What now seems ages ago, months before the miraculous football season Sonny Dykes and Max Duggan have put together, TCU Men’s Basketball released their 2022-23 non-conference schedule on July 15.
It will be here before you know it! The first of 17 home games is Nov. 7.— TCU Basketball (@TCUBasketball) July 15, 2022
The Frogs have had more than ample time to prepare for the beginning stretch of their upcoming season. But now, with the season just hours away as the Frogs tip off in Schollmaier on Monday, Nov. 7, and with the Frogs’ roster previewed in-depth, it’s time to begin opponent previews for the #14 Horned Frogs.
Though a generally favorable schedule, there are a couple spots where the team could trip up, and though being undefeated heading into conference play will be the goal there is never a guarantee in college basketball.
So, who might put a blemish or two on the Frogs’ record? Or, with the program’s highest preseason ranking ever, in its most anticipated season in program history, can the team really go undefeated in non-conference play?
It all starts on Nov. 7, when Arkansas-Pine Bluff makes its way down to Fort Worth, and Schollmaier Arena.
Nov. 7 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
In what would be the easiest game on most of the country’s schedule, and will be the easiest game on the Frogs’ schedule, Arkansas Pine-Bluff visits Fort Worth to open the Frogs’ season.
The Golden Lions are the #361st!!! ranked team in the country, according to kenpom.com, ranking them above only Delaware St. and IUPUI. They went 7-24 last season, two of those wins against NCAA Division 2 schools, and lost every single Division 1 non-conference game of the season by 10 or more points.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff played three games against Big 12 opponents, playing Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas in Ames, Waco, and Austin respectively, and lost to a combined score of 245-149, getting outscored by an average of 32 points.
BUT - how much of last season’s results will matter for the Golden Lions this season? Only THREE players from last season’s team will be returning, so they’ll have a fresh start. On the flip side, the non-continuity between the bevel of transfer players and freshmen should be a problem, and Kylen Milton, the ONLY returning member of the Golden Lions’ key rotation, will have to carry the Lions for the first weeks of the season.
Good thing for the Golden Lions that he can get a bucket, and with a clear leadership role, and more minutes under his belt, Milton could have a breakout year for Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Milton, a sophomore guard who scored 12 PPG his first year in Pine Bluff, was one of four Golden Lions selected to participate in an NBPA Top 50 camp late this July, and though he shot under 40 percent from the field, and under 30 percent from three last season, he’s spent an entire offseason in improving his efficiency.
He should be matched up against Frogs’ star Mike Miles to begin TCU’s season, and expects to form a starting backcourt alongside graduate transfer Shaun Doss.
Doss, a grad transfer from SIU-Edwardsville, was invited to the same NBPA Top 50 camp as Milton, and was the biggest offseason acquisition by far for the Golden Lions. A 6’5 guard, he has a ton of length, and scored 12 PPG, while adding 6.4 rebounds a game, in his senior season at SIU-Edwardsville.
With the squad’s two best players in the starting backcourt, the Golden Lions are hoping Milton and Doss can inflict some trouble onto the Frogs’ starting backcourt of Miles, and (probably) Shahada Wells.
In the frontcourt, Arkansas Pine-Bluff actually has some length to them, and are a much bigger team than most of their counterparts in the SWAC, and one of the biggest among the bottom-50 ranked teams on kenpom.com.
Ismael Plet, a transfer from Oral Roberts, and Chris Greene, transferring from Cleveland State, are both listed at 6’8, and are both primed to start in the Golden Lions’ frontcourt.
While both match up well size-wise against the Frogs’ starting frontcourt in Emanuel Miller and Eddie Lampkin, Plet only averaged 1.1 rebounds a game at Oral Roberts, while Greene averaged only one a game with Cleveland State.
As we knew last season’s Frogs to be one of the best rebounding teams in the country, this could pose a significant problem to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who were one of the worst rebounding teams in the country last season, and Plet and Greene will have to do what they can to get Miller and Lampkin’s rebounding clinic cancelled.
Luckily for the Golden Lions, Arkansas-Pine Bluff won’t have to sacrifice much length when looking to the bench, as 6’9 freshman Robert Lewis, and 6’9 Brazilian freshman Samuel Da Cruz, both expect to see playing time, while 6’8 Rafael Martinez, a freshman out of Switzerland, will play reinforcement when needed
With three guys over 6’8 coming off the bench, this should help a team who heavily struggled to win the rebounding battle last season.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Projected Starting Lineup:
Kylen Milton (G), Rashad Williams (G) Shaun Doss (G), Ismael Plet (F), Chris Greene (F)
The Frogs + Projections
As our contributor Cory Coons previewed in-depth, the Horned Frogs bring back a very similar squad to last season’s, and the chemistry + continuity the guys have with each other should prove extremely valuable.
While the starting lineup should, generally, look exactly as it did last year (Miles, Baugh, O’Bannon, Miller, Lampkin), Shahada Wells may get the start Monday night, as Damion Baugh is still appealing an undisclosed NCAA suspension for signing with an uncertified agent during the offseason.
Coach Dixon says the team hopes to get the matter surrounding Baugh resolved “soon.”
Regardless, it’ll be fun to see Wells, who didn’t play at all last season due to the injury, back on the court, as he’s shined in off-season workouts and scrimmages, dropping 20 against Paul Quinn.
Ultimately, TCU should dominate in this one, both on the glass and on the scoreboard, and the squad should see no problems in dismantling Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Frogs will be able to test out some rotations, and everyone should see some minutes today, including the team’s new faces: Oklahoma State transfer Rondel Walker, and freshman P.J. Haggerty.
TCU’s journey to a Final Four starts tonight, and they won’t have any problems with the Golden Lions.
TCU, 88 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 57