible scoring games, each driven by an improved finishing ability at the rim. He hasn’t been as much of a distributor this season, but his ability to catch fire at any moment bolsters his value on offense. Combine that with his tenacity on the ball defensively, and you have a player who can single handedly change the course of a game.

#3 Kamau Stokes (Senior from Baltimore, MD)

2018-19 Stats: 10.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 37/35/72 shooting splits

Stokes is the third wheel of KSU’s senior group, but a somewhat improved three point shot has made him a more dynamic weapon this season. Stokes struggles to finish inside due to his size (6’0, 170 lbs), but remains the team’s top passer and has limited his turnovers in conference play (34.9 assist rate is 2nd in Big 12 play, 10.3 turnover rate is 12th). He has been a remarkably consistent scorer for the Wildcats, dropping around 10 points just about every time out. If the Frogs can force him into some early season mistakes and continue their strong interior defense, they can hope to neutralize some of Stokes’s most effective aspects this season.

#20 Xavier Sneed (Junior from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 9.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 37/34/60 shooting splits

Sneed has been forced to play out of position in Wade’s absence this season, resulting in a lowered shooting efficiency and higher rebounding totals. He has slid back down to his natural guard/forward spot in Wade’s return, though he has still mostly struggled to put the ball in the basket. He has grown as a playmaker, upping his assist rate a few points, and TCU fans should be familiar with Sneed as he was a star in beating them just two seasons ago. Sneed is a bit of a streaky offensive player, and is on a downturn over the past few games, but he remains a dynamic weapon when he’s hitting his marks.

#14 Makol Mawien (Junior from West Valley City, UT)

2018-19 Stats: 7.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 54/20/69 shooting splits

Mawien is the anchor of the Wildcats’ defense; he is their leading shot blocker and a classic interior big man. He has bulked up quite a bit this season, although the added size has hurt his shooting stroke, as he is about 6% worse on his shots this season. Additionally, he has an issue with foul trouble: for example, he fouled out after only 6 minutes against West Virginia. Despite these flaws, he remains an elite offensive rebounder who has the size and strength to challenge JD Miller should Kevin Samuel draw Dean Wade. After Mawien’s 16 point, 9 board, 3 block performance against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament a season ago, no Frog fan should doubt his ability to leave a mark on the game.

Projected Reserves

#2 Cartier Diarra (Sophomore from Florence, SC)

2018-19 Stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 35/29/69 shooting splits

Diarra started the back half of Kansas State’s 2017-18 season following an injury to Stokes, but has struggled to find his footing in his sophomore campaign. He nailed 41% of his threes a season ago, and now that number has fallen to 29%. His two point shots are down as well, 52% to 43%. His assist rate has dropped without a corresponding decrease in turnover rate, and just about the only stat he looks good in is free throw rate. His rebounding has improved a touch, showing a continued effort despite his struggles, and the Frogs need to keep in mind how dangerous Diarra can be when he plays up to his freshman year standards.

#00 Mike McGuirl (Sophomore from Ellington, CT)

2018-19 Stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 34/27/60 shooting splits

McGuirl is one player who has seen a greatly expanded role this season. After a nice run in March Madness, McGuirl has become the top backup guard on the team. He chucks up a ton of threes, making them at a mere 27% clip. He had a very good game against West Virginia recently, scoring 18 points, but other than that it has largely been a struggle for the second year player. He has shown some natural passing instincts, and he’s played heavy minutes against top flight competition, but he will need to find some sort of calling card to reach his maximum efficiency.

#34 Levi Stockard (Sophomore from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 1.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.2 APG, 57/0/46 shooting splits

Stockard has taken on an increasing role since the start of Big 12 play. He’s a classic backup center; he stays out of the way, grabs rebounds, and forces his way to the foul line on a good chunk of his possessions. He has a penchant for turnovers, but for the most part does his job without having an outsized impact on the final result.

#1 Shaun Neal-Williams (Freshman from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 1.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.4 APG, 27/24/58 shooting splits

A name to pay attention to moving forward, Neal-Williams has had a rough go of it in his debut season. The encouraging sign for Wildcats fans has to be his rebounding, which is strong despite his 6’3 stature. Everything else has been a ride for the freshman, from his shooting to some major foul trouble during Big 12 play. He’s only played 7 minutes over the past 2 games, so we’ll see what kind of role Neal-Williams plays on Saturday.

#23 Austin Trice (Junior from Chicago, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 2.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.1 APG, 55/0/24 shooting splits

Trice, a prized JUCO recruit, played far more at the beginning of the season before being relegated to the end of the bench over the past few months. He may very well be the worst free throw shooter in Division I, making under a quarter of his attempts, though he compensates with a crazy 19.6 offensive rebound rate. Trice is relentless on the glass, by far his top value as a player.

Three Things to Watch For

TCU’s Offense

The Frogs will be challenged on the offensive end in a major way on Saturday. This is the top defense they will have faced, the only tougher one down the pipeline is Texas Tech’s #1 rated squad. Teams have occasionally frustrated the Frogs into simple turnovers, but have largely been unable to stop their red hot shooting. K State does a great job across the board defensively, so it will be up to Alex Robinson to guide to TCU offense where it needs to go.

A Tale of Two Paces

Kansas State likes to slow the pace down, be deliberate, and grind out wins. TCU is more willing to take shots early in the shot clock and get up and down and run. I think the team that sets the pace on their terms will stand a great chance of gaining an advantage. As an aside, I find it interesting that TCU is the team that goes fast when they have the size advantage over the Wildcats.

Momentum: Myth or Matter?

The Frogs were firing on all cylinders against West Virginia, despite the recent bad news from Jaylen Fisher. The team looks to be having fun amidst the bad news, and will look to carry their strong play over to the next game. I’m sure that there’s enough to say the Frogs have major positive momentum, but securing this grindhouse road win would set the Frogs up nicely going into next week’s slate.

Prediction

Kansas State is a real tough place to play, and their defense combined with Dean Wade’s return is enough to give me pause. Still, I really like the brand of basketball the Frogs are playing, and I feel one of these close road games will eventually have to go their way. Don’t come into this expecting another WVU, those kinds of games rarely happen in the Big 12. Instead, look for the Frogs to play calm, confident basketball en route to a satisfying road win.

Prediction: TCU 70, Kansas State 69

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

  • TCU will hit the road for the third time in four games when it plays at Kansas State Saturday at 3 p.m.
  • The Frogs are 17-23 in Big 12 play under Jamie Dixon after going 9-9 last season, their most in its six seasons of the Big 12.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson ranks second in the nation at 8.2 assists per game. He is 26 assists away from becoming TCU’s career leader. Robinson was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award.
  • Junior guard Desmond Bane ranks seventh in the Big 12 with 14.7 points per game. He is coming off a season-high 26 points against West Virginia.
  • Redshirt freshman Kevin Samuel ranks third in the Big 12 at 69.8 percent shooting from the field.
  • Kouat Noi, who hit eight 3-pointers at Oklahoma, has made a 3-pointer in 16-straight games dating back to last season.
  • TCU is one of 12 teams in the nation that is top 50 in points per game and top 100 in points allowed.
  • The Horned Frogs rank fifth in the nation with 19.4 assists per game, rank ninth in assists-turnover ratio at 1.52, 32nd in field goal percentage at 48.4 and eighth in 3-point percentage defense at 27.4.
  • TCU dropped out of the AP Top 25 this week, but is still receiving votes. The Frogs began the season ranked No. 21 and were ranked for three-straight weeks to begin the season, topping out at No. 18.