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TCU Basketball Preview: Florida

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A break from Big 12 play comes in the form of the Gators

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Florida OKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 11:00 AM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Florida leads 2-0 | Game Line: TCU -4

The TCU Horned Frogs (14-4) get a break from conference play on Saturday morning, as they face off against the Florida Gators (11-7) in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. It should be a welcome break from the grind of Big 12 conference play, and the Frogs are 1-1 in the Challenge during the Jamie Dixon Era (win over Auburn, loss to Vanderbilt). Last time out, the Frogs pulled out a close one over Texas, 65-61. Desmond Bane led the scoring with 17, joined in double figures by Kouat Noi (15) and JD Miller (11). Kevin Samuel also contributed 13 rebounds.

Florida were also winners their last time out, besting Texas A&M by a 81-72 margin. KeVaughn Allen had a huge game, dropping 31 points, closely followed by Noah Locke’s 27. Andrew Nembhard was a facilitator, racking up 11 assists. The Gators have played a pretty balanced schedule so far, with their best win likely being a drubbing of Butler. They have a loss to South Carolina that doesn’t look great, but it’s pretty clear they can play with anyone in the nation.

Considering TCU’s recent turnover bug, the Florida matchup could be problematic. They rank second in the nation in forcing turnovers (24.7%), a big component of their #8 ranked defense overall. The word I think of when describing their defense is disruptive; they are going to sell out for steals and blocks, poking the ball out and frustrating your offense. Their entire rotation is full of guys who can guard multiple positions and fly around; save for Kansas, they are probably the most athletic team that TCU has faced off against this year. The Gators’ suffocating defense aids a good-not-great offense that is heavily reliant on the three ball. When it’s flowing, it’s flowing, as the Aggies learned on Tuesday night. The Gators have only lost twice when shooting better than 35% from three, and those were against Tennessee and Oklahoma. The Frogs have one of the top three point defenses in the country, and that will be stretched to its limit on Saturday. The Gators use a ton of players in their rotation, keeping everybody fresh, which could be an additional concern for an undermanned TCU team.

Projected Starting Five

#5 KeVaughn Allen (Senior from Little Rock, AR)

2018-19 Stats: 12.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 45/40/86 shooting splits

Allen is a scorer through and through, and he has recovered from a rough junior season to lead the Gators as a senior. He has especially been great in SEC play, ranking second in the conference in true shooting (71.4%) on high volume. He’s at 40% from three on the season, and remains an elite free throw shooter when he can work his way to the line. Turnovers can be a problem for him, he had 6 against A&M and sports a career high 16% TO rate. In the past this had been an area of strength for Allen, but the increased usage in his fourth year may be inflating those numbers. Regardless, Allen has been hot recently, and is surely the top threat for the Gators to pour in points. The Frogs can’t forget about him on defense either, where he sports a 3.4% steal rate (114th nationally).

#10 Noah Locke (Freshman from Baltimore, MD)

2018-19 Stats: 11.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.4 APG, 41/43/75 shooting splits

Locke is a deadeye shooter; in my view, he’s one of the best in the nation. He has a natural, smooth stroke and has been nailing threes at a 43% clip. Like Allen, he has caught fire in SEC play, scoring in double figures every game. He doesn’t give you a whole lot besides the shooting. The two point shot percentage is abysmal (38%, though it’s up to 47% in SEC play), he’s not a playmaker (8 assists on the year), and he’s by far their least disruptive defender. Despite this, his shooting more than makes up for these flaws, and the kid is only a freshman with plenty of room to grow. TCU has to mark Locke at all times, otherwise he’ll tear you apart from long range.

#2 Andrew Nembhard (Freshman from Aurora, ON)

2018-19 Stats: 7.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 6.1 APG, 35/30/69 shooting splits

Nembhard, no relation to R.J., is a former five star recruit who already has NBA level passing. 20th nationally in assist rate (36.4%), he’s already worked his way towards statlines like 11 assists and no turnovers against UNF. As you can see above, the shooting splits aren’t great, and to be a viable player he’ll need to get those numbers up. He’s really struggled from three since conference play started, making only 4/26 (15%), but has been such a good facilitator it hasn’t mattered. He’s like Locke in that he only has one developed skill right now, but that one skill is REALLY developed and a dangerous tool. Hopefully the Frogs can take advantage of his high turnover rate (24.0) to disrupt the UF offense.

#13 Kevarrius Hayes (Senior from Live Oak, FL)

2018-19 Stats: 6.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 66/0/61 shooting splits

The other starting senior, Hayes is the classic high motor player. He grabs boards (he’s especially good on the offensive glass: 14th nationally, 15.4%), blocks shots (11.1%, 23rd), and serves as a safety valve should all other offensive options go south. He doesn’t have a refined offensive game; don’t expect any fancy post moves or really anything resembling a back-to-the-basket game. He’ll put back dunks and run the floor, expect Kevin Samuel to get a real workout this game. Hayes isn’t overly tall at only 6’9, but he plays bigger than his size and will stay involved for the full 40.

#11 Keyontae Johnson (Freshman from Norfolk, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 6.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 48/36/67 shooting splits

Johnson has joined the starting lineup over the past two games, and the athletic freshman helps take the Gator defense to another level. He seems to be the heir to anchoring the defense, sporting solid block and steal rates. Johnson is a crazy athlete, and can really stuff a stat sheet. While he has only recently entered the starting five, he has had a little bit of trouble with the upped competition in conference play. His true shooting has dropped over 10 points, and he will have to adjust against more athletic competition.

Projected Reserves

#24 Deaundrae Ballard (Sophomore from Atlanta, GA)

2018-19 Stats: 6.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.2 APG, 45/33/75 shooting splits

Ballard is a player that really encapsulates Florida’s entire playing style: limitless motor, a commitment on the defensive end, and the ability to score in bunches. He’s seen a major role increase from his freshman year, and he may have hit a “sophomore wall” as his scoring has tanked during SEC play. Ballard couldn’t hit a three at all his freshman season, but has doubled his percentage up to 33%, and he has the mechanics to shoot it even better than that. Look for Ballard to make his mark on the defensive side of the ball, and have that translate into potential opportunities on the other end.

#3 Jalen Hudson (Senior from Richmond, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 6.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 30/24/59 shooting splits

Man, what happened to Jalen Hudson? The one time Virginia Tech Hokie was the leading scorer for the Gators last season, and had NBA potential as a pure scoring wing. This season can only be described as a struggle for Hudson, as even quick trips to the starting five haven’t been able to get him going. It’s a sad state of affairs for one of the most naturally offensively talented players on Florida’s roster, who as far as I could find is not struggling through an injury. Hudson has played well in both the ACC and SEC, so we know he has talent, but this season it has not shone through.

#15 Isaiah Stokes (Freshman from Memphis, TN)

2018-19 Stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 46/0/64 shooting splits

Stokes is primed to see a larger role after a torn ACL ended Keith Stone’s season two games ago. He’s got solid genes, his brother is Jarnell who played for Tennessee and then in the NBA, and in his short time for UF he has displayed aggressiveness in the low post. He only just passed 100 minutes on the season, so it’s hard to get a full picture of what he can do against a team like TCU, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t see an increased amount of PT.

#21 Dontay Bassett (Sophomore from Oakland, CA)

2018-19 Stats: 3.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 49/33/55 shooting splits

Bassett is a bit of an enigma for Florida fans. He has shown major strides as of late and always plays with energy, but for a guy touted as a face up big he hasn’t done a whole lot on that end. He’s a perfect backup center, blocking shots and protecting the rim while staying out of the way on offense. The one big problem: he fouls a lot (7.5 per 40), limiting his time on the floor.

#0 Mike Okauru (Sophomore from Raleigh, NC)

2018-19 Stats: 1.6 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 37/23/83 shooting splits

Okauru closed last season strong, but poor play to begin this season has relegated him to the end of Florida’s bench. After shooting 40% from distance as a freshman, he has only made 3 total threes all season. His turnover rate has more than doubled to 27, and the team just struggles offensively when he’s out there. Expect 3-5 minutes out of Okauru, and potentially one or two made threes.

Three Things to Watch For

Threes

I mentioned this above, but Florida’s offense is very reliant on the three ball. TCU is top 10 nationally in opponent three point percentage, so whoever wins that battle is likely to win the game. Locke really scares me in this regard, but also look out for Allen and even Johnson to bomb away from three point land.

Second Chance Points

Florida is a very active team by nature and a stout defensive unit. Their big weakness on that end is therefore surprising: allowing offensive rebounds. Kevin Samuel has been great on the offensive glass this season (5th nationally), so he has a chance to make an outsized impact in this matchup. If the Frogs can’t stop the Florida threes, their path to victory lies on the glass.

A Full Rotation

This is less of a key to the game and more of a prediction: the Frogs will have to expand their lineup re:minutes for bench players. Against Texas, Lat Mayen, RJ Nembhard, and Russell Barlow each played 6 minutes. When a team like Florida rolls around, those guys are going to need to play some more minutes to counteract the depth. I think we’ll see all three play around 10 minutes this go around, which saves players like A Rob and Bane’s legs.

Prediction

This’ll be a close one. Florida’s pressure defense looms large; we saw how much the Frogs struggled with the Texas press down the stretch. However, the Frogs have their own advantages in the form of three point defense and high flying scoring. Homecourt will be a huge factor in favor of the Frogs as well.

Kevin Samuel should have a nice game, I’d bet he ends up with a double double. Frogs struggle with the pressure early and are probably trailing at half, but come up with a win in the end.

Prediction: TCU 65, Florida 60

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

  • TCU hosts Florida Saturday at 11 a.m. in the sixth annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Frogs are 3-2 all-time in the Challenge.
  • It’s Suits And Sneakers Week as both the TCU and Florida 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 18-24 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 15 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 eighth in the Big 12 with 14.9 points per game and sophomore Kouat Noi ranks 10th at 14.2. Noi has made a 3-pointer in 17-straight games dating back to last season.
  • Redshirt freshman Kevin Samuel ranks third in the Big 12 in shooting accuracy at 69.9 percent.
  • Bane, Robinson and JD Miller are all within 50 points of 1,000 for their TCU careers.
  • The Horned Frogs rank eighth in the nation with 18.5 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 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