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TCU Basketball Preview: Texas

The Horns are coming off a bounce back win of their own

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 6:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPNU | Series: Texas leads 108-66 | Game Line: TCU -2.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (13-4) look to hold serve at home as they take on the Texas Longhorns (11-7) on Wednesday night. Last time out, the Frogs had a rough go of it in Manhattan, losing 65-55 to Kansas State. Missing Kouat Noi, the Frogs couldn’t get anything going against a tough K State defense. Alex Robinson picked up the scoring load with 17 points, but the Wildcats defense collapsed on him and forced him into 8 turnovers. Desmond Bane had 16 points and JD Miller had 11 as well.

Texas snapped a three game losing streak with their 75-72 win over Oklahoma. Jaxson Hayes was big on both ends for the Longhorns, scoring 15 points on 4/4 shooting with 5 blocks. Kerwin Roach led the team in scoring with 23, Dylan Osetkowski had 15 points and 11 boards, and Matt Coleman dropped 15. The triumph over the Sooners snapped a string of three tight losses, two coming against Kansas and Texas Tech. Texas has been a very streaky team this season, owning some amazing wins (North Carolina and Purdue) as well as some puzzling losses (at home against Radford). Teams like this are among the most dangerous, as you never know where the threat will come from or exactly which Texas shows up.

With the loss of Mo Bamba to the NBA, you would expect Texas’s defense to take a step back this season. That hasn’t been the case, as they have a near identical defensive rating, accompanied by a more efficient offense. They still jack up a ton of threes despite not shooting them exceptionally well (32.4%), which adds to their unpredictable nature. They are one of the best teams in the nation in taking care of the ball (26th in turnover rate; 16.2%), and unlike the Frogs, their turnover rate has remained flat in Big 12 play. What is impressive about Texas is their ability to control the game inside, despite Hayes being their only imposing player size wise. They grab offensive boards at a reasonable clip, and limit opposing teams to only 44.5% shooting from two (19th best in the nation). As such, teams have focused more on beating Texas from three, which has varying success as seen above. Basically, Texas wants to play a methodical game. They want very few turnovers, to play in the halfcourt, and control the paint. To beat Texas, the Frogs will need to keep their shooting sharp and get contributions from some young big men.

Projected Starting Five

#12 Kerwin Roach (Senior from Houston, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 14.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 43/34/71 shooting splits

Roach, who has taken on backup point guard duties as well as his usual spot off ball, has been a major part of Texas’s offensive improvement. He leads the team in scoring, and as his 32 points against North Carolina show, he can heat up at any time. Turnover issues have limited Roach’s effectiveness in the past, but he seems to have mostly exorcised those demons (a rough game against West Virginia notwithstanding). His maturity as a senior has been nice to watch from a player who has seen a lot of ups and downs in his career. He’s on a hot streak of four straight games in double figures, and will definitely be priority number one for the Frogs defense.

#2 Matt Coleman (Sophomore from Norfolk, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 10.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.6 APG, 41/32/76 shooting splits

Coleman returns after starting as Texas’s point guard as a true freshman. You would expect big improvements from a player who achieved such a position in his first year, and while he hasn’t become an all-league player yet, Coleman has definitely refined his game this season. He’s still not an exceptional shooter, but he has clearly improved (28.6% to 32.4% on threes) and his move to a more off ball role has decreased his turnovers with a minimal impact on his ability to distribute. He was exceptional against Kansas, and his continued improvement will be huge if Texas is going to get where they want to go.

#10 Jaxson Hayes (Freshman from Loveland, OH)

2018-19 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.3 APG, 76/0/70 shooting splits

This is the player that really scares me. Standing at just under 7 foot, Hayes has entered the starting lineup over the past 7 games and immediately impacted both ends of the floor. He’s averaging just under 13 points and 3 blocks a game over his past 4 contests, scoring nearly every time he throws up a shot. He is 1st in the Big 12 in eFG% and TS%, and 9th nationally in block rate (13.3%). He’s so long and athletic, the only thing keeping him from being a pure modern big man is range on his jumper. The best way to take him out of the game is to physically take him out: Hayes fouls a ton (not unusual for a freshman), so his impact could be limited if he is in foul trouble.

#21 Dylan Osetkowski (Senior from San Diego, CA)

2018-19 Stats: 9.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 0.9 APG, 41/26/69 shooting splits

The one time Tulane transfer, Osetkowski has transformed himself into one of the top rebounders in the conference this season. His offensive and defensive rebounding rates rank 108th and 225th in the nation respectively, and he has taken more of a backseat in the offense this year. This has been good news for the Longhorns, as his shooting splits remain about the same as his junior year (read: pretty bad). Osetkowski’s willingness to take a lesser role his senior year reminds me of Brandon Parrish from Jamie Dixon’s first season, and those types of players are big when building a winning program. Osetkowski also ostensibly plays the center position, and his defensive stats have improved considerably as well this year. He’s 0/10 from three over the past 4 games, so look for him to focus in on the boards and try and contain the Frogs inside.

#55 Elijah Mitrou-Long (Junior from Mississauga, ON)

2018-19 Stats: 7.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 34/32/59 shooting splits

Mitrou-Long actually came off the bench in the Oklahoma win, but I am listing him here as he started the previous 8 games before that. The Mount St. Mary’s transfer has run the point in name only this season, as Coleman has taken up most of the distributing duties. This comes in spite of the fact that Mitrou-Long was one of the top passers in the Northeast Conference. He remains a good on ball defender, and in the past he has shown the ability to knock down threes (38% his sophomore year), but he has largely struggled to incorporate into the Longhorns’ identity. He only played 11 minutes last game, using 8% of Texas’s possessions en route to 0 points and 1 rebound. This could be the beginning of a major role reduction for the junior, but we will have to wait and see.

Projected Reserves

#13 Jase Febres (Sophomore from Houston, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 8.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.2 APG, 39/37/64 shooting splits

Febres ended last season as a starter, and retained that role until the UTA game this season, where he was replaced by Hayes in the starting 5. Febres has fashioned himself into a three point specialist, jacking up almost 6 a game and drilling them at a much better clip than his freshman season. He doesn’t facilitate anything, only 3 assists on the season, and his perimeter based game results in a horrid free throw rate (8.4) and rebounding average. When Febres is on, he can be an absolute game changer (look at how he decimated K State), but if he’s not making threes he’s not bringing much else to the party.

#3 Courtney Ramey (Freshman from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 5.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 35/32/63 shooting splits

Ramey has seen heavy minutes as a true freshman, even replacing Mitrou-Long in the starting lineup in his most recent game. The results have been as up and down as you would expect from a true freshman. While Mitrou-Long struggled against Oklahoma, so did Ramey with a 0 point, 0/5 performance. The one big advantage Ramey has: his natural playmaking instincts. He sports a top 100 assist rate nationally (28.9, 99th) which exceeds his admittedly high turnover rate. He could stand to shoot the ball a little better, but what Texas needs out of him for a win is continued passing with a lid on the number of turnovers.

#20 Jericho Sims (Sophomore from Minneapolis, MN)

2018-19 Stats: 4.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.2 APG, 57/0/67 shooting splits

Sims, who started both TCU games a season ago, was hot out the gate for the Longhorns. He was a starter until the UTA game, having impressive games against VCU and Radford. His star burned out rather quickly though, and he has been relegated to well under 10 minutes a contest in Big 12 play. When he’s in, he’s a solid option inside to both protect the rim and grab defensive boards. He won’t lose you the game shooting; he’ll lose you the game with his crazy turnover rate (26.2) and fouling (5.4 per 40).

#33 Kamaka Hepa (Freshman from Barrow, AK)

2018-19 Stats: 2.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 24/28/100 shooting splits

Hepa was a bigger part of the team in non-conference, but I figured I would list him here just in case he gets some burn. In short, he’s a three point specialist (29/38 attempts on the season are from three) who has shot the ball very poorly, limiting his time out there. Considering his minutes in Big 12 play, don’t expect to see him for more than 5 minutes unless this game is truly out of hand one way or another.

Three Things to Look For

Turnovers

I’m getting pretty close to sounding the alarm on TCU’s turnover problem. Their in conference turnover rate is 20.7, ranking 9th in the conference and would be in the 280s overall. Teams have learned they can just crash on Alex Robinson then cut off passing lanes to the three point line. A Rob needs to adjust for sure, but I think it’s unfair to put all the blame on his shoulders. The team has lost a lot of playmakers, and Robinson is often the only thing keeping the TCU offense from being a sputtering disaster. Additionally, it’s not all Alex. It seems the Frogs have simply thrown away more balls from miscommunication and laziness in the past three games than they did all season to that point. I don’t know what the exact problem is, but facing a UT defense not structured to cause havoc should be a good way to right the ship.

Take and Make Threes

I hope Kouat Noi is healthy again, because the Frogs will need his sharpshooting. TCU is #1 in three point shooting in conference while Texas’s defense is #9 in defending it. Look for Noi, Desmond Bane, and A Rob to all get the shots they like from beyond the arc. The key to beating Texas will come from the perimeter, and I trust those three to get it done like they have all season.

Interior D

An underrated storyline of the Frogs’ recent struggles: the collapse of a once stout interior defense. With personnel losses like Yuat Alok, the Frogs have has to run much smaller lineups out onto the court, resulting in opponent 2 point field goal percentage skyrocketing 6 points. The story on the interior is the inverse of the perimeter: Texas #1, TCU #9. Kevin Samuel needs to try and stay out of foul trouble, and the decision to burn Russell Barlow’s redshirt will pay dividends for getting him rest. The Horns will definitely work the ball to Hayes and Osetkowski, so the Frogs will need to recalibrate in the paint.

Prediction

I think the lesson we all learned from the day of the K State game was that it’s really hard to win on the road in this conference. I think the team isn’t as great as the West Virginia blowout would lead you to believe, but they are much better than the Kansas State loss. I think they can turn it around with a big win on Wednesday.

The key will be how the Horns defend A Rob, and if the Frogs offense can adjust accordingly. I didn’t write it above, but I feel like pace will once again play a major factor in how this game shakes out. Kouat Noi is my player to watch, as the TCU offense will put a big burden on his shoulders to break out of their scoring slump. TCU pulls away at the end for a bounce back win.

Prediction: TCU 74, Texas 70

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

  • TCU will play three games over six days beginning with Texas on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
  • It’s Suites And Sneakers Week as both the TCU and Texas coaching staffs will be wearing sneakers to support Coaches Vs. Cancer in their mission to help save more lives from cancer. TCU coaches will be wearing purple Kobe A.D. shoes.
  • The Frogs are 17-24 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 7.9 assists per game. He is 22 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 14.8 points per game.
  • Redshirt freshman Kevin Samuel ranks third in the Big 12 in shooting accuracy at 70.1 percent.
  • Kouat Noi, who did not play in Saturday’s game (sick), has made a 3-pointer in 16-straight games dating back to last season. He ranks 10th in the Big 12 with 14.2 points per game.
  • The Horned Frogs rank sixth in the nation with 18.8 assists per game, rank 19th in assists-turnover ratio at 1.44, 37th in field goal percentage at 48.2 and fifth in 3-point percentage defense at 27.1. TCU is also one of 12 teams to rank in the top 75 in scoring offense and scoring defense.
  • TCU is receiving votes in both the AP and the Coaches Top 25 polls. The Frogs began the season ranked No. 21 and were ranked for three-straight weeks to begin the season, topping out at No. 18.