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TCU Basketball Preview: Texas

The Frogs have one last chance for a regular season win

Melissa Triebwasser

Game Time: 11:00 AM CST | Location: Frank Erwin – Austin, TX | TV: ESPN2 | Series: Texas leads 108-67 | Game Line: Texas -6

The TCU Horned Frogs (18-12) will get one final shot to break their losing streak in Big 12 play when they travel down to Austin and face the Texas Longhorns (16-14). The Frogs fell apart in the second half again against Kansas State, as the Wildcats separated in the second half for a 64-52 win. Kevin Samuel led the team with 17 points, and was joined in double figures by R.J. Nembhard with 12. The loss was number 3 in a row, and dropped the Frogs to 1-6 in their last 7 games. Chances at the Tournament have been reduced greatly, and will require a win here and at least 1 or 2 wins the the Big 12 Tournament to get us in off the bubble.

Texas lost their last game as well, a 70-51 beatdown in Lubbock by a red hot Texas Tech squad. Matt Coleman had 16 points, which tied for tops in the game, and Elijah Mitrou-Long had 11 off the bench. The Longhorns have been a bit up and down recently, though some of that is due to losing leading scorer Kerwin Roach to suspension. Since the Frogs last saw them on January 23, they’ve beaten Kansas and crushed Iowa State, but also suffered a bad loss against Georgia and struggled away from home. Thankfully for the Longhorns, this is a home game against a team that has also had their fair share of road woes.

UT is 5-6 since the last meeting in Fort Worth, while the Frogs are 4-8 over the same span. Here is a link to the last game preview of the two teams.

Projected Starting Five

#21 Dylan Osetkowski (Senior from San Diego, CA)

2018-19 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 42/27/75 shooting splits

Osetkowski will be the only senior suiting up for senior night, and you can bet he’ll come out with his hair on fire for such a big game. As it stands, he’s Texas’s top guy on the glass with a proven track record of scoring the ball. He hasn’t had to shoot it as much this season, and his eFG% of 46.4 remains below average, but he strung together a nice couple of games to end February. One key aspect of Osetkowski’s game is how mature he plays as a senior. This is evidenced by low foul (2.1 fouls per 40, 9th in conference) and turnover numbers (10.4 TO rate, 2nd). He’s a smart player who players hard even when he’s outmatched physically, and I would expect him to try and make a big splash in his final home game.

#2 Matt Coleman (Sophomore from Norfolk, VA)

2018-19 Stats: 10.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 40/32/78 shooting splits

Coleman continues to run the show for the Longhorns, ranking 3rd in the conference with a 27.8 assist rate. He struggled a fair amount in Fort Worth, totaling 3 points on 1/5 shooting with 2 assists and 4 turnovers. I wouldn’t expect similar struggles this go around, as he enjoyed a solid month of February and just last game led the team in scoring. His three point shot has been off all conference play, tanking his eFG% down to around the same level as Osetkowski, but his ability as a distributor can open up a lot of options for him to score the ball. His matchup with Alex Robinson will be a determiner on both sides of the ball.

#10 Jaxson Hayes (Freshman from Loveland, OH)

2018-19 Stats: 10.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 73/0/74 shooting splits

I still believe Hayes is the Longhorns’ best player, and he had an incredible month of January, but the past couple of games his impact hasn’t been as noticeable. One of his top roles is as a shot blocker, he had 5 against the Frogs last time out and is 18th nationally in block rate (11.2%). He’s in the DeAndre Jordan school of sky-high field goal percentage, with almost all of his shots coming right at the rim. He’s a projected top 10 pick in this year’s draft, and his potential (especially on the defensive end) is off the charts. He rebounds at a reasonable rate on a per possession basis, but he has only one double digit rebound game this season. This is largely due to his foul trouble, which limits his minutes overall. The Frogs need to try and foul out Hayes, as his shot blocking presence will majorly disrupt the penetration of the Frogs offensive attack.

#13 Jase Febres (Sophomore from Houston, TX)

2018-19 Stats: 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, 40/38/59 shooting splits

Febres has reentered the starting lineup after Roach’s suspension, and he immediately took advantage by averaging 21.3 points per game over his first three games. He was smothered by the Tech defense, but who isn’t in all honesty? Febres is a sharpshooter; he went 8/10 from three against Iowa State and 7/14 against Baylor. Almost all of his attempts come from long distance, and Shaka Smart has said that they make a concerted effort to get him a high volume of shots. When Febres is feeling it, there’s not a whole lot you can do as a defense. It’s been an exciting renaissance for a player who showed a lot of potential during his freshman campaign. Luckily, TCU is pretty good at defending the three, but it’s always a big ask to completely shut down a shooter of Febres’s ability.

#3 Courtney Ramey (Freshman from St Louis, MO)

2018-19 Stats: 7.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 40/40/63 shooting splits

Ramey probably holds the title for most improved player since the matchup in Fort Worth. He has found his stroke from deep, and has carved out a major role as the secondary distributor in the starting 5 with Coleman. The kid is a baller, just look at his statlines against Baylor and Iowa State for confirmation. I’m fascinated to see him matchup against Kendric Davis, as the two freshman point guards may be seeing a lot of each other over the next 4 seasons. Ramey’s game reminds me a lot of Jaylen Fisher if that gives you any indication of where his ceiling could be.

Projected Reserves

#55 Elijah Mitrou-Long (Junior from Mississauga, ON)

2018-19 Stats: 6.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 34/31/62 shooting splits

Mitrou-Long’s debut season in Austin has been a rollercoaster to say the least. He was a starter through much of December and January before getting banished to the end of the bench for much of February. Just recently, he has re-established himself in the lineup and has back-to-back games scoring in double figures. I’ve been waiting for his three point shot to round into form, as he made 38% his sophomore year at Mt Saint Mary’s, but it just never came around. We’ll see if Mitrou-Long has found his comfort spot after 30 games, or if the recent hot streak comes to an end Saturday.

#20 Jericho Sims (Sophomore from Minneapolis, MN)

2018-19 Stats: 4.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.1 APG, 57/0/60 shooting splits

It’s been a really odd season for Sims, who was a starter at the beginning of the season looking to build off a solid freshman season. He’s always been a solid athlete, and you can look up highlights of him finishing some lobs this season, but he’s been largely ignored on the offensive side of the ball. Roach’s suspension has opened up some minutes for him to get back into the lineup, but it’s been a puzzling development to be sure. Maybe we’ll see a more involved Sims on Saturday, but there’s nothing in the recent past to suggest that it’s likely.

#33 Kamaka Hepa (Freshman from Barrow, AK)

2018-19 Stats: 2.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 30/35/86 shooting splits

After not playing more than 10 minutes since December 28, and getting multiple DNPs, Hepa started against Baylor and played 39 minutes. He scored a career high 11 points in that game, and has played 31 minutes in the 2 games since then. He’s got a solid stroke and athleticism to spare, but I’ll need to see more of him to make a complete judgement of his abilities.

Three Things to Look For

Threes

Texas is the worst team in the Big 12 at defending the long ball, as opponents have shot 38% on them during conference play. This should be music to the ears of Desmond Bane and Kouat Noi, who are looking to rebound from dreadful performances against Kansas State. Meanwhile, the Frogs sport the top three point defense (32.6%), which will be useful against Febres and Ramey who have shot the ball very well over the past month.

Samuel v Hayes

Kevin Samuel had a big game in the first matchup, stuffing the stat sheet with 8 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. It was a big statement game as he won the battle of the freshmen against the highly touted Hayes. Now it’s round two of that matchup, on Hayes’s homecourt. The Frogs will need a strong inside presence to pull this one out, and it will start with who wins this matchup.

Live Practices Helping?

Russell Barlow was cleared to practice full contact, so the Frogs were able to practice live over the break for the first time in a good while. This is huge news, as many of the Frogs struggles can be attributed to not going live in practice and seeing things in full speed. We’ll see if the team can come out rejuvenated after finally practicing at game speed.

Prediction

This TCU team is limping into the finish, and even before their struggles were not a great road team. As much as it pains me to pick this, it’s hard to see a path to victory for the Frogs. UT has way more to play for, as the Frogs seem NIT bound barring a major showing in the conference tournament. Maybe the live practices will breathe new life into the team. You have to hope so, because that may be their only chance based on how the season is going.

Prediction: Texas 80, TCU 70

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

  • TCU will attempt to sweep Texas for the second time in three seasons when the two teams meet Saturday in Austin.
  • The Frogs are 21-32 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 seventh in the nation at 7.0 assists per game. He is TCU’s all-time assist leader at 628 and has 712 total when including his freshman season at Texas A&M. Robinson along with Owen Aschieris were named Academic All-Big 12.
  • Desmond Bane (7th/14.6), Kouat Noi (9th/14.5) and Alex Robinson (11th/13.0) all rank in the top 11 in the Big 12 in scoring. No other team has three in the top 15.
  • Kevin Samuel’s 66.0 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 13 games. His 62 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.