The difficulty of racking up wins in the Big 12 has been well-documented this season. It’s been even better-documented for TCU recently, losing four of its last six.
TCU and Iowa St. both enter Wednesday’s matchup in Ames riding multi-game losing streaks, which leaves both sides desperate to stop the skid here.
Here’s how this battle between two AP Top 25 opponents may play out later tonight:
(BTW - Mike Miles Jr. and Eddie Lampkin are inactive again for the Frogs tonight)
Guess which Power 5 team has used the most unique starting lineups this season? Well - you guessed it: the TCU Horned Frogs.
Mainly because of multiple injuries throughout the year, as we all know, coach Jamie Dixon has been forced to start a total of 13 unique combinations in his starting lineup.
Most disappointing for the Frogs has been the quality of players forced to simply watch from the sidelines. TCU has gone stints without their two leading scorers, Mike Miles and Damion Baugh and also their leading rebounder, Eddie Lampkin.
We know that when fully healthy, TCU is as good as any team in the country. Proof for the rest of the nation came when the *fully equipped* Horned Frogs beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, and then Oklahoma at home by a combined 50 points.
But - Coach Dixon’s usual starting five only lasted a couple minutes into the team’s next contest against Mississippi State, when Miles suffered a hyperextension in his right knee that he’s still healing from.
Having avoided a season-ender, Miles and Lampkin returned to practice in full Tuesday for the first time together since Mississippi State. Unfortunately, neither will be back on the court tonight in Ames. And to add to fans’ misery - the full roster still wasn’t able to practice.
Damion Baugh is now questionable to play tonight, with no updates as of 4:00 CT, with what team doctors are calling a “lower body ailment.” Baugh’s potential absence is quite literally a game breaker. The Frogs will need as much offensive weaponry available as possible against a tough defensive unit, on the road in Ames.
Preview: Iowa State
Until its recent string of lackadaisical performances, Iowa State had been following up its run to last season’s Sweet 16 with another year of outstanding defense, and impressive play, under coach TJ Otzelberger.
But - while the defense has also faltered, offensive struggles have really culminated in two consecutive Cyclone losses. In fact, going back to Iowa State’s game at Missouri on January 28th, it’s dropped four of their last five.
Yet - it’s still important to contextualize these to really assess the team’s state.
Three of the four defeats were on the road, two of those three losses were Quad-1 losses, and, the one loss that wasn’t Q1 was a Q2 loss at Texas Tech, a game the Cyclones led by 23 points at one stage.
Its most recent loss, at home, to Oklahoma State was Iowa State’s first loss at Hilton Coliseum all season. The Cyclones’ 56-points was also the second fewest points it’s scored in a game this season.
To be honest, this poor offensive production may truly be a result of a once-great defense in decline. This Cyclone defense has allowed an average of only 61 points per game this season. But, in its last three road losses, the Cyclones have allowed more than 75 points in each game.
Its struggling defense has led to fewer steals, and longer rebounds, leading to easy transition buckets for opponents. For a middling, short handed TCU offense that badly needs the fast break to score, this could be a huge opportunity for the Frogs.
But, unfortunately, I’d expect the defensive intensity we’re used to from Iowa State for a multitude of reasons.
Tonight’s game, and the Cyclones’ current situation, forces Iowa State to call for a sense of urgency, and heightened defensive intensity. A loud, raucous home crowd in Ames will certainly help the Cyclone defense make the Frogs feel uncomfortable. And, the absence of Miles Jr. and Lampkin, and the potential absence of Baugh would force increased minutes on Shahada Wells, and force the Frogs into big-man lineups - which doesn’t match up well against Iowa State.
Because of all this - tonight’s contest will be an incredibly difficult game for the Frogs to win. I expect Jaren Holmes and Caleb Grill to have big games tonight, especially on the home floor, and the Frogs’ limited depth will wear themselves out later in the game,
The team has spent too long shorthanded.
While I do expect TCU to lose its fifth in its last seven games, I do still think the Frogs keep it close tonight. Though this short handed team hasn’t picked up many wins, it hasn’t picked up many blowout losses either. (Save for Kansas State)
Another one comes right down to the wire for the Frogs in Ames tonight…
TCU 67, Iowa State 68