Horned Frog basketball is, finally, starting to heat up.
After winning a ‘championship’ in the Emerald Coast Classic, and then beating Providence in the Big 12-Big East Battle, TCU Basketball looks like its starting to get into a bit of a groove.
Beating California, then-#25 Iowa, and then Providence, this short TCU winning streak has come against Power-’6’ teams, some mediocre ones, but Power-6 nonetheless.
The Frogs are shooting better from 3-Point range, which seems like a focal point of this year’s squad, crashing the boards much better than earlier in the season, and offensive movement off-ball has been much more pleasant to watch than the stagnancy of the first few games.
After a few matchups against teams from the Pac 12, the Big 10, and the Big East, the Frogs will now welcome a team from the SWAC, as Jackson State visits Fort Worth and Schollmaier Arena tonight, Dec. 6, at 7:00 p.m..
Unfortunately, the Frogs will be without star PG Mike Miles and key player F Emanuel Miller on Tuesday night, as both recover from nagging injuries.
Dec. 6 vs. Jackson State
Deion Sanders walked onto the campus of Jackson State in Jackson, Mississippi and immediately turned their football program around. The Tigers have won two straight SWAC championships, the crowning achievement for that team and program.
But - Primetime being on Jackson State’s campus didn’t change the university’s curriculum, nor improve the school’s basketball program, despite the bump in recruiting the school’s athletic department was expecting. (Was a strange expectation in the first place).
Jackson State basketball is 1-6, and just recently picked up its 1st win on Saturday, beating SMU!! (HaHa) 69-68.
But - there’s a real argument for Jackson State being the most talented 1-6 team in the nation. The Tigers have started the entire season on the road, making the matchup against the Frogs the team’s eighth road trip of the season.
Within this two-month-long road trip Jackson State have played tough mid-major programs in Tulsa, Little Rock, Miami (OH), and SMU, and have even scheduled games against the ‘big boys’, losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor by 10, and getting blown out by 39 against #14 Indiana in Bloomington.
The Tigers have been heavily challenged already, and should be ready to face stiff, Power-6 competition in the Horned Frogs.
It may come from facing stiff competition, or maybe the team’s offense really just isn’t that good, but the Tigers have only the 295th ranked offense in the country based on kenpom.com offensive efficiency.
The Frogs defense, which has improved in the team’s recent wins, and has been aided heavily by the return of Damion Baugh, should have no trouble stopping this Jackson State offense.
An offense led by shooters Trace Young and Ken Evans Jr., expect a lot of 3-Point attempts (by both teams!) during Tuesday night’s bout. Young, Senior Guard, who had 28 points in Jackson State’s win over SMU, is ever-crucial to the Tigers’ success. When he scores the ball well, the Tigers are able to stay in games longer, and in the case of the SMU game his scoring led to his team’s only victory of the season.
Young’s averaging 14.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG, shooting 48.1%!! from the field and 35.9% from 3-Point range, which is the 2nd-best percentage on the team.
The best 3-Point shooting percentage on the team goes to another of the Tigers’ key players, Sophomore Guard Ken Evans Jr., who’s also averaging 14.1 PPG, but with a more well-rounded box score, adding 5.9 RPG, and 3.9 APG, shooting 37.9% from the field and leading the team with a 37.5% 3-Point percentage.
Evans Jr. only had 5 points in the Tigers’ win over SMU, but tacked on 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals, making his presence known on the court, and on the box score. His scoring may not be as crucial to the Tigers as is Young’s, but the Tigers will need Evans Jr. to have another strong, well-rounded performance if they’re going to want to compete against the Horned Frogs.
But - compete to Jackson State may mean keeping the game, and its final score, within 20 points. If they can push the pace to above average (as they did against SMU), and avoid falling into offensive complacency, I think they’ll find keeping it within 20 to be a reasonable goal.
Especially as the Frogs will be without defensive stalwart Emanuel Miller, and Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Mike Miles.
To keep it within 10 points - well Jackson State would have to hit a lot of 3-Pointers, and Trace Young would probably have to go off for another 20+ points. (which isn’t outside the realm of possibility)...
Ultimately though, I see the Horned Frogs depth being too much of a problem for the Tigers to match-up with. The length and size waiting on the TCU bench, with P.J. Haggerty on the perimeter, and Jakobe Coles in the frontcourt, are a sizable duo for Jackson State’s smaller bench-unit to handle.
The Frogs have some new pieces, and it took a couple games for Coach Jamie Dixon to figure out just how to implement those pieces, but if the last couple performances have shown, the kinks look ironed out. There shouldn’t be much more ‘figuring out’ to do in Fort Worth.
Even with a shorthanded roster, the Frogs should be able to match Jackson State’s pace of play, but will dominate them physically, to get a high-scoring win.
This is the first time the Frogs have played in Schollmaier since Nov. 17, so expect them to put on a show, and make and take a lot of 3-Pointers, putting them in the driver’s seat for a comfortable home win.
TCU 83, Jackson State 63