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TCU Basketball Preview: Kansas State

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Senior Night represents a chance for much needed signature win

Oklahoma State Basketball at TCU Basketball | Fort Worth, TX | February 6, 2019
Oklahoma State Basketball at TCU Basketball | Fort Worth, TX | February 6, 2019
Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST | Location: Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena – Fort Worth, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Kansas State leads 14-6 | Game Line: Kansas State -1

The TCU Horned Frogs (18-11) hope to honor Alex Robinson and JD Miller on senior night, as they’ll look for a win over the #16 Kansas State Wildcats (22-7). The Frogs will have to play better than they did on Saturday, when they were eviscerated by Texas Tech 81-66. JD Miller led all scorers with 18, joined in double figures by Alex Robinson (17) and Kouat Noi (15). The team fell into an early hole early on, down as much as 23 points in the first half, and even a short burst out of halftime couldn’t stop the Red Raiders from doing basically whatever they wanted. It was one of the worst performances of the season, and on the bright side, there’s nowhere to go but up.

K State is making a push to win the Big 12, and they took another step towards that goal with a 66-60 win over Baylor. Dean Wade led all scorers with 20, while Kamau Stokes (16), Xavier Sneed (14), and Barry Brown (10) all found themselves in double figures as well. The Wildcats have been playing a solid brand of basketball since we last saw them January 19, and they’ve gone 8-3 over that time frame. They have a defense rivaled only by Texas Tech in conference, and have taken the mantle from Press Virginia of most chaos caused on defense. They’ve done this despite missing Cartier Diarra for an extended period of time, which has shortened their bench rotation in a similar fashion to many other Big 12 teams.

Here was the preview from the January 19 matchup. The Frogs will have to be on their A game to beat a Wildcats team that has only gotten stronger since the last matchup.

Projected Starting Five

#5 Barry Brown (Senior from St. Petersburg, FL)

2018-19 Stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 45/31/70 shooting splits

Brown has struggled through a three game rough patch for his scoring output, but before then he was on a tear. He has been a legitimate All-Big 12 level player throughout the season, causing havoc on defense while also scoring on high volume. His 3.5% steal rate ranks 1st in the Big 12, and his finishing ability at the rim has lifted his shooting numbers to compensate for so-so shooting from three. No one would call Brown timid on the court, and I fully expect him to shoot the ball early and often against the Frogs. We can only hope his relative cold streak continues, because if he’s on it can be big big trouble.

#32 Dean Wade (Senior from St. John, KS)

2018-19 Stats: 13.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 50/46/78 shooting splits

I’m a huge proponent of Wade’s game; I picked him for preseason Big 12 POY and I think he’s the key that drives everything Kansas State does. He hasn’t been the same player for the Wildcats through most of this season. This is not to say he has played poorly, far from it, but he hasn’t had the same imposing presence as his junior season. However, there are still clear flashes of his apex. He looked confident as ever against Baylor, which led to a game high in scoring and a big win for the Wildcats. When Wade is at his best, Kansas State becomes potentially the most dangerous team in the conference.

#20 Xavier Sneed (Junior from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 10.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 40/36/64 shooting splits

Sneed had a huge game on January 19, dropping 18 points on 6/9 shooting from the field, and his ability to be a reliable scoring option and crash the boards has been a revelation for the Wildcats. It’s no coincidence that his last three bad games are the three games that the Wildcats have dropped. He profiles as a strong 3 and D player at worst, and when he’s feeling it from other areas, he can be a truly complete player. Sneed will be matched up with both Kouat Noi and JD Miller, so his defensive prowess will be sorely needed against two of TCU’s most consistent scorers over the past month.

#3 Kamau Stokes (Senior from Baltimore, MD)

2018-19 Stats: 10.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 39/36/74 shooting splits

Stokes has been playing great basketball over the handful of games. After an extended period as the fourth or fifth option in the offense, he exploded for 20 points in the first Baylor game and hasn’t really looked back. He also still leads the Wildcats in total assists, which makes sense as he runs the point. The three point shot is back to above average levels, and if everyone is rolling then K State is tough to beat. If you’re sensing a trend in these player profiles, you’re not going crazy: these Wildcats are hot right now and playing at the top of their game. It’s going to be a tough game.

#14 Makol Mawien (Sophomore from West Valley City, UT)

2018-19 Stats: 6.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.3 APG, 51/29/67 shooting splits

As if those first four previews weren’t worrying enough, enter Mawien. He’s had a rough two games (Dedric Lawson got the better of him), but against the soft interior D of TCU he could have a solid game. He had 8 points the first matchup, and lesser centers have had big games despite the presence of big Kevin Samuel. One of the top rebounders in the conference, Mawien will only be stopped by either A) foul trouble or B) a truly physical style of play. The former seems more likely to happen considering the Frogs’ recent play style, so hopefully they can get Mawien sent off early.

Projected Reserves

#00 Mike McGuirl (Sophomore from Ellington, CT)

2018-19 Stats: 3.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 37/29/59 shooting splits

Besides being known for interesting decisions in hairdos, McGuirl has had to step up and log heavy minutes off the bench. He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire offensively, still managing just under 4 points per game, but he’s brought immense value on defense. He’ll go toe-to-toe with any player in the country on that end, and his steal rate ranks 21st in the conference. Expect to see #00 matching up with everyone from Alex Robinson to Desmond Bane in an attempt to really make the TCU offense uncomfortable.

#23 Austin Trice (Junior from Chicago, IL)

2018-19 Stats: 2.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.1 APG, 57/0/36 shooting splits

No, that free throw number is not a typo. Trice hasn’t gotten many opportunities to show off his skills, sans a 12 point game in the blowout of Oklahoma State. He’s a pretty strong rebounder who will see time spelling Mawien when he gets into foul trouble. It’s hard to write too much more about a guy who hasn’t gotten many opportunities, but it is funny that he’s 36% on free throws despite a 6/6 game from the line against OSU.

#1 Shaun McNeal-Williams (Freshman from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 1.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 0.7 APG, 26/24/58 shooting splits

McNeal-Williams is another guy who had a big game against Oklahoma State, but hasn’t proven much else to this point in his career. I personally expected him to log more minutes after the Diarra injury, but that hasn’t really materialized. As it stands, he’s a young guy with all the potential in the world, but no proven resume to substantiate him as a contributor just yet.

#34 Levi Stockard (Sophomore from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 1.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.1 APG, 54/0/41 shooting splits

Stockard logged a DNP-CD against Baylor, so I’m not sure what that says about his place in the rotation. He had to play quite a bit against Kansas due to foul trouble with Wade and Mawien, so perhaps if we get Mawien in foul trouble we could see Stockard. He’s probably the worst rotation player for the Wildcats, rebounding poorly for a big man which is accompanied by high turnover and foul rates. I’d be shocked if Stockard makes a big impact, if he ends up playing at all.

Three Things to Look For

The Kouat Noi Factor?

TCU played K State reasonably tough in Manhattan, but ultimately fell short. The offense struggled without Kouat Noi, and Russell Barlow and Lat Mayen logged more minutes than usual. Additionally, the Wildcats still had Diarra for the last game. Obviously, things are more complicated than just 2 players, and the Frogs and Wildcats have been trending in different directions, but perhaps the home court advantage will combine with Noi’s return to bolster the Frogs. Speaking of...

A Senior Night Send Off

I recognize that the Frogs have not played well of late. But on Saturday, it might as well have been a road game in the Schollmaier. The split of fans may have been 50/50, but the sound was at least 80/20 in favor of Texas Tech. That’s embarrassing for TCU, there’s no way around it. Kansas State fans don’t have the convenience of travel (or a weekend game), so I expect the Frog faithful to show up strong for A Rob and JD. It’s important as this program goes for there to be complete buy in from the fans, whether things are going great or not. Show up, stand up, and get loud, if for no other reason than to show appreciation for what Alex Robinson and JD Miller have done for this team and program.

Cracking the K State Defense

This is similar to what I wrote for the Tech game. The Frogs had 10 assists and 18 turnovers in Manhattan, which is a losing formula no matter who you’re playing. For a long period of time on Saturday, the Frogs had 0 assists, so clearly they didn’t crack Tech. A more inspired offensive performance with regards to ball movement will essential to winning this game.

Prediction

It kills me to say this, but I can’t see the Frogs winning this one. K State is similar to Tech in that they’re a terrible matchup, largely thanks to how they run their defense. The energy in Fort Dixon will need to be electric and many guys will have to step up to result in a Frogs win. K State won’t be overlooking this game considering what’s on the line for them. The Frogs must do the same to keep their outside hope of a tournament bid alive. I’ll be rooting hard for them to prove me wrong, but it’s hard to see how it happens with our current form.

Prediction: #16 Kansas State 71, TCU 65

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

  • For the third consecutive year, TCU will host Kansas State on its senior night. The two teams will meet on Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. It will be the final home game for JD Miller and Alex Robinson.
  • The Frogs are 21-31 in Big 12 play under Dixon, who coached his 100th game at TCU on Feb. 26. In the 100 games prior to Dixon’s arrival (2016-17 season), TCU was 40-60 overall. Dixon is the quickest coach to 60 wins in TCU history (94).
  • Alex Robinson ranks sixth in the nation at 7.0 assists per game. He is TCU’s all-time assist leader at 622 and has 706 total when including his freshman season at Texas A&M. Robinson, along with Owen Aschieris, were named Academic All-Big 12.
  • Kouat Noi (4th/15.1), Desmond Bane (8th/14.9), and Alex Robinson (11th/13.2) all rank in the top 11 in the Big 12 in scoring. No other team has three in the top 15.
  • Kevin Samuel’s 65.4 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 12 games. His 60 blocked shots is the most ever by a TCU freshman. He also ranks fourth in the Big 12, first among freshman, with 7.0 rebounds per game.
  • Kouat Noi has made at least one 3-pointer in 26 consecutive games, the third longest streak among major conference players. He ranks third in the Big 12 with 2.6 made threes per game.
  • The Horned Frogs rank 18th in the nation with 16.4 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.