The TCU basketball season got off to a great start in its first week, with a perfect 3-0 record and a lifting of the Hall of Fame Classic Trophy. The Frogs defeated Houston Baptist 69-45 in Fort Worth before heading to Kansas City for the Classic and downing Tulsa (70-65) and Liberty (56-52) over the weekend. So what did we learn from these first few games, and where do the Frogs go from here?
What Did We Learn?
Mike Miles is Ready
Miles, the freshman guard from Lancaster, TX, is looking like a great find after just three games. Miles was the team’s best player against Houston Baptist, and has packed the stat sheet with averages of ten points, three rebounds, and three assists a game. He has shown a knack for getting to the hoop and a smooth looking jumper from midrange/three. Coach Dixon has rolled out several multi-guard lineups, and if that small ball trend continues into Big 12 play Miles could be a major key to TCU’s success moving forward.
Who Made the Jump?
In my season preview, I asked if any players were ready to make a jump and fill the Desmond Bane sized hole in the offense. It has only been three games, but there is evidence that some guys are up to the task. Francisco Farabello has looked strong so far, sporting seven assists to just one turnover and knocking down 54% of his threes. His confidence is brimming after a turnover-filled freshman campaign, and it would take a huge weight off of the TCU game plan if he can become a true floor general. Kevin Samuel has already shown how essential he is to the team as well, dominating the glass for 18 rebounds against Tulsa. It appears that as Samuel goes, so do the Frogs, as the second half surge against Liberty came when the Frogs finally fed the big man the ball inside.
Taryn Todd and Mickey Pearson appear to have solidified their place in the rotation as well. Todd has proven a sniper with a quick release and solid athleticism driving to the hole. Pearson is a nice glue guy; he uses the least % of possessions on the team and has the size and length to switch on defense. Transfers Kevin Easley and Chuck O’Bannon have stuck in the starting lineup, with Easley performing well in the Houston Baptist and Tulsa games and O’Bannon being tenacious on the glass. They both remain players to monitor as the schedule ramps up.
COVID Impacts are Here to Stay
R.J. Nembhard missed the Houston Baptist game due to COVID protocols, and Jaedon LeDee still has yet to debut for the same reasons. It is clear that, in the absence of an NBA style bubble, outbreaks will occur and it will be unpredictable who may be available game to game. Fans need to be prepared for games to shift around at will and for players to be missing at times.
Where Are We Going?
The Frogs play two games this week. On Thursday they come home and face Northwestern State from the Southland Conference. The game will be on ESPN+ at 8 PM Central. The Demons have been blown out in all three of their contests to this point in the season: @Texas Tech (101-58), UT Arlington (80-71), and @Louisiana Tech (91-77). LeDee is expected to return from COVID protocol for this game, marking the first time the squad is at full strength. If all goes well, the Frogs should handle that game with relative ease.
Then, on Sunday, Big 12 conference play begins as Oklahoma comes to town. The game will be on ESPN2 at 4 PM Central. Lon Kruger’s men have yet to play a game this year, with games against UCF, Florida, and UTSA all being postponed or cancelled. The Frogs will be looking for redemption after a second half meltdown in Fort Worth that closed last regular season with a 78-76 loss. Guard Austin Reeves returns after pouring in 41 points in that game, as do other rotation mainstays such as Brady Manek, De’Vion Harmon, and Alondes Williams. Without having seen the Sooners this season, it’s tough to say what to expect, but two things are always true: 1. every game in the Big 12 is tough and 2. if you want to get anywhere in this conference, you need to win your home games. It is after this game we will have a clearer picture about how the Frogs season will shape up.