Game Time: 1:30 PM CDT | Location: Sprint Center – Kansas City, MO | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Kansas State leads 15-6 | Game Line: Kansas State -4
The TCU Horned Frogs (20-12) survived a monster comeback in the play-in game, earning themselves a date with the #15 Kansas State Wildcats (24-7). The Frogs blew a lead that grew as high as 21 points, ultimately relying on a Desmond Bane three pointer to secure a 73-70 win over Oklahoma State. Kouat Noi led all scorers with 20, while Bane (15), Kevin Samuel (14), and Alex Robinson (12) all also ended up in double figures. It was essentially a six man rotation for the Frogs, as Kendric Davis played only 5 minutes, and they looked exhausted towards the end of the game as the Pokes chipped away at their lead. With such a quick turnaround, hopefully the Frogs can find a second wind.
Kansas State closed out their regular season with a blowout of Oklahoma, 68-53. Kamau Stokes was the game’s leading scorer with 19, while Barry Brown and Dean Wade contributed 15 and 11 respectively. The big news for the Wildcats is that Wade will be unavailable for this matchup, and Cartier Diarra will be making his return after last playing February 9th at Baylor. Stokes had injury concerns of his own, but it appears he is all ready to go.
The Wildcats swept the season series with the Frogs, winning in Manhattan 65-55 and spoiling the Frogs’ senior night 64-52. It seemed like just about every K State player had a solid game in Fort Worth, as players not named Kevin or RJ struggled for the home team. The Frogs had a chance to make the game in Manhattan competitive, but ultimately were sunk by a combination of Wade and Xavier Sneed. The Wildcats play such a suffocating style of defense that it makes it hard on the Frogs, who rely so heavily on high pick and rolls and four low sets.
Projected Starting Five
#5 Barry Brown (Senior from St Petersburg, FL)
2018-19 Stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 45/30/71 shooting splits
Brown is the heart and soul of this K State team, and he was aggressive en route to 16 points last time against the Frogs. Similar to Jevon Carter and West Virginia, Brown’s presence is what allows the Wildcats to be so aggressive on defense and run their offense smoothly. The pace can be slowed because Brown is so experienced and helps run the offense when he is in possession (which is a lot, 24.4% ranks 9th in Big 12). Brown will remain a pest on both ends of the floor, and his game is peaking at just the right time for the Wildcats.
#3 Kamau Stokes (Senior from Baltimore, MD)
2018-19 Stats: 10.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 39/37/74 shooting splits
Stokes has been dealing with migraines, but it appears that the marksman shooting guard will be healthy and ready to go for Thursday. He’s enjoyed a stellar run of games; I would argue he’s been the Wildcats’ best player over the past month. As the team’s top distributor (23.4 assist rate ranks 6th in conference), he is basically the engine that makes everything run. The star of the Oklahoma game, Stokes will need to step up in Wade’s absence and pick up on even more of the scoring slack.
#20 Xavier Sneed (Junior from St Louis, MO)
2018-19 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 40/35/67 shooting splits
Sneed was one of the stars of the game in Fort Worth, dropping in 11 points on near perfect shooting, and had 18 points in the matchup in Manhattan. So it seems like Sneed may just save his best games for the Frogs. Regardless of why he plays so well, expect Sneed to have quite a few shining moments in this game. His 2.8% steal rate is 7th in conference, while he has also hit his threes at a decent clip (36%, 21st). He’s put the clamps on guys like Kouat Noi and Desmond Bane, so he has a track record of being effective on TCU’s top scorers. Hopefully the TCU offense can scheme around his abilities.
#14 Makol Mawien (Sophomore from West Valley City, UT)
2018-19 Stats: 6.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 53/29/67 shooting splits
Given the game that Yor Anei just had, Frog fans should be very wary of Mawien in this game. The big guy had 10 points and 6 rebounds on March 4, and his 4.0 block rate is 8th in the conference. Anei absolutely dominated inside on Wednesday, doing a bit of everything to spark the Cowboys comeback. Mawien is in the same vein of player, even if he hasn’t had quite the scoring consistency. Frogs beware of a potentially big game here.
#2 Cartier Diarra (Sophomore from Florence, SC)
2018-19 Stats: 6.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 40/33/71 shooting splits
Diarra has missed over a month of basketball, so it’s really hard to say how he’ll play in this game. He was on a roll in the four games before breaking his finger, averaging a tick over 11 points a contest while rediscovering his stroke from three. All reports say that he’s feeling good and ready to play. Practice reports say he landed a big 360 dunk, which shows that his immense athleticism wasn’t hurt by his time off, and the Frogs will have to be aware of a threat they didn’t have to deal with in Fort Worth.
#00 Mike McGuirl (Sophomore from Ellington, CT)
2018-19 Stats: 3.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 38/31/61 shooting splits
McGuirl has been logging heavy minutes as of late, though as a player he is content to sit back and set K State’s most talented players take center stage. Case in point was the March 4 matchup. McGuirl only scored 3 points off of an and-one, but it was only off of 2 shots in 22 minutes. Despite his little usage (7% of possessions), he managed to secure a stellar 150 offensive rating. Games like this have become the norm for McGuirl, as it has become clear the offense runs smoothly with him on the court. McGuirl does a ton that doesn’t show up in the boxscore, so try and keep a special eye for #00.
#23 Austin Trice (Junior from Chicago, IL)
2018-19 Stats: 2.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.1 APG, 61/0/33 shooting splits
Trice got a nice bit of burn against Oklahoma, registering 6 points and 7 boards on 3/3 shooting, but that was only because the game was a blowout. Typically his minutes will look more like the 4 minute, 0 points, 1 rebound performance he put in on March 4. Perhaps he’ll get a longer look thanks to Wade’s injury, but I imagine instead they’ll run a smaller 7 man rotation.
#34 Levi Stockard (Sophomore from St Louis, MO)
2018-19 Stats: 1.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.1 APG, 54/0/41 shooting splits
Stockard has played a grand total of 1 minute over the past 3 games, including DNPs against us and Baylor. He only got in at the tail end of the Oklahoma blowout. Safe to say he won’t make a huge impact.
#1 Shaun McNeal-Williams (Freshman from St Louis, MO)
2018-19 Stats: 1.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 26/23/58 shooting splits
Similar to Stockard, McNeal-Williams appears to have been relegated to the end of the bench. He hasn’t played more than 10 minutes since February 23rd; he had 2 fouls in 2 minutes on March 4. It appears to be a lost season for the young freshman, which is okay since Kansas State has so many other guys who have picked up the slack.
Three Things to Look For
Kansas State has dictated the flow of the game both time that we have played. The scores have been remarkably consistent, and reflect how the Frogs have been thrown completely off their rhythm. However, for once that slower pace may actually help the Frogs. A major cause of the Oklahoma State comeback was that the guys were winded, a side effect of playing high tempo ball while running a 6 man rotation. Hopefully the slower pace of this game helps the Frogs recover and not burn out in the last 10 minutes.
Kouat Noi’s Scoring
Believe it or not, Kouat actually hasn’t scored against Kansas State this season. He missed the first game due to injury, and then was shut out for the first time in over a year in Fort Worth. Noi has possibly been the Frogs’ most consistent scorer (though Des Bane’s recent play certainly challenges for the title), so if he’s not scoring the Frogs are in big trouble. Let’s see if he can play at a similar level as the first half of the Oklahoma State game, where he quickly got to double digit points in the first half.
A Different K State?
Dean Wade’s injury is huge for this game. I realize the Frogs barely escaped a 12-19 team missing almost all of their players, but Wade has been the difference between losses to Tulsa and wins over Kansas. Additionally, the return of Diarra throws everything into limbo, as it’s even harder to guess what the rotations will look like (will he be on a minutes restriction?). Regardless of the outcome of the game, it will be interesting to see how K State lines up to face the Frogs.
Oh buddy, I have a bad feeling about this one. Good news: the Frogs have likely secured a spot in the Big Dance. Bad news: Kansas State has dominated them in a way that has only been surpassed by Tech. The quick turnaround for such a small lineup worries me as well. It’s college basketball, so anything can happen, but I’d be surprised if the Frogs pulled this one out. They’ve proven me wrong plenty before, so perhaps they can do it here again.
Prediction: #15 Kansas State 67, TCU 55