Game Time: 8:00 PM CDT | Location: Madison Square Garden – New York, NY | TV: ESPN | Series: Texas leads 111-68 | Game Line: TCU -1.5
The TCU Horned Frogs (23-13) will look to punch their ticket to the NIT final on Tuesday night, but a familiar foe stands in their way in the form of the Texas Longhorns (19-16). The Frogs put together another solid second half to down Creighton 71-58 and advance on to NYC. Kouat Noi led all scorers with 25, while Alex Robinson had a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds(!!!!). JD Miller also ended up with 15 points.
The Longhorns annihilated Colorado to advance to the semifinals, with a final of 68-55 that betrays how uncompetitive the game was. Dylan Osetkowski paced the team with 15 points, joined in double figures by Kerwin Roach (14), Courtney Ramey (11), and Matt Coleman (11). Jericho Sims also finished with 10 rebounds. The blowout was a change of pace after a closer than expected win over South Dakota State and an overtime defeat of Xavier. The Longhorns bowed out in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament against Kansas, securing their spot in the NIT.
Projected Starting Five
#21 Dylan Osetkowski (Senior from San Diego, CA)
2018-19 Stats: 10.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 44/30/73 shooting splits
In the absence of Jaxson Hayes, Osetkowski has stepped up his play. He had 18 points and 7 boards against Kansas, and has followed that up with two solid games against South Dakota State and Colorado. Another big aspect for the senior forward is his defensive effort, which had looked much improved as of late and has resulted in 10 steals in his last 4 games. He’s averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds in the two games against TCU so far this season, and those numbers would have to be considered a win for the Frogs if they can hold him to those.
#2 Matt Coleman (Sophomore from Norfolk, VA)
2018-19 Stats: 9.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 39/32/78 shooting splits
The 11 points on 4/7 shooting against Colorado must have come as a big relief to Longhorn fans, who have watched Coleman largely struggle since a 10 assist performance against Iowa State. He has just 7 total assists in the 6 games since, and has struggled to get to the free throw line, where he has shot the ball at an elite clip. There is no doubt that Coleman remains a key player for the Longhorns, and that a solid game from him running the show would be a major boost to an offense that has lost a bit of its footing.
#13 Jase Febres (Sophomore from Houston, TX)
2018-19 Stats: 8.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, 39/37/59 shooting splits
Febres, one of the top three point shooters in the conference, struggled in a major way last time these two teams met, as he ended up with 0 points on 0/5 from three. It’s been an especially hot or cold month of March, featuring huge performances against Xavier and Iowa State and disappearing acts like South Dakota State and the aforementioned TCU game. One underrated aspect of Febres’s game is his effort on the defensive side of the ball, which I have been impressed with in the brief bit of NIT action I’ve seen. Whatever his value on that side of the ball, if the threes aren’t falling Febres is a major negative on the court for the Horns.
#3 Courtney Ramey (Freshman from St Louis, MO)
2018-19 Stats: 8.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 40/40/61 shooting splits
Ramey has impressed on a national stage over the three NIT games, scoring in double figures in each game and making key baskets when his team needed him in the first two close games. Just a true freshman, the sky is ultimately the limit for Ramey. The Frogs did a good job last time out of not letting him get comfortable from three, which will go a long way in slowing down Texas’s overall attack. Additionally, he hasn’t been much of a distributor as of late, though like Alex Robinson he has crashed the boards hard (8 boards against Xavier).
#20 Jericho Sims (Sophomore from Minneapolis, MN)
2018-19 Stats: 4.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.2 APG, 58/0/60 shooting splits
Sims has reclaimed his starting spot, though I’m sure he wishes it was under better circumstances than a Hayes injury. During the NIT, he’s been a monster on the glass (12.6 rebounds per 40 minutes), finished dunks, protected the rim, and just done everything you could ask for out of a low usage big man. Sims played a total of 16 minutes in the first two games against TCU, so the Frogs will not be used to seeing as much of Sims as they are going to see on Tuesday. Hopefully JD Miller is versatile enough to get Sims out of position and force Coach Smart to take such a good rebounder off the floor.
#12 Kerwin Roach (Senior from Houston, TX)
2018-19 Stats: 14.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 43/35/71 shooting splits
Roach was unavailable last time against the Frogs, and his return from suspension will prove a big boost for Texas. He will take and make a lot of shots, he ranked 3rd in the Big 12 with 28% of his team’s possessions used. Almost every game you’ll check the box score at the end and see a completely stuffed sheet with shot attempts, boards, and assists. It’s no coincidence that Texas went 1-4 in his absence, with the one win being that puzzling demolition of Iowa State where everyone seemed to have a career day at once. Roach is definitively Texas’s most dangerous offensive weapon, and utilizing him in the Ginobili role has allowed the Longhorns to keep their offensive output high even as the first half wears on.
#55 Elijah Mitrou-Long (Junior from Mississauga, ON)
2018-19 Stats: 5.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 34/32/61 shooting splits
Mitrou-Long has seen his minutes evaporate in the NIT, bottoming out with only 4 minutes of action in the overtime bout with Xavier. After a hot two games leading up to the last TCU game, Mitrou-Long has averaged just 4.2 points in 14 minutes per game. It’s hard to say how much of an impact he will have in this game. TCU does like to go small, so perhaps he’ll get more burn than he would against a team with a more traditional 2 deep.
#33 Kamaka Hepa (Freshman from Barrow, AK)
2018-19 Stats: 1.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 30/32/86 shooting splits
Hepa remains an end of the bench option for the Longhorns, scoring a total of 5 points across his last 6 games. He’s the only guy in the Texas rotation to use less than 12% of his team’s possessions while on the court, which KenPom defines as “nearly invisible”, so you may have to look hard to realize what #33 is doing on the court.
#5 Royce Hamm (Sophomore from Houston, TX)
2018-19 Stats: 1.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.1 APG, 43/0/59 shooting splits
Hamm has only just recently reentered the rotation, to decidedly middling results. He’s strong on the glass, sporting a crazy 18.4% offensive rebound rate. However, in classic big man fashion, he fouls a ton (7.7 per 40) which keeps him off the court. Additionally, you’d like to see a higher field goal percentage than 43% if he’s not attempting any threes. Hamm has scored 2 points on 1/8 shooting in his last 5 games, so he’s not a huge threat offensively for the Frogs.
Three Things to Watch For
Third Time's the Charm?
In these columns, I spend a lot of time talking about advanced statistics, basketball matchups, etc. The thing is, no matter what the matchup looks like on paper, it’s really hard to beat a team three times in one season. The Frogs will be aiming to do that against Texas on Tuesday, but be fair warned that both these teams know each other well and the game is unlikely to be a blowout either way.
Ramey and Febres for Three
One of the keys to beating Texas last time was containing the team’s three point marksmen, and the Frogs did a great job at that. Ramey and Febres combined to go 1/9 (11%) from beyond the line, and the team overall shot just 4/19 (21%). It’s unlikely that the Frogs force Ramey and Febres in particular into that bad a shooting night again, but considering their track record, it seems possible that they could hold the team overall to that low a number of threes again.
On Monday night, rumors began floating again that Jamie Dixon was a top candidate for the UCLA job. Assistant Scott Cross has already taken the head coaching job at Troy. Outside of the Big 12 Tournament, the Frogs haven’t traveled out of the state in well over a month, and now they will play on one of the biggest stages in all of American sports. It’s a lot to take in, especially for the guys who weren’t there 2 years ago. This team will need to navigate all of these barriers, Friday Night Lights style, and find a way to pull out 2 more wins.
I gotta take the Frogs, right? I mean, some of Gary Patterson’s second half magic has rubbed off on this team, as they have taken teams to school coming out of the half. These games will be on the road against more familiar foes, so I think they will be closer, but I see no reason the Frogs can’t pull this one out. Additionally, the absence of Hayes in the middle will allow more freedom for creativity with Kevin Samuel, which is always something I’ll get excited about. Frogs head to the ‘ship, and maybe get a chance for revenge against Lipscomb.
Projection: TCU 75, Texas 71
Here are the game notes, courtesy of GoFrogs.com:
- TCU has advanced to the NIT semifinals for the second time in three seasons and will face Big 12 foe Texas Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
- TCU is 17-6 all-time in the NIT and has won its last eight in the tournament. The Frogs won the tournament during its last appearance in 2017 their first postseason tournament championship.
- It’s the second time in school history that TCU is playing in a postseason tournament for a third-straight seasons and the first time since 1999.
- A win over Texas would give TCU a three-game sweep over an opponent for the first time since defeating San Jose State three times during the 1999-2000 season.
- Entering Tuesday’s game, Jamie Dixon has a 28-15 record all-time at Madison Square Garden. TCU, under Dixon is 13-4 in neutral site games.
- Desmond Bane (2nd Team), Alex Robinson (3rd Team) and Kouat Noi (Honorable Mention) were named All-Big 12. Bane and Robinson were also named All-Big 12 by the Associated Press.
- Alex Robinson ranks seventh in the nation at 7.0 assists per game. He is TCU’s all-time assist leader at 671 and ranks No. 2 nationally among active players with 755 total career assists when including his freshman season at Texas A&M.
- Desmond Bane (15th), Alex Robinson (20th) and JD Miller (21st) have each gone over 1,000 career points and rank in the top 25 in school history in points scored.
- TCU has made a school-record 277 3-pointers this season.
- The Horned Frogs rank 16th in the nation with 16.4 assists per game. For the third-straight year, TCU is leading the Big 12 in assists.
- TCU’s roster consists of just 11 players, six who are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. The Frogs have played just seven guys in each of the last 11 games, with the exception of the final minute of play