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TCU Basketball Preview: West Virginia

A surprise win has breathed new life into the basketball team

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 6:00 PM CST | Location: WVU Coliseum – Morgantown, WV | TV: ESPNU | Series: West Virginia leads 12-2 | Game Line: TCU -4

The TCU Horned Frogs (18-9) are back in action Tuesday night, looking to pick up a big road win over the West Virginia Mountaineers (10-17). The Frogs breathed new life into their postseason hopes with an upset win over Iowa State, 75-72. Kouat Noi led the team in scoring with 20 points to go along with a career high 13 rebounds. Desmond Bane had 16, while Alex Robinson had 12 and 10 assists. JD Miller was also in double figures with 17.

WVU played Baylor tough on the road, but fell apart in the second half and lost 82-75. Lamont West was the team’s leading scorer with 16, followed closely by Jordan McCabe (14), Jermaine Haley (13), and Andrew Gordon (13). The Mountaineers are 2-8 since their loss in Fort Worth, securing a huge upset win over Kansas in the game immediately following. They are currently sporting a 5 game losing streak, though they have faced some of the top teams in the Big 12 over that period. Their team has been through a lot of turmoil in that time period as well, with the dismissal of Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris looming large in an already rough season for the Mountaineers. This is in addition to injuries that have sidelined Sagaba Konate for the season and James Bolden indefinitely. For a look at how we broke down WVU last time out, click here.

Projected Starting Five

#1 Derek Culver (Freshman from Youngstown, OH)

2018-19 Stats: 11.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 45/0/57 shooting splits

Culver was a super sub for WVU earlier in the season, but he has had to become a starter over the last 6 games thanks to insane attrition for the Mountaineers. He has become a focal point for opposing defenses, and his efficiency has fallen as he has adjusted to this role. Sub 50% field goal percentage is pretty rough for a guy who doesn’t shoot threes, and he has trended towards turnover prone as of late. The way to stop him is to keep him off the charity stripe; he shot an insane 24 free throws against Tech and is second best in the nation at fouls drawn per 40 minutes (7.9). Crash down on him in the post, and defend without fouling.

#15 Lamont West (Junior from Cincinnati, OH)

2018-19 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 39/32/76 shooting splits

West is a streaky player, and right now he’s riding the high of a good stretch of games. In the three games in a row he’s started, he’s averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds after averaging only 2.3 and 1.0 the three games before that. It’s almost always an up and down affair with West. There are very few players in the country that are more dependent on their own confidence to perform at a certain level. Look for a lot of good and some bad with #15 on the floor tomorrow.

#10 Jermaine Haley (Junior from Vancouver, BC)

2018-19 Stats: 3.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 45/22/60 shooting splits

Haley has come to embrace his role as a point guard in West Virginia’s system, and his assist numbers have slowly crept up as the season has progressed. However, he still sports a sky high 31.4 turnover rate, most recently demonstrated by a 5 turnover performance in only 22 minutes against Kansas State. He doesn’t shoot it a whole ton, but I’d expect him to jack up more than one shot, which is all he took in the matchup in Fort Worth. He had a pretty solid game against Baylor, and will look to build on that all around performance.

#5 Jordan McCabe (Freshman from Kaukauna, WI)

2018-19 Stats: 3.1 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 28/28/75 shooting splits

McCabe was solid against Baylor, putting up 14 points with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover. He and Haley look like the backcourt combo that will finish out the season, and Mountaineer fans have to be excited for the young freshman to show even more progress. If he can shoot at a reasonably strong rate to close the year, WVU fans will sleep easy about their backcourt.

#11 Emmitt Matthews (Freshman from Tacoma, WA)

2018-19 Stats: 3.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 39/17/74 shooting splits

Matthews has become decidedly more involved in the last 5 or so games, entering the starting lineup over the last 3. He still isn’t great from beyond the line, but he’s gotten a few to fall, and overall his scoring numbers are better now than they were a month ago. Like McCabe, he is still a very young player who will see an expanded role as WVU’s season comes to a close. We’ll see if he can keep up the improved play.

Projected Reserves

#2 Brandon Knapper (Freshman from South Charleston, WV)

2018-19 Stats: 5.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 37/34/79 shooting splits

Knapper could very well start this game, but I have him listed here since he is day-to-day with a neck injury. He missed the Baylor game after a teammate landed on his neck in practice. He was a major catalyst in their last win, pouring in a career high 25 points on Oklahoma, and overall is one of the most active players on the WVU roster. If Knapper is all good to go, expect to see him making a major impact, whether that is positive or negative depends on the game.

#14 Chase Harler (Junior from Moundsville, WV)

2018-19 Stats: 4.7 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 36/30/71 shooting splits

Harler has had a rough go of it in Big 12 play, and his benching against the Frogs in the Fort Worth matchup was a forewarning of how much PT he’d see during the rest of the season. A source of much fan frustration, Harler is averaging 1.5 points and 0.5 boards on 13% shooting over his last two games. He’s not going to kill you when he’s out there since he is so passive, but he’s definitely not the turning point that can get your team going either.

#31 Logan Routt (Junior from Cameron, WV)

2018-19 Stats: 2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.1 APG, 52/0/50 shooting splits

Routt was at one point the team’s starting center, but until the Baylor game had been relegated to the end of the bench (even when he was in the starting lineup, he wasn’t paying more than 10 minutes a game). His foul troubles keep him from playing large minutes, but a strong 16 minutes against Baylor may have bought him more time against the Frogs. We’ll have to see what’s up.

#12 Andrew Gordon (Sophomore from Clearwater, FL)

2018-19 Stats: 2.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.1 APG, 44/0/54 shooting splits

Gordon is another guy who had a career game against Baylor, dropping 13 points after not scoring above 6 in any game before. Another rotation option alongside Routt, Gordon fouls at an insane 9.6 per 40 rate. He was limited to only 10 minutes against Kansas before being DQ’d, and was at 4 fouls in 15 minutes in his career night. If he can stay out of foul trouble, it will be easier for us to see what he can and cannot do on the court.

Three Things to Look For

A Different WVU

Different doesn’t necessarily mean better, but it does mean something new. None of the starting five from our last matchup will be the same this game. Some players were dismissed, some were injured, and some were just benched. Whatever the reason, the Mountaineers’ rotations are completely different from just a few weeks ago, and the Frogs will need a game plan that has been adjusted accordingly.

The Free Throw Margin

West Virginia is one of the worst three point shooting teams in the nation. Their effective field goal percentage ranks 321st. While they aren’t particularly strong at the free throw line (68.1% ranks 270th), they get there a ton. They rank 5th nationally in percentage of points coming from free throws, and 9th in free throw attempts per field goal attempted. Free throws could be the great equalizer in this game, and thus the Frogs need to game plan to keep the Mountaineers, especially Culver, off the line.

Waiting for Kevin

Kevin Samuel hasn’t scored 10 points since January 28. He’s still done plenty to protect the rim and crash the glass, but the scoring output hasn’t been there over the past month. That all can change against the worst interior defense in the conference. With next to no legitimate center to challenge him, Samuel should be primed for a big game. We’ll see if he can take advantage and break out of his scoring slump.

Prediction

This WVU team is very weak on paper thanks to all of the attrition they’ve suffered. Still, some of that may have been addition by subtraction, as the team is playing harder over their last few games. Morgantown will always be a tough place to play, KU found that out the hard way, and the Frogs have struggled on the road against teams not named Iowa State. Additionally, the Frogs last two wins have come in games I’ve picked them to lose. Why mess with a good thing? The Frogs will need to get ready for a 40 minute battle in this one, and not overlook a team that has nothing to lose.

Prediction: West Virginia 76, TCU 75

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

  • TCU will try for its first win at West Virginia when the two teams meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT.
  • Tuesday’s game will be Jamie Dixon’s 100th as coach of TCU. The Frogs are 21-29 in Big 12 play under Dixon after going 9-9 last season, the most in their six seasons of the Big 12.
  • Alex Robinson ranks sixth in the nation at 7.1 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. TCU with Desmond Bane (6th/15.1 and Kouat Noi (7th/15.0) and KU with Dedric Lawson (1st/19.0) and Legerald Vick (10th/14.1).
  • Kevin Samuel ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 2.1 blocks per game and has recorded at least one block in the last 10 games. His 56 blocked shots is the most ever by a TCU freshman. He also ranks fourth in the Big 12, first among freshman, with 7.1 rebounds per game.
  • Desmond Bane (vs. OSU), Alex Robinson (at BU) and JD Miller (vs. KU) each went over 1,000 career points recently. TCU is one of 11 teams in the nation with three 1,000 point scorers on its roster. All three rank in the top 33 all-time in scoring at TCU.
  • The Horned Frogs rank 17th in the nation with 16.6 assists per game. For the third-straight year, TCU is leading the Big 12 in assists.
  • On TCU’s current roster, only four played in a Big 12 game prior to this season. Six are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.