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TCU Basketball Preview: Texas Tech

The Frogs get another shot at a conference road win

The Frogs will need big games from their starting five to get over the road hump Monday in Lubbock.
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: United Sprint Arena – Lubbock, TX | TV: ESPN | Series: Texas Tech leads 81-51 | Game Line: Texas Tech -4.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (15-4) will hit the road once again in search of their first conference road win when they take on the #14 Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-4) on ESPN. The Frogs pulled out a win in the Big 12/SEC challenge over Florida, 55-50. Kouat Noi led the team with 22 points, while Desmond Bane was also in double figures with 17. The Frogs raced out to a 16-3 lead early on before battling it out for a close finish.

Texas Tech snapped a three game losing streak their last time out, as they won their Challenge matchup with Arkansas 67-64. Davide Moretti led the way with 21 points, joined in double figures by Jarrett Culver (15) and Matt Mooney (12). Tech’s three game losing streak before the Arkansas game was a surprise, as they had looked like one of the most formidable teams in the country to that point. They had a hard fought loss against Duke, where they were actually leading before a cold spell that lasted a good amount of the second half. They sport nice wins over USC and Memphis, and did start Big 12 play 4-0. Red Raider fans will have to hope that the close win over Arkansas sparks a return to normalcy for the team.

Texas Tech has the number one defense in America. They are in an elite class with Virginia and Michigan, a step above the Kansas State defense the Frogs have already seen. The Red Raiders are tough inside and out, with a cast of strong on ball defenders and rim protectors. They’ve allowed more than 70 points just once (in a loss to Baylor), and in the top 10 in opponent eFG% (1st), three point shooting (3rd), two point shooting (5th), block percentage (6th), and turnover percentage (6th). They’re going to hound you for the full 40 and make it hard to get anything going. Their defense is so elite that is masks the fact that everything on offense runs through one player: Jarrett Culver. I’ll have more on him below, but just looking at Texas Tech’s offensive numbers it is clear they rely heavily on his abilities. Imagine Texas Tech as a super charged Florida team, with a much better defense and a player that outclasses anyone the Gators throw on the court.

Projected Starting Five

#23 Jarrett Culver (Sophomore from Lubbock, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 18.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 53/38/68 shooting splits

Culver, who tore apart the Frogs in last year’s Lubbock meeting, has expanded his game as a sophomore to become one of the top players in the country. The ultra-smooth wing has shot up NBA Draft boards after becoming the main guy following Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith’s exit for the NBA. Culver can do a little bit of everything, he leads the team in rebounding, passing, and scoring. He’s a threat from anywhere on the floor, regularly making NBA depth threes, and his upped usage (30.5% of possessions, 52nd) has actually been accompanied by increased efficiency (TS% up four points to 60%). He shoulders a huge burden for Tech’s offense, and their three game losing streak saw him turn the ball over more and not shoot quite as well. Still, Culver is a surefire NBA level player, and priority number one for TCU’s defense. If they can hold him to just 15 points, that would have to be considered a win.

#25 Davide Moretti (Sophomore from Bologna, Italy)

2018-19 Stats: 10.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 47/40/90 shooting splits

While Culver has rightfully taken up all the headlines for Tech, Moretti’s massive improvement has been an underrated storyline. He always had the tools to be a great three point shooter, but only made 31% of his tries his freshman season. Now the Italian native is shooting at just under 40%, while also getting craftier about scoring inside. His true shooting percentage is up 15% over his freshman campaign, showing massive growth in a short period of time. He’s really come alive over the last month, scoring in double figures in all but one game. He’s not going to use a ton of possessions, but when he does get the ball, look out for a deadeye three ball.

#13 Matt Mooney (Senior from Wauconda, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 43/33/73 shooting splits

Mooney should be a familiar name for Frogs fans, as we took him on last season as well. Last time out he was pouring 31 points on their head as a member of South Dakota, and now he has grad transferred to run the point for Tech. A prized recruiting win on the transfer market, Mooney was renowned for his scoring prowess at South Dakota. It hasn’t really translated this season, as Mooney is shooting career lows across the board against stiffer competition. His turnover rate is at a career high 24.8 and he hasn’t gotten to the line with anywhere near the same frequency as a season ago. It’s not all bad for Mooney. He remains one of the only Tech players who can create his own shot when he’s on, and he has established himself as one of the top on ball defenders in the country. With a showdown with Alex Robinson looming, Mooney will need to look more like the point guard that came to Fort Worth as a Coyote a season ago.

#11 Tariq Owens (Senior from Odenton, MD)

2018-19 Stats: 8.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 55/21/77 shooting splits

Another grad transfer, Owens has arrived from St. John’s to shore up Tech’s interior defense. He is one of the top shot blockers in the country (13.1%, 9th) and can rim-run into some high flying alley oops. He’s strong on the offensive glass, but is mostly given leeway to move around in the offense. This results in a few too many threes (he’s only made 4 on the year), and his frail frame could be a problem against a traditional back-to-the-basket big like Kevin Samuel. Still, he’s a great center for the top defense in the country, so there is plenty to worry about with #11 roaming the paint.

#32 Norense Odiase (Senior from Fort Worth, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 3.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 56/0/71 shooting splits

Odiase is basically a starter-in-name-only, as he is in foul trouble so often that he can’t play huge minutes. When he’s on the floor, he’s a stellar rebounder. His 11.1% offensive rebounding rate and 23.1% defensive rebounding rate would both be nationally ranked if he played enough minutes to qualify. He’s a big hustle guy, fighting on the glass, diving for loose balls, and doing the little things that lead to a victory. He may only have about 5 points in the boxscore, but by the end of the game you can tell that #32 made an impact on the game.

Projected Reserves

#0 Kyler Edwards (Freshman from Arlington, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 6.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 42/42/62 shooting splits

Edwards has hit a bit of a freshman wall recently, but at his best is a top tier scoring option off the bench. He’s got all the talent in the world, a former 4 star recruit that was a top player in Texas, and early on he was draining threes culminating in a 19 point performance against Northern Colorado. In Big 12 play his three point shooting has plummeted to 18%, but on the bright side, his defense has remained stingy. With such a raw talent, it’s hard to say when Edwards will break out of his slump, but TCU needs to be aware that it could come at any time.

#1 Brandone Francis (Senior from La Romana, Dominican Republic)

2018-19 Stats: 5.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 32/30/71 shooting splits

Francis has had a rough senior season, and has been singled out as a player who needs to improve for Tech to reach their full potential. His true shooting has plummeted from 53.1% to 42.2% this season. After a reasonably strong debut in Lubbock, he has regressed to basically the level he played at as a freshman for Florida. He has flashed a comfort spot from the Bruce Bowen corner three, but other than that there’s not much to write about Francis. He’ll need to play better for Tech to reach their ceiling.

#3 Deshawn Corprew (Sophomore from Norfolk, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 5.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, 55/36/58 shooting splits

Corprew is another player who has struggled since Big 12 play started, though in fairness he has been hampered by an injury as of late. He had some good games earlier in the season, including a double double against UTRGV, but his three point shot has gone cold in conference. He runs out in a lot of small ball units, running the four thanks to his solid rebounding instincts (11.8 offensive rebounding rate is impressive at only 6’5). Look for him to continue searching for his footing offensively, and play at least 15 minutes or so.

Three Things to Look For

Free Throws

Like I mentioned above, Tech is an incredible defensive team. The Frogs are going to have problems getting the ball in the hole, and that will be okay as long as everything else is going right. One way the Frogs could keep their offense going is - wait for it - free throws. Tech’s defense is ranked poorly in only one metric: free throws per field goal attempted, where they rank 282nd. This basically means that teams get to the line more often against Tech than they normally would, relative to the number of shots they get up. The stats also back this up, as opponents get nearly a quarter (23.8%) of their points from the charity stripe, 17th most in the country. If the Frogs can get to the line and make their shots, it will be one step on the road to victory

Who’s Marking Culver?

Jarrett Culver is another candidate for most naturally talented player the Frogs have faced this season. He’s so versatile, and the Frogs have at times struggled to find a true one-on-one defensive stopper. Dean Wade destroyed the Frogs because they didn’t have a good matchup. I have to imagine Desmond Bane will start on Culver, using his speed and strength to throw him off rhythm. It may end up being a team effort, using the length of players like Kouat Noi or JD Miller to throw him off as well. It is a tall task, and something that few teams have accomplished this year.

Can We Win the Turnover Fight?

Tech’s offense has a turnover problem; they are ranked 238th in the nation in turnover rate and their conference rate is almost identical to TCU. If you’re a Frog fan who has watched any TCU basketball in conference play, you know that’s bad. This means the Frogs have a chance to win the turnover battle, which would be step #2 towards pulling off a big upset.


Tech is not the team they were just a month ago, a three game losing streak revealed more of their flaws. The Frogs have also toughed out two close wins in that timespan. Here’s the kicker: both of those close wins were at home. We have yet to see the Frogs win on the road in the Big 12, and now they have to face a team whose defense is built to stop them. I’ve had this pencilled in as a loss since the beginning of the season, and even Tech’s recent woes aren’t enough to change that.

I do expect a good game, TCU hasn’t laid down this season, but a win would be expecting too much from this team at this point. I would be encouraged by a game where the Frogs mostly take care of the ball, and simply can’t crack the Tech defense quick enough.

Prediction: #14 Texas Tech 63, TCU 60

Here are the game notes, courtesy of

  • TCU will have a quick turnaround and play at No. 14 Texas Tech on ESPN’s Big Monday at 8 p.m.
  • The Frogs are 18-24 in Big 12 play under Jamie Dixon after going 9-9 last season, the most in their six seasons of the Big 12.
  • TCU is looking for its first road conference win and is 1-3 away from home this season. TCU is 0-2 against ranked opponents this season.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson ranks third in the nation at 7.7 assists per game. He is 10 assists away matching Corey Santee’s school record of 575 career assists. 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 15.0 points per game and sophomore Kouat Noi ranks ninth at 14.7. Noi has made a 3-pointer in 18-straight games.
  • Redshirt freshman Kevin Samuel ranks second in the Big 12 in shooting accuracy at 68.8 percent.
  • Bane, Robinson and JD Miller are all within 48 points of 1,000 for their TCU careers. Miller is 48 points away while Bane is 25 and Robinson is 16 shy of 1,000.
  • The Horned Frogs rank ninth in the nation with 18.1 assists per game, seventh in 3-point percentage defense at 27.8 and top 50 in both offensive (40th) and defensive efficiency (18th).
  • On TCU’s current roster, only four played in a Big 12 game prior to this season.
  • 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