One word to describe the Big 12 basketball season so far: electric.
Tuesday night demonstrated it better than any other, as Iowa State swept past a 1st Half deficit to beat Texas, in Ames 78-67, while Kansas and Kansas State battled in one of the best college basketball games so far this season.
The Wildcats won 83-82 in overtime, after a Keyontae Johnson alley-oop gave them the lead with a little less than :30 seconds to play.
Kansas State students and fans stormed the court in the Little Apple, Manhattan, Kansas.
On Wednesday, the conference rolls along, as TCU travels to Morgantown to see West Virginia for the first time this season.
To put it short - these two teams are having very different seasons.
Good thing we aren’t putting it short.
The Horned Frogs got back to winning ways Saturday, giving No. 13 Kansas State a run for their money, and handing them their first Big 12 loss of the season in a dominant performance.
Senior (star?) Emanuel Miller has been in his bag, recording his second 20-point game in a row during Saturday’s win in Schollmaier.
So - after three highly-contested, cardiac-attack-inducing games to begin Big 12 play, the Horned Frogs had a coming out party Saturday, playing (by far) their best game of the season, handing Kansas State its first conference loss by 14 points.
This offense finds success, and did so Saturday, by limiting turnovers, creating many second chances, and getting to the free throw line often.
Turning the ball over on only 16.3% of possessions this season, TCU ranks 40th in the country in turnover percentage. Against the, always, high-pressure, havoc-wreaking West Virginia defense, this ball protection will be crucial. The Mountaineers defense forces turnovers on 22% of opponents’ possessions.
On top of much needed ball protection - the Frogs will need to continue to create extra possessions off the glass. Right now, TCU earns a second chance on 35.1% of possessions, good for 23rd in the country.
Luckily, it should come fairly easy to the Frogs tonight. West Virginia allows opponents a second chance on 28.7% of possessions, which is only the 182nd best rate in the country.
Lastly - the Frogs have the advantage on the free-throw line, where West Virginia has a tough time defending without fouling. TCU creates 20.1% of their points from the line, while the Mountaineers allow opponents to score 22.9% of their points from the line, which is 27th-worst in the country.
TCU should have plenty of ways to find success on the offensive end tonight.
Now - for the Mountaineers, desperation has struck in. West Virginia’s still looking for its first conference victory, with a miserable record of 0-5, and things aren’t looking up.
To put it bluntly - the Mountaineers’ only advantage in this matchup is the fact that they’re playing at home, in Morgantown. According to KenPom, the Mountaineers have the second best home-court advantage in the country.
They’re gonna need it.
Preview: West Virginia
The Mountaineers rank an impressive 20th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, yet they somehow find themselves in a tie for last place in the Big 12. Much of this is thanks to West Virginia’s schedule, (according to KenPom, WVU has the 14th) but it is still puzzling.
The Mountaineers are at their best offensively this season when they’re able to penetrate the interior, and get to the free-throw line. Similar to the Frogs, WVU finds a lot of success from the line, as they have the 20th best free-throw rate in the country.
Based on offensive statistics alone - you’d think we may see a lot of free throws tonight.
But - look at TCU’s defense and it’s clear that West Virginia might find some trouble getting to the line. TCU has been great at defending without the foul this season, allowing opponents to score only 16.7% of points from the free-throw line.
If the Horned Frogs are able to limit fouling, without this extra scoring boost, WVU will find a tough time getting to the basket, and will have trouble scoring in the half-court offense, especially against this high-pressure Frog defense.
West Virginia is in a tough spot here tonight. The Mountaineers are going to feel pressure to defend their home court, all while dealing with the pressure of an abysmal start in the Big 12.
With that in mind, I expect the Frogs to handle the road-trip tonight with ease. TCU is no stranger to hostile road environments already this season, playing Baylor in Waco and Texas in Austin, going 1-1 in these contests (lost by only four to Texas), and they’ll see a similar environment tonight.
This road experience, on top of the Frogs’ advantages over West Virginia’s weaknesses, makes this a great spot for the Frogs.
No matter how desperate West Virginia is.
TCU 76, West Virginia 65