After both teams had a break from Big 12 action over the weekend, playing in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, TCU and West Virginia return to conference play Tuesday night, as the Mountaineers travel to Fort Worth to play TCU for a second time this season.
To borrow from Coach Dutch Meyer and Frogs football, “Fight ‘em on the ice,” may be the Frogs’ mantra in tonight’s rematch with West Virginia. Here in Fort Worth, it’s below-freezing and roads have iced over, and then some.
In West Virginia’s Big 12/SEC matchup, the Mountaineers were able to outlast the SEC’s Auburn in Morgantown, in main part due to Erik Stevenson’s 31-point explosion.
Stevenson led West Virginia to a 17-point second-half lead before Auburn began creeping back late.
For TCU, the Frogs faced a major setback in their match against Mississippi State, as star Mike Miles Jr. suffered a right knee hyperextension. Fortunately, the results of his MRI were favorable, indicating that the Frogs won’t be without the pivotal component of their offense for the duration of the season.
Despite Miles’ absence, the Horned Frogs managed to push the game against Mississippi State, and their formidable defense, into overtime. The Frogs ended up losing 81-74.
Though the Frogs’ stock is down, due to the loss, and as Miles, Eddie Lampkin, and Rondel Walker are all dealing with injuries, this has all-in-all been a successful season for TCU.
One big reason for the Frogs’ success is due to their proficiency in fast-break offense. Their quick transition game is reflected nationally, as the Frogs stand 38th with an average possession length of just 16.1 seconds.
Unfortunately, TCU’s ability to take advantage of open space on the court can in large-part be attributed to the performance of Miles, who leads the team with an average of 18.1 points per game.
Not only has Miles contributed heavily to the scoring, he also ranks second on the team with 3.0 assists per game.
Miles’ contributions in opening up the offense have led to TCU scoring on 58.8% of their interior shots, a rate that ranks 20th in the nation.
As a result of the Frogs’ interior success, TCU relies less on perimeter shooting, with only 29.6% of their total shots coming from beyond the arc (ranking 333rd nationally).
Clearly, it’s going to be tough without Miles. He’s one of the Big 12’s best players, and a key reason why this program has grown into what it is.
So, in order to keep pace with a West Virginia offense that is continuing to improve and show progress, the Frogs will need to find a way to replace Miles’ scoring and playmaking abilities.
Could Damion Baugh step up in his absence? Could we see another Shahada Wells game?
Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins has finally, successfully built up momentum for the 2022-23 season, as the Mountaineers have secured victories in three of their last four games.
These recent wins have been crucial for the Mountaineers, who started Big 12 conference play with a five-game losing streak.
As we know all-too-well, one of these three recent wins was a 74-65 victory against TCU, on Jan. 18.
The Mountaineers’ defensive pressure caused 19 turnovers in the game a couple weeks ago. Throughout the season, their ability to create turnovers stands at a 21.8% rate, ranking top 40 nationally.
Unfortunately, this is where I could see West Virginia holding an advantage tonight. TCU’s struggles in handling West Virginia’s pressure will only be magnified in the absence of Miles, who holds a 19.9% assist rate this season.
Even furthermore, Miles played a pivotal role for TCU’s offense in that game, leading all players with 21 points in scoring. With Miles playing, the fact the Frogs could only garner up 64 points in that game isn’t a great sign. TCU’s offense could see major lapses come tonight.
I have a feeling TCU’s offense will be forced to seek solutions against a West Virginia defense that excels at putting opponents out of their comfort zone.
Offensively for West Virginia, the Mountaineers are ranked 22nd in adjusted efficiency, largely due to their ability to secure offensive rebounds and get to the free-throw line. WVU stands 28th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, generating second chances on 34.4% of their shots.
This, again, may be another advantage the Mountaineers hold over TCU. The Frogs’ defense offensive rebounds on 31.6% of their opponents’ attempts, ranking 298th nationally. Without Eddie Lampkin, this weakness could be magnified.
Moreover, West Virginia will look to sustain their success from the perimeter. The Mountaineers shot 45% from beyond the arc against Auburn on Saturday, a positive indication for a West Virginia team that only gets 28% of their points from 3-point range.
If TCU wants to keep this game close, limiting turnovers, getting out on perimeter defense, and grabbing missed shots/2nd-chance opportunities will be huge.
Also - I think they’ll have to slow the game down. Without Miles, the Frogs will have to take better shots, even if it means taking up the whole shot clock.
I think we’re going to see another TCU game head down to-the-wire tonight.
Despite the Frogs’ clear disadvantages, overall, TCU was able to step up against Mississippi State without Miles, taking a four-point lead into the under six timeout on the road in Starkville.
I think we see big games from Baugh and Shahada Wells tonight, and JaKobe Coles will step up in Eddie’s potential absence.
And - the Frogs are playing in Schollmaier tonight. It’s a “whiteout”; fitting for the weather. The building will be loud, and warm, and the Frogs will get out to a hot start and maintain it throughout.
Though we may be biting our fingers towards the end.
TCU 72, West Virginia 70