The final year of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge begins and ends today. TCU’s final opponent: Mississippi State, as the #11 Frogs travel into Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville for a nationally televised game. (ESPN2).
The Frogs come into the matchup winning three of their last four, and in dominant fashion. TCU beat #2 Kansas, and #5 Kansas State, with ease. After beating Oklahoma, Frogs basketball ended with one of the best weeks in program history.
On the other end of the court - Mississippi State has struggled since SEC play, losing five straight (1-7 SEC), and falling to a 12-8 record overall.
This is the TCU game for you if you like grind it out, defensive battles. You won’t see a game like this in the Big 12. The first team to 60 points may legitimately win this game.
Can the Frogs get to 60 first?
Coach Jamie Dixon has built his best TCU team ever this season, as this is the fastest he’s ever brought a team to 15 wins. Coach Dixon comes into Saturday with only four losses.
The Frogs are Top 15 in NET and KenPom rankings, and a back-to-back trip to the NCAA Tournament looks more and more like a guarantee.
That would be the first time TCU set up back-to-back campaigns since the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons.
The squad’s key to success has really been its stout defense. TCU ranks Top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency, 20th in effective field goal percentage, 15th in forcing turnovers, and 23rd in 3-point defense.
The Frogs defense constantly pressures ball-handlers, gets out on shooters quickly, rotates around the perimeter, and, ultimately, forces turnovers.
Not only that - the Frogs are inside the Top 50 in defending 2-pointers. This may be the best defense the program has ever put together.
And - while the defense is the best it’s ever been, it’s complemented by one of the best scorers in the country.
Mike Miles Jr. has been on a tear, making a push to be an All-American, showing everyone why he was Big 12 1st-Team. Miles Jr. is 38th in the country in scoring (19.1 PPG), and has played even better in Big 12 play (20.3 PPG; 55% shooting).
For the Frogs to win comfortably in Starkville today - the defense will have to continue its prowess, and Miles Jr. will have to contribute at least 15 points.
Preview: vs. Mississippi State
It’s been an interesting, transitional season for Mississippi State. For a program that’s never focused on basketball, or been even close to a national powerhouse, the Bulldogs actually have some promise.
It’s head coach Chris Jans’ debut season in Starkville, after he was wrestled away from New Mexico State’s rising program, and the Bulldogs were so close to getting Jans his first signature win as coach Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs traveled to Tuscaloosa, played #2 Alabama, and left with a narrow 3-point defeat. Jans’ squad held the lead for a whole 30-minutes, until Alabama’s talent took over, and the upset bid was cut short.
But - in watching the Alabama game, you could tell just how good Mississippi State’s defense can be. Like the Frogs, when the Bulldogs are successful, their defense is lockdown.
The Bulldogs held Alabama to its lowest point total yet in SEC play, and forced the Crimson Tide to shoot a lowly 17.9% from the 3-point line. Their defense is what kept them in the game for so long against the #2 team in the country.
On the season, the Bulldogs rank 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 25th in EFG%, 13th in forcing turnovers, and 23rd in opponents’ 2-point FG%, all while ranking 76th in defending the 3-point line.
Statistically - this is a better defense than TCU’s, and they’ll need to lean into it today.
The Bulldogs are falling fast in NET rankings, and are falling out of Bracketology articles, quickly. The program desperately needs a big win if they want to make the NCAA Tournament in Jans’ debut season.
Could the big win they need come today?
It’s simple for me today - Mississippi State hasn’t played a defense like TCU’s all season long.
Yes, the Bulldogs defense is statistically better than the Frogs, but TCU’s seen defenses similar to the Bulldogs’ throughout the season.
You can’t say the same about Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs have recently lost to Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia.
Except for Tennessee, the Frogs are better defensively than all of those squads, and offensively play at a much-higher tempo.
I don’t see Mississippi State’s offense keeping up with, one, the Frogs pace of play, and two, the swarming, pressure-filled defense.
TCU’s defense is fairly comparable to Tennessee’s... The Volunteers have beat the Bulldogs twice: 70-59, and 87-53.
The Bulldogs couldn’t crack 60 in either game. It’ll be just as tough to crack 60 today.
TCU 68, Mississippi State 58