Ugh. For whatever reason - I really thought the Frogs were about to pull out that 19-point comeback win over the weekend.
TCU traveled to Stillwater, Oklahoma to play their road matchup against Oklahoma State, and it was a rough a first-half TCU has played all year. 29 points in one half was the lowest total for the Frogs all season.
Though it looked like a 19-point comeback may be on its way, as the Frogs took the lead with less than five minutes to play - the Cowboys made quick work in ending the run, and took away the win (and the cover), 79-73.
The Frogs fell to 17-6 overall, and 6-4 in the Big 12, because of the loss. Now - the Frogs will hope to complete the season sweep of Kansas State when they travel to Manhattan, Kansas for round two Tuesday night, at 8:00 p.m. TCU won the first meeting, 82-68, in Schollmaier Arena.
The Wildcats are coming in on a two-game losing streak, after losing 69-66 to Texas on Saturday. Kansas State is 18-5 overall, and also 6-4 in the Big 12. Tonight’s game could be huge in deciding these two teams’ final seeding for the Big 12 Tournament.
Unfortunately, TCU will continue to play without their starting point guard, Mike Miles Jr., due to a hyperextended knee injury that he sustained against Mississippi State. The Frogs have a 1-1 record in his absence.
Luckily for TCU, though they didn’t show it Saturday, they have the necessary depth to handle the situation.
Guard Damion Baugh has performed well in his past two games, averaging 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game. Unsurprisingly, these numbers are higher than his season averages.
And, Guard Shahada Wells, who’s taken Miles’ place in the starting lineup, has been playing well himself, scoring 10 or more points in 4 out of his last 5 games.
On top of the Frogs’ good guard play since Miles’ absence, Forward Emanuel Miller is averaging 13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during this season. Despite taking only 1.6 attempts per game, he’s shooting at a percentage of 48.4% from beyond the three-point line, leading TCU.
TCU averages 77.3 points per game and the Frogs are ranked 41st in terms of Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. But - TCU is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country.
Despite being one of the weakest teams in the country in terms of 3-point shooting, shooting only 29.1%, the Frogs excel in converting 2-point attempts, with a success rate of 53%. Additionally, TCU averages 22 trips to the foul line per game, ranking 29th nationally.
Only adding to their offensive success, TCU has a low average of 11.9 turnovers per game, making the Frogs the team with the fewest turnovers in the Big 12 conference. TCU’s also performing well in terms of turnover margin, with a +4.6, ranking second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally. Their success can be partially attributed to the pressure they exert on their opponents on the defensive end.
The Frogs average 8.7 steals and 4.9 blocks per game, placing them in the top 35 of both categories. Five Horned Frogs average over one steal per game, with Damion Baugh leading the way at 1.9 steals per game. Forward Chuck O’Bannon averages a little more than one steal and one block per game, with Emanuel Miller and wing Micah Peavy following closely.
Because of this, the Frogs are ranked 15th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
The Frogs’ defense will need to slow down the high-powered Wildcats’ offense, and there’s no better way to do that than forcing turnovers. Especially when the Frogs are so good in transition, and weak in the half-court without Miles, forcing turnovers will be crucial in upsetting Kansas State tonight.
Preview: Kansas State
Even with their recent struggles, Kansas State remains one of the most significant surprises in college basketball this season, if not the biggest. I picked them to finish last in the stacked Big 12, and wow, have they proved me wrong. Despite their obvious talent (Johnson and Nowell), I didn’t think they had the depth needed to compete during a grueling Big 12 regular season. Again - I was so, so wrong.
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Jerome Tang, the Wildcats are performing much better than expected, ranking 37th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and 25th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
Forward Keyontae Johnson, a transfer from Florida, is the Wildcat’s leading scorer, averaging 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He has been highly efficient, hitting 52% of his shots from the field and 40% from beyond the 3-point line. His story, after collapsing on the court in Gainesville in 2020, is incredible; Johnson is one of the best in the Big 12 after almost losing his life on national TV.
And Point Guard Markquis Nowell, in his second year with the program, has made significant progress. Nowell is averaging 16.8 points and 7.8 assists per game and has recently been named one of 10 candidates for the Bob Cousy Award, which is presented to the top point guard in the country. TCU’s own Mike Miles Jr. is another one of 10 Bob Cousy Award candidates. Miles Jr. and Nowell are the only players from the Big 12 named as candidates.
Largely due to the contributions of Nowell, Kansas State leads the Big 12, and ranks 12th nationally in assists per game.
The Wildcats are also an efficient 3-point shooting team, shooting 35%, although they only attempt 20 per game. They also average 22 trips to the free-throw line per game and shoot 75% at the stripe. Because of this, Kansas State averages 76.7 points per game, marking their highest scoring average since the 2010 season.
On the other side of the court, the Wildcats rank fourth in the Big 12 and 44th nationally in terms of turnovers forced per game. They average nearly 17 points per game from these turnovers.
Bouncing off turnover statistics, Kansas State averages 7.7 steals per game, as Markquis Nowell leads the charge, and he’s second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally with an average of 2.3 steals per game.
And - Kansas State has been successful in limiting opponents’ 3-point shooting accuracy to 29%, which should also help contain TCU’s weak 3-point shooting.
Eddie Lampkin Jr. will play tonight in Manhattan, which will give the Frogs a necessary boost in the interior-post, where the Frogs were bullied by Oklahoma State, Kalib Boone, and Tolu Smith.
Hopefully Lampkin looks healthy, as his presence underneath the rim will be crucial, especially in defensive rebounding and getting the Frogs out on transition.
Utilizing the transition game will be huge, since the Frogs’ half-court offense has faltered without Miles, and this offense without him can still dominate on the fast-break. (Damion Baugh might be the best player on the break in the country).
Without Mike Miles Jr., containing Nowell could be difficult, and Shahada Wells + Damion Baugh, who will be forced to cover Nowell, must stay on him, and must force him into turnovers, all while avoiding fatigue. Bringing help defense, and trapping Nowell whenever possible, (Texas did this spectacularly), will put the Frogs in a good position to control the tempo of the game, and dominate in transition.
That’s the Frogs’ recipe: force turnovers, get out on the transition game, and limit the half-court offense that’s faltered ever since Miles’ absence. If they can do that, they can steal a win from the favored Wildcats.
Unfortunately - I think this is easier said than done.
Lampkin Jr., though playing, still isn’t 100%, and without him fully healthy the Frogs’ interior-defense and rebounding could continue to falter. On top of this, Kansas State has a good enough defense to slow-down TCU’s tempo, and limit the Frogs from getting out on transition as they may want.
Kansas State’s home-court advantage may take the Wildcats over the edge here, unfortunately. If tonight’s game was in Schollmaier, and Mike was healthy, Frogs would win again by 10+.
That’s not the case here tonight, though. Kansas State wins a close one in Manhattan tonight.
TCU 72, Kansas State 74