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TCU Basketball Preview: Oklahoma State

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The Frogs need a strong Big 12 Tournament to solidify their postseason credentials

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: 6:00 PM CDT | Location: Sprint Center – Kansas City, MO | TV: ESPNU | Series: Oklahoma State leads 26-7 | Game Line: TCU -4

The TCU Horned Frogs (19-12) kick off a massively important Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday, as they’ll face the Oklahoma State Cowboys (12-19) for the third time this season. Last time out, the Frogs took it to Texas in Austin, 69-56, courtesy of a career high 34 points from Desmond Bane. The surprise win helped the Frogs’ position as they sit firmly on the bubble as they head to Kansas City. Most seasons, a 7-11 conference record wouldn’t sniff the Tournament, but the bubble is notoriously weak this season. That being said, conference tournament wins by St. Mary’s and Liberty have taken away bids, so the Frogs will likely need at least two wins this week to solidify their position.

The Pokes are riding a two game winning streak into the Big 12 Tournament, including a 85-77 defeat of West Virginia. Lindy Waters led the way with 19 points, while Yor Anei had 16 points and 8 blocks. Thomas Dziagwa (15), Cameron McGriff (14), and Curtis Jones (13) all also ended up in double figures. Oklahoma State sports a 2-3 record since their defeat of the Frogs in Stillwater. Dziagwa was the big star of the 68-61 victory, pouring in a game leading 23 points. The Frogs were missing Kouat Noi for the game, and had only 8 assists and 14 turnovers. Most Frog fans have to remember the game in Fort Worth, which was won by TCU on a buzzer beater by JD Miller. It’s clear from these two matchups that the Pokes are no pushover, no matter what their record says.

The previous two game previews can be found here and here.

Projected Starting Five

#12 Cameron McGriff (Junior from Grand Prairie, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 12.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 38/30/76 shooting splits

McGriff has been a non-factor in both previous matchups, as he had 4 points on 0/7 shooting last game. The uber athletic forward clearly has a lot of talent, as he is the team’s leading scorer and was named all conference honorable mention. He had a strong game against Kansas’s frontline, scoring 19 points to go along with 8 rebounds before he fouled out. I don’t know what it’s been about the Frogs that has stymied him, but it may be unrealistic to expect him to have three bad games in a row.

#21 Lindy Waters (Junior from Norman, OK)

2018-19 Stats: 12.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 44/45/91 shooting splits

Waters is an inconsistent player, but when he’s on he can stuff a stat sheet quickly. The Frogs got a taste of that last time out, as he poured in 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Waters is one of the best pure shooters in the conference, with 45% from three, 91% from the stripe, and a 62.6% true shooting that is 4th overall in the conference. He put in 26 points on 7/10 from three against the toughest defense in the conference (Texas Tech), so it’s clear he can go off against anyone at any time. The Frogs have seen him on his A game, and need to try their best to disrupt Waters’s flow.

#4 Thomas Dziagwa (Junior from Temple Terrace, FL)

2018-19 Stats: 11.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 40/43/76 shooting splits

Dziagwa is perhaps the most predictable player for the Pokes, but that doesn’t mean that he is their worst player at all. His three point shooting was a primary reason for the OSU victory last time against the Frogs, and he’s enjoyed similar performances against Texas Tech and West Virginia in the interim. He’s going to take, and make, a ton of three pointers, and hopefully the Frogs have found a better plan to either run him off the line or stop the ball from ever getting to him with a clean look.

#13 Isaac Likekele (Freshman from Arlington, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 8.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, 46/26/66 shooting splits

Likekele showed out in Fort Worth, and Frog fans certainly remember him attacking hard in the second half of that game. For a freshman, he plays a very mature brand of basketball. Baylor dropped a game at home thanks to Likekele’s play, 23 points on 10/15 shooting with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. As the top distributor and one of the top rebounders on the team, a lot is asked of Likekele, but he has responded well. Even when his shot isn’t falling he can impact the game. Case in point: 8 points (2/8), 6 boards, 9 assists against West Virginia. Expect to see a lot of #13 making plays all over the court.

#14 Yor Anei (Freshman from Overland Park, KS)

2018-19 Stats: 7.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 61/0/63 shooting splits

Anei had a career game in Fort Worth before being largely invisible in the Stillwater matchup. The conference leader in blocks, he has 14 in his last two games and 7 in the two TCU games. Kevin Samuel’s recent return to form has limited guys from having huge offensive games, but defensively it’s hard to take a guy like Anei out of it. In addition to his defensive prowess, he’s had 16 and 14 points in the last two wins respectively, showing that if he can get involved in the offense OSU can reach a whole different level. The Frogs should make sure that Anei is only disrupting things on one end of the floor, rather than causing a giant headache that permeates all aspects of the game.

Projected Reserves

#1 Curtis Jones (Junior from Richmond, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 8.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 34/33/62 shooting splits

Jones seems to have found a bit of a scoring rhythm recently, scoring in double figures in three of his last four games. The Pokes desperately need him to be a legitimate scoring option off the bench based on how depleted their depth is. Even if he’s not incredibly efficient, Jones allows for one of OSU’s starters to sit and not have their offense completely stall out. The encouraging sign for Jones has been his recent hot streak shooting the three ball, which has raised his percentage over four points since we last saw him. Whether this is an aberration or return to form remains to be seen.

#5 Duncan Demuth (Freshman from Seminole, FL)

2018-19 Stats: 1.0 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.2 APG, 29/33/38 shooting splits

Not much to report on Demuth, whose 3 points against the Frogs were actually the last 3 points he scored overall. He’s 0/1 from the field in the 5 games since, so he’ll check in for a little bit and be by far the most invisible member of the Pokes.

Three Things to Look For

How is the ball movement?

As I mentioned above, the Frogs had a 4:7 assist to turnover ratio in their Stillwater loss, which to put it lightly, is real real bad. It’s especially bad considering the OSU defense’s turnover rate ranks dead last in the conference, so there’s no reason to be underwater in assist/turnover ratio. This falls on Alex Robinson and Kendric Davis as the floor generals of the team, and I think they’ll do a better job this go around.

Threes

It’s a boring thing to look for, I know, but it is the key any time you are playing Okie State. The Pokes are second in the conference at just under 37% from deep, while no one in the conference defends the three better than the Frogs (32%). Dziagwa absolutely killed the Frogs last time out, and a player like Waters clearly has the potential to hurt you in the same way. If the Frogs can limit the Pokes’ points from behind the line, they have a great chance of winning.

Perspective

This has been a very confusing team to cover all season. The team started so strong out of the gate, then post Hawaii trip there was a ton of attrition due to injury and transfer. They haven’t even been able to go live in practice until recently. They’ve swept Iowa State yet dropped winnable games against OSU and WVU, and no player has truly been consistent from start to finish. Yet, after all of that, here is the team, fighting for a spot in March Madness for the second year in a row. This is a year after their first appearance in 20 years. It’s been a rough season, but the Frogs have never been afraid of the moment, and I think they’ll rise to the occasion. The Frog Faithful have to do the same, and keep perspective as to where this program his and where it can go.

Prediction

Big game, gotta predict a big win. Both games against the Pokes have been tight, so I don’t think this will be a walk in the park, but I think too much is on the line for this team to lay down. I think a big game from Kouat Noi is in order, as he has been quiet relative to other big performances lately. The Frogs battle in a close one before pulling away in the last 5 minutes.

Prediction: TCU 75, Oklahoma State 69

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

  • No. 8 seed TCU will open the 2019 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Wednesday at 6 p.m. against No. 9 seed Oklahoma State.
  • TCU is 4-6 all-time at the Big 12 Championship and has played in the quarterfinals in each of the last four seasons. Last season, fifth seeded TCU lost to fourth seeded Kansas State in the quarterfinals, 66-64 in double overtime. TCU has never won a postseason conference championship.
  • TCU is 4-0 this season and 12-3 under Jamie Dixon in neutral site games.
  • Desmond Bane (2nd Team), Alex Robinson (3rd Team) and Kouat Noi (Honorable Mention) were named All-Big 12.
  • Alex Robinson ranks seventh in the nation at 6.9 assists per game. He is TCU’s all-time assist leader at 633 and ranks No. 2 nationally with 712 total career assists when including his freshman season at Texas A&M. Robinson along with Owen Aschieris were named Academic All-Big 12.
  • Desmond Bane (4th/15.2), Kouat Noi (9th/14.1) and Alex Robinson (11th/12.7) all rank in the top 11 in the Big 12 in scoring. No other team has three in the top 15.
  • Kevin Samuel’s 66.7 percent shooting ranks second in the Big 12 and his 2.1 blocks per game ranks fourth in the conference. He has recorded at least one block in the last 14 games. His 65 blocked shots is the most ever by a TCU freshman. He also ranks fifth in the Big 12, first among freshman, with 7.0 rebounds per game.
  • The Horned Frogs rank 20th in the nation with 16.3 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.