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TCU Basketball Preview: Kansas

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A big game for Big Monday

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN | Series: Kansas leads 17-2 | Game Line: TCU -2

The TCU Horned Frogs (17-6) return home on Big Monday, facing the #13 Kansas Jayhawks (18-6) for the second time this season. The Frogs are riding the high of one of the biggest wins in program history, a 92-83 victory in Ames over Iowa State. It was a career day for Kendric Davis, who put up 22 points on 7/10 shooting off the bench. Also in double figures were Desmond Bane, Kouat Noi, and Alex Robinson, who each put up 17 points.

The Jayhawks are coming off a win of their own, as they bested Oklahoma State 84-72. They were led by yet another strong performance from Dedric Lawson, who scored 25 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Ochai Agbaji also had 23, and Devon Dotson put in 18. The Jayhawks have not looked their normal elite selves since the matchup in Lawrence, as they sport a mere 5-4 record in the interim. They lost an embarrassing game in West Virginia, but have still looked like worldbeaters playing on their home floor (they blew out a very good Texas Tech team).

A key aspect of this game will be the absence of Lagerald Vick and (likely) Marcus Garrett. Garrett was a thorn in A Rob’s side in Lawrence, but has missed the last 3 games due to injury. Based on Bill Self’s comments before the Oklahoma State game, I’d be shocked if he goes on Monday. Vick is away from the team for personal matters. You obviously hope everything is okay with him, and his absence is big for a Kansas team already lacking in depth. Thankfully for the Jayhawks, Agbaji has come on strong since his introduction into the starting five. I didn’t have much to say about him last time out, but the young freshman has picked up Division I ball rather quickly. Here is a link to the preview from last game.

Projected Starting Five

#1 Dedric Lawson (Junior from Memphis, TN)

2018-19 Stats: 19.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 51/34/77 shooting splits

I raved about Lawson’s talents in my last preview, and he sure did prove me right in the actual game. He dropped 31 point and grabbed 14 rebounds to power the Jayhawks to a big win. There’s not much I can write here about Lawson that hasn’t already been said; he’s a fantastic inside presence, and his three point shot has come around after a slow start to the season. He’s just about the only inside presence the Jayhawks have (save from a few Herculean flashes from Mitch Lightfoot), and single-handedly keeps their rebounding totals close game to game. If the Frogs have any chance of winning this game, they need to keep Lawson from going insane again.

#11 Devon Dotson (Freshman from Charlotte, NC)

2018-19 Stats: 11.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 49/40/79 shooting splits

Dotson had a real rough go of it against the Frogs last time, scoring only 5 points on 0/6 shooting from the field. Since then, he has grown as a distributor, generally passing the ball very well and raising his assist totals (the only exception: a disastrous 1 assist, 7 turnover performance in the WVU loss). He’s stepped up his scoring over the last few games, and it would be a mistake to rely on him having a similarly bad game this time around. The athletic freshman will be active on both ends of the floor, and I expect him to be one of the main focal points of the KU offense.

#30 Ochai Agbaji (Freshman from Kansas City, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 9.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 55/42/64 shooting splits

Agbaji made his collegiate debut in the first game between KU and TCU, electrifying the crowd with a few alley oop dunks and a smooth looking shot from distance. In the 9 games since it’s become clear that he’s got immense natural talent, to the point where Bill Self actually apologized that the initial plan was to redshirt him. The high flying youngster has the makeup to be a future #1 option. His motor is incredibly impressive, helping a poor rebounding team by attacking the glass from the wing. The main flaw right now is a propensity for turnovers, he had 4 with no assists against Kansas State, but Agbaji has clearly cemented himself as a key piece for KU moving forward. It’s going to be a new wrinkle to prepare for compared to last time out.

#5 Quentin Grimes (Freshman from The Woodlands, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 7.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 40/35/58 shooting splits

It’s been a rough season for Grimes, who was expected to step in and be college ready on day one. It hasn’t worked out that way, as he’s scored in double figures just once from the first TCU game on, and that is despite injuries depleting the Jayhawks’ weapons. Recently, he has been bitten by the turnover bug with 9 in his last 2 games. Those are bad numbers on their own, much less when you’re not contributing anything on the offensive end. Grimes was the crown jewel of the KU recruiting class, and it seemed like he turned a corner in the Iowa State game, but for the preview’s sake it’s fair to say Grimes isn’t much of a threat on the court as of right now.

#33 David McCormack (Freshman from Norfolk, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 1.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.2 APG, 47/0/46 shooting splits

It appears that McCormack has slid into the starting five in the absence of Vick and Garrett, despite having not played more than 10 minutes since the Iowa State game. The big man came up big on the glass with 4 offensive rebounds against OSU. His rebounding numbers have remained strong even when his shot hasn’t been falling, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in an expanded role. He’s shooting only 36% in conference play, which is putrid for a center, so if he can get that number up to even 40-45% he will be a much more viable option for the Jayhawks.

Projected Reserves

#2 Charlie Moore (Sophomore from Chicago, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 3.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 29/26/71 shooting splits

After being exiled to the end of the bench starting with the TCU game, the California transfer has gotten a second chance in the rotation thanks to the depleted Jayhawk lineup. He’s been better in the month of February, averaging 4.7 points and 3 assists on 35% shooting. It’s still a far cry from where Bill Self would like him to be, but perhaps Moore can take advantage of his second chance. Lord knows KU fans would like it if their backup point guard could crack 30% shooting on the year.

#13 K.J. Lawson (Sophomore from Memphis, TN)

2018-19 Stats: 2.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, 42/30/71 shooting splits

The other Lawson brother has still struggled to find his footing in Lawrence, stuck in the rotation behind Grimes and Agbaji. He’s shown spurts of brilliance (his 7 points against TCU are his second highest total of the season), but doesn’t have the best basketball IQ and fouls a lot. His reduced role has resulted in a loss of confidence and shot taking (15.4% of possessions, down from 22.6% in his time at Memphis). In the past two games, where he has seen expanded minutes, he has only taken 5 shots total. If Lawson is to get out of this slump, he’ll need to be more aggressive and know his coaching staff is behind him.

#44 Mitch Lightfoot (Junior from Gilbert, AZ)

2018-19 Stats: 1.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.3 APG, 57/0/53 shooting splits

Lightfoot is riding high off of back to back great performances. He’s averaged 6 points and 7 rebounds in those two games, and may actually be the de facto starter ahead of McCormack. Frog fans are more than familiar with Lightfoot, and the kid is a fan favorite, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Russell Barlow see some time checking the backup junior.

Three Things to Look For

Big Monday, Big Crowd

If this crowd isn’t alive on Big Monday, then we don’t deserve a good basketball team. Coming off the high of a victory in Ames, the Frogs need every person possible to be at this game and to be loud and proud. There will be some big time recruits in attendance, deciding if Fort Dixon is where they want to play their next 4 years of basketball. NBA scouts will be there, and I’m sure KU fans will have a healthy showing. It’s Big Monday, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. I’m serious, be there, and be loud.

An Answer for Dedric

The Frogs have the worst interior defense in the Big 12, and now they face the best interior weapon in the conference. It’s no wonder Lawson went off for 31 in the first game. I don’t know what the answer to Dedric Lawson is, but that’s why I’m not paid the big bucks. I’m sure it will be all hands on deck to stop the phenom junior.

Kendric’s Coming Out Party

Kendric Davis was phenomenal against Iowa State, and I think the area where the Frogs have a clear advantage is at backup point guard. Davis could be poised for back to back huge games. Really though, this section is shorthand for one of the bench players stepping up and breaking out. Whether it be Davis, RJ Nembhard, Lat Mayen, or Russell Barlow, the Frogs need contributions from outside their starting five.

Prediction

I’m wary of getting to high after one win or getting too low after one loss. Iowa State was a huge statement for the program, but we can’t forget how shaky they looked in a near meltdown against Okie State or in losses to Tech or Baylor. That being said, it feels like all the momentum in the world is behind the Frogs right now. Big Monday is here, and the Frogs are feeling good. Desmond Bane has stepped up, the bench is rolling, and the season is at a tipping point. Combine that with KU being down 2 players, and I’m taking the Frogs. It’s going to be a stressful game, and I think it goes down to the wire, but Kouat Noi makes a huge shot to preserve a program defining win for the Frogs.

Prediction: TCU 75, #13 Kansas 74

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

  • TCU will host ESPN’s Big Monday for the second consecutive season when Kansas plays at Schollmaier Arena Monday at 8 p.m.
  • The Frogs have won their last eight Big 12 home games dating back to last season.
  • After a win at No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday, TCU will attempt to beat a ranked opponent in back-to-back games for the first time in school history. TCU will also try to remain perfect at home on Big Monday. Last season, TCU beat No. 7 West Virginia, 83-73 in its first time hosting Big Monday.
  • The Frogs are 20-26 in Big 12 play under Jamie Dixon after going 9-9 last season, the most in their six seasons of the Big 12.
  • Senior guard Alex Robinson ranks fifth in the nation at 7.4 assists per game. He is TCU’s all-time assist leader, eclipsing the previous mark of 575 career assists against Oklahoma State. Robinson was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12.
  • TCU and Kansas are the only Big 12 teams with two players in the top 10 in the conference in scoring. Junior guard Desmond Bane ranks seventh at 15.0 and sophomore Kouat Noi ranks ninth at 14.8 points per game.
  • Noi ranks third in the Big 12 with 2.5 made 3-pointers per game and has made at least one in 22-straight games, the seventh best in the nation among major conference players.
  • Bane (vs. OSU) and Robinson (at BU) each went over 1,000 career points recently. JD Miller is six points from becoming the 38th member of the 1,000-point club.
  • The Horned Frogs rank 14th in the nation with 17.1 assists per game, 26th in 3-point percentage defense at 30.2 and 29th in offensive efficiency at 113.2.
  • On TCU’s current roster, only four played in a Big 12 game prior to this season. Six are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.