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TCU Basketball Preview: Iowa State

Can the Frogs build momentum in Ames?

West Virginia v Iowa State

Game Time: 1:00 PM CST | Location: Hilton Coliseum – Ames, IA | TV: ESPNU | Series: Iowa State leads 11-8 | Game Line: Iowa State -10.5

The TCU Horned Frogs (16-6) will travel to one of the toughest venues in college basketball, as they will face off against the #17 Iowa State Cyclones (18-5) in Ames. The Frogs are riding high off a JD Miller buzzer beater against Oklahoma State. The Frogs led by as much as 13 in the second half, but the Pokes forced a close game and TCU had to escape 70-68. Desmond Bane had a huge game, scoring 26 points, while Alex Robinson had 10 points and 11 assists. Miller had 11 points including the game winner, while Kouat Noi had 12.

Iowa State stole a road win from Oklahoma last time out, winning 75-74. Lindell Wigginton paced the team with 18 off the bench, closely followed by Marial Shayok with 16. Also in double figures were Talen Horton-Tucker (11), Tyrese Haliburton (11), and Michael Jacobsen (10). The win was the latest in a 4 game winning streak, and 6 wins in their last 7 games. The Cyclones are one of the most improved teams in the country this season, able to win big games like Kansas and blowing out teams like Ole Miss, Missouri, and Illinois. The Frogs swept the season series last year, but it’s clear based on the Cyclones’ resume that such a feat is a huge ask from this team.

Part of what has made Iowa State’s run possible is consistency. They have started the same lineup in 22 of their 23 games, and have seamlessly transitioned Lindell Wigginton into a super-sub role. They feature a balanced offense that can hit you from anywhere on the floor. They set each other up with great looks and aren’t afraid to play fast. The talent top to bottom is impressive, and that’s a credit to Steve Prohm for building such a complete roster. Couple the talent and offensive improvements with a massive improvement on defense (with a focus on not fouling), and you get a very dangerous team. The only true weakness on ISU is rebounding, where they rank last in the conference.

Projected Starting Five

#3 Marial Shayok (Senior from Ottawa, ON)

2018-19 Stats: 19.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 51/39/88 shooting splits

A transfer from Virginia, Shayok has traded in the grit and grind of the Hoos for a high volume, Big 12 POY level season for the Cyclones. He’s proven to be a skilled scorer, shooting it well particularly from three. He’ll fill up the stat sheet in a hurry, and his career high 61.9% true shooting ranks 129th in the country. Only once has he scored less than 10 points, and his offense has stayed basically static transitioning to Big 12 conference play. Shayok is a tall order for the Frogs’ defense to handle, but they’ll have to do their best to stay in the game.

#11 Talen Horton-Tucker (Freshman from Chicago, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 12.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 41/30/62 shooting splits

If you consider Shayok the wiley veteran that has helped Iowa State improve, then Horton-Tucker is the young blood that has rejuvenated the team. The athletic youngster is the latest talent to come out of Chicago, which shows in his hustle (he’s likely the most skilled rebounder on the team) and leaping ability. He can bring the house down with a dunk or reject a shot with authority. He has natural basketball instincts, and NBA scouts are starting to take notice. He suffered through a patch of rough play for most of January, but he seems to have snapped out of it recently. Additionally, his shooting has left a bit to be desired. Still, he is a dynamic player who fits in perfectly with what the Cyclones want to do.

#12 Michael Jacobson (Junior from Waukee, IA)

2018-19 Stats: 12.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 57/31/68 shooting splits

Jacobson is another transfer, this time from Nebraska. He’s added the threat of a three ball to his offensive game, which helps open up his game and open up opportunities for him inside (62.2% true shooting is 115th nationally, and up from 42.7% his last year in Nebraska). He’s especially strong on the offensive glass, a key for a team that struggles in that regard overall. He scored at least 12 points in his first 9 games of the season, but recently the scoring output has taken a bit of a dip. Regardless, he and Kevin Samuel will face off in the middle in one of the most important matchups of the game.

#1 Nick Weiler-Babb (Senior from Arlington, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 44/39/75 shooting splits

Weiler-Babb has statistically taken a step back from last season, where he was one of the top distributors in the country. However, it’s a prime example of why you shouldn’t just look at the boxscore to find the impact of a player. Weiler-Babb is the leader of the team, hustling on defense and still running the offense with confidence. He can pick his spots this season, and now he has a reasonably reliable three point shot. Save for a down night against the Sooners, Weiler-Babb is the guy that the Cyclones can count on to show up day in and day out. He’s the glue guy that every successful team has to have.

#22 Tyrese Haliburton (Freshman from Oshkosh, WI)

2018-19 Stats: 7.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.1 APG, 55/46/73 shooting splits

In case you were wondering why Weiler-Babb’s assist totals were down, look no further than the freshman from Wisconsin. He has the assist lead on the team by 1 assist, but his impact stretches far beyond that. He’s #1 in the country in offensive rating at 142.4, and his effective field goal percentage is also tops in the country (71%). Those numbers are incredible for someone who isn’t a center. I’m not in love with the form on his jumper, but he makes them at a cool 46% so who am I to judge. He’s an aggressive defender who tries to make plays, and it’s near impossible to miss #22 when he’s out there on the court. Look for Haliburton to stick his nose into nearly every possession while he’s in.

Projected Reserves

#5 Lindell Wigginton (Sophomore from Dartmouth, NS)

2018-19 Stats: 12.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 40/36/74 shooting splits

Wigginton missed 10 games in November and December, but has roared back to become the Manu Ginobili of Iowa State. He’s still not entirely in rhythm, as he can score 28 on West Virginia and then immediately score 5 the next game against Texas. His finishing at the rim has also been suspect in Big 12 play, where teams have long rim protectors who bother shots with ease. Still, fans from last season will easily remember how good Wigginton was as a freshman. He has all the natural talent in the world, and when he’s aggressive and assertive he can put his name up with anyone in the Big 12. It speaks to the depth of talent that Iowa State has that Wigginton comes off the bench.

#2 Cameron Lard (Sophomore from Natchitoches, LA)

2018-19 Stats: 5.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 65/0/75 shooting splits

Lard’s most notable moment this season came on a monster dunk this past matchup against OU, and it’s been surprising to see the former starter see so little burn. He’s a force inside, and sports a crazy 14.4% block rate when he has played this year. The rebounding has taken a step back, and his foul rate has to be one of the highest in the country at over 10 per 40 minutes. He has played 20+ minutes each of the last 2 games, and I expect to see him more this matchup to counter Kevin Samuel.

#24 Terrence Lewis (Sophomore from Milwaukee, WI)

2018-19 Stats: 4.9 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 44/32/83 shooting splits

Lewis seems to have fallen out of the rotation (although he missed the Ole Miss game because he lost his ID). When he’s on the court, he’s shown notable improvements from his freshman season. He had some really solid games in December against mid major competition, but I’d be shocked if he gets more than 5 minutes in this contest.

#0 Zion Griffin (Freshman from Darien, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 2.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.1 APG, 34/24/43 shooting splits

Similar to Lewis, Griffin has fallen out of favor in the Cyclone rotation. This Zion will not make a huge impact in this game, though I think he could be a great player for ISU down the road. He likes to take threes even though he is pretty bad at them, and needs to find a calling card that will justify more playing time.

#4 George Conditt (Freshman from Chicago, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 1.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.1 APG, 69/0/67 shooting splits

Same old song and dance for another Cyclone freshman. The lanky big man projects as a solid interior piece moving forward, but like Lewis and Griffin has seen his minutes cut after the move to Big 12 play. He hasn’t played the last 2 games, and hasn’t played more than 4 minutes in nearly a month.

#23 Zoran Talley (Senior from Merrillville, IN)

2018-19 Stats: 1.3 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, 56/0/0 shooting splits

Zoran Talley has seen a major fall from grace this season, as at this point last year he had staked out a permanent starting position. He has worked his way back into the rotation as of late, though he’s only taken 4 shots in 2019. Expect Talley to play in this game, but don’t expect the same player that walked out of the tunnel last season.

Three Things to Look For

Road Woes

TCU has only lost once at home. Yay! However, they are dreadful on the road, and their past two games in particular were embarrassing for a tournament level team. This team just seems to get flustered on the road, and something has to change from a mindset perspective if the Frogs want to win in Ames, the 5th toughest place to play according to KenPom.

Control the Glass

Iowa State’s weak point is rebounding, and it’s just about the only area where the Frogs have a distinct advantage. In particular, the Frogs need to get second chance opportunities against a stout Cyclone defense. This of course falls on Kevin Samuel, but I’d like to see more minutes from Russell Barlow (burn the redshirt for a reason) and our guards to crash down and fight for the ball.

Defensive Mindset

I’m worried about the defensive side of the ball because ISU’s biggest strength is the Frogs’ biggest weakness. If a team is good about throwing the ball around and making defenses move, TCU struggles. We are last in the Big 12 in assist to field goal ratio for our opponents, meaning that teams get really good looks by running offensive sets against our defense. If the Frogs can break tendency and tighten up the defense, they can pull the upset.

Prediction

To quote Han Solo, I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Iowa State is so deep and talented, and their offense is perfect to solve our defense. We struggle on the road, and Ames is an insane place to play. The Frogs should carry the momentum of the Okie State win, but let’s not forget that game should’ve been a blowout and the Frogs lost a massive lead. Additionally, the Florida win didn’t give us any momentum against Tech or Baylor.

I’ve picked the Frogs even when my brain has told me not to, but there’s just too much going against them here. To be honest, I’ll be impressed if they keep it within 10. On the bright side, this is by far the hardest game left on the schedule. Show some life here, and regroup for BIG Monday against Kansas.

Prediction: #17 Iowa State 80, TCU 68

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

  • TCU will try for its first Big 12 road win when it plays at No. 17 Iowa State Saturday at 1 p.m. on ESPNU.
  • The Frogs are 19-26 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 7.5 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 14.7 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 21-straight games.
  • Bane (vs. OSU) and Robinson (at BU) each went over 1,000 career points recently. JD Miller is 12 points from becoming the 38th member of the 1,000-point club
  • The Horned Frogs rank 15th in the nation with 17.0 assists per game, 26th in 3-point percentage defense at 30.2 and 35th in offensive efficiency at 112.3.
  • On TCU’s current roster, only four played in a Big 12 game prior to this season. Six are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
  • For the first time this season TCU is not receiving votes in either the AP or 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.