Lineups And Stats: What Will Tell the Story Of WVU’s Return Trip To TCU?
TCU is something of a tough team to evaluate. The Purple Polliwogs started the season 12-3, including a 3-0 mark in the Big 12 Conference, but since running into West Virginia’s defensive wall in an 81-49 rout in Morgantown, have won just twice. One of those victories, however, came against Texas Tech, showing that Jamie Dixon’s squad is still capable of putting together a good effort.
The Frogs are a high-volume 3-point scoring team, ranking 22nd nationally in percentage of points coming from beyond the arc. Almost 39% of their scoring results in shots from distance, but a closer look reveals that’s more due to the number of shots they launch from downtown. While they are making a reasonable 33.9% of their tries (146th nationally) they are also hoisting more than 24 per contest — tops in the league.
|WVU (19-7/7-6) vs. TCU (14-12/5-8)||Date: Sat Feb 22||Time: 2:00 PM ET|
|Venue: Schollmaier Arena||Loc: Fort Worth, TX||Series: WVU 14-2|
|NET: WVU-10 TCU-95||TV: ESPNU||Last: WVU 81-49 (2020)|
|Twitter: @BlueGoldNews||Facebook: BlueGoldNews||Web: BlueGoldNews.com|
What this boils down to is that West Virginia can’t allow the Frogs to fire away from the perimeter. The Mountaineers must close out quickly and run shooters off the line, even if if means exposing a few paths to the rim. Shot blockers and help defenders will need to be on point for WVU, but the quickest path to a win for the home team would be for West Virginia to yield open shots from outside. TCU will not hesitate to fire away if that’s the case, and if they hit double digits (more on this in a moment) they will have a good chance of getting their 13th home win of the season.
Also of interest in this game is WVU’s starting lineup. Head coach Bob Huggins sent out Deuce McBride and Taz Sherman in place of Jordan McCabe and Derek Culver against Oklahoma State on Tuesday night, but that initial grouping didn’t show immediate positive returns. What it may have done, though, was set up a shift in tactics that the Cowboys were unable to respond to.
When his team again couldn’t knock down a perimeter shot (WVU finished 2-16 from 3-point distance) the Mountaineers reverted to more emphasis on its inside game, but it also put Jermaine Haley at point, and spread the floor with three guards for long stretches. TCU, which saw West Virginia bigs score just six points in the first half, gave up 13 to that group in the second, and the Mountaineers pushed the ball at the basket even when it didn’t get it deep in the lane, attempting only four 3-pointers over the final 20 minutes.
Does that mean, then, that the multi-guard changes and starter modifications are dead? In a word, no. Head coach Bob Huggins confirmed that, noting that practice work will continue on the two-guard sets run at times in the first half, where a pair of ballhandlers split the floor to create different angles and provide a different look for defenses to adjust to. That also provided for shorter, safer passes on the perimeter, and the Mountaineers responded by committing just 10 turnovers – their lowest total since suffering only eight against a Texas team that folded its tent early in a January 20 contest. WVU has committed 1o or fewer turnovers just three times the season — the third came against Boston back on Nov. 22 – so even if the revamped lineup and rotation didn’t have a big effect on shooting, it may have helped in ball control. Oklahoma State scored just six points off Mountaineer giveaways, and that’s a number WVU would love to achieve in every game down the stretch.
SWISHES AND MISSES
Will the Mountaineers have a 500-point scorer this year? It’s highly unlikely. In fact, it might strain to get someone to 400. Oscar Tshiebwe leads the team with 297 points, but if WVU plays ten more games this year (an estimate of five regular season and five of some combination in the postseason), he would need to average 20.3 points per outing to get there. If he maintains his current average of 11.3 points per game, he’d finish with 410.
Last year, Lamont West scored 400, but prior to that you have to go back to 2013, when Eron Harris lead the team with 305 points, to find a significantly lower total that topped the team.
* * * * * *
When TCU wins, it’s usually because of its 3-point shooting. The Frogs are 7-0 this year when making at least 10 3-pointers, accounting for half of their 2019-20 win total. They lead the Big 12 from beyond the arc, averaging 8.4 makes per game.
* * * * * *
How tough is it to win at TCU? Or, perhaps more succinctly, how little success have the Horned Frogs had in their basketball history? The Frogs have never won 20 or more games in four consecutive seasons, and only twice have they achieved that feat in three straight. The second of those streaks came under Dixon. TCU has been to just seven NCAA Tournaments.
Dixon’s current 82-43 record at his alma mater makes him one of just five coaches at the school with winning records, and three of those trod the boards in the 1920s and 30s. In the modern day, only Billy Tubbs (156-95 from 1994-2002) and Jim Killingsworth (130-106, 1979-87) are above the .500 mark.