Preview: West Virginia Mountaineers – TCU Horned Frogs
The high-scoring Horned Frogs are figuring out how to handle the loss of one of their standouts, but are still scoring more than 87 points per game (fifth nationally) as the try to claw their way back up the Big 12 standings after losing four of their last five games.
SCOUTING THE HORNED FROGS
A 12-0 out of conference start put TCU into the top ten, but things have been tougher since embarking on Big 12 play. The Frogs have managed wins over Baylor and Iowa State, but have also suffered five losses. The non-conference schedule was decidedly light, with wins over Nevada and SMU the only ones of note, but head coach Jamie Dixon’s squad still has good talent and the ability to beat anyone in the league. Those five losses came by a total of just 16 points, wth two of them coming in overtime, so its not as if TCU is being overwhelmed by the competition. They have also had to shuffle the lineup to fill the big gap left by sophomore guard Jaylen Fisher, who was lost for the year with a knee injury a week ago. His 12.3 points and 5.4 assist per game will be missed for the remainder of the season.
Senior forward Vlad Brodziansky (6-11, 230 lbs.) is a match-up problem who can take defenders outside and in. He scores well with a variety of moves in the lane, but can also step outside for jumpers and threes, and totals 15.4 points per outing on 60% shooting. Swingman Kenrich Williams (Sr., 6-7, 210 lbs.) is much the same, and tallies nearly a double-double with 14.7 points and 9.4 boards.
Junior guard Alex Robinson (6-1, 175 lbs.) is attempting to fill Fisher’s playmaking shoes, and he’s also scoring at an 11.5 points per game clip, while fellow backcourter Desmond Bane (So., 6-5, 215 lbs.) is also in double figures with 11.5 points per contest. Junior forward JD Miller (6-8, 235 lbs.) rounds out the starting five, adding 10.7 points and 5.1 rebounds. Yet another forward, freshman Kouat Noi (6-7, 210 lbs.) is getting good run, and could see his minutes rise to help fill Fisher’s absence. In 18.6 minutes, he’s averaging 9.4 points.
TCU has lived on good shooting to pile up the points. Making better than 50% from the field and 40% from three, they are putting up 87.6 points per conference encounter. Defense hasn’t been a strong suit, but with five players making 42% or better from distance, and six hitting 50% or better from the field, they’ve been able to stay in every game. Without Fisher, their rotation looks a bit short at guard, so they will still be trying to figure out how to get extra minutes there, or whether to go with just one guard for some stretches.
The battle on the boards will be a key factor as WVU looks to extend its unbeaten streak against the Horned Frogs.
|West Virginia (15-3 / 4-2) vs. TCU (14-5 / 2-5)||Mon Jan 22 9:00 PM ET|
|Schollmaier Arena||Fort Worth, TX||Series: WVU 11-0|
|RPI: WVU – 18 TCU- 22||TV: ESPN||Sirius/XM: 137 / 199|
TCU has been outrebounded in just four games this year, and holds a +6.8 advantage on the boards. That, of course, is an emphasis for WVU, which hasn’t been quite as strong on the glass this year on the defensive end, but still holds a +5.3 margin. West Virginia dominated a much taller, yet strangely passive, Texas team on the glass on Saturday afternoon by a 45-29 margin, and while some of that was the result of voluminous UT misses, WVU showed it is still capable of getting the job done against taller teams. The initial focus might be in the battle between Williams and WVU’s Sagaba Konate, but the real area to watch is the contest between the swing forwards. WVU’s Esa Ahmad, Lamont West and Wesley Harris will need to keep players like Miller, Noi and Ahmed Hamdy from controlling the boards while the bigs are battling it out.,
This is also a game in which the Mountaineers could press (pun intended) its guard play. With Fisher out, TCU will have to show it can bring the ball up the court effectively throughout the game. They have done so, albeit not against WVU’s pressure, for most of this season. TCU is averaging just 12.2 turnovers per game, but West Virginia will likely try to wear down the Frogs’ short rotation with pressure throughout. If they can get a few extra turnovers, and force some rushed shots by bleeding the shot clock early in the possession, they will have a much better chance of holding onto sole possession of second place in the league. The Frogs have not committed more than 14 turnovers over the last nine games, and are averaging just 10.3 per game during that span.
TCU wants to make this another high-scoring game — one it figures WVU won’t be able to keep pace in on the offensive end. With an effective field goal percentage of 57.7% (12th nationally), the Frogs take advantage of volume possessions as well as anyone in the country. West Virginia, despite lower shooting percentages, isn’t a dog in the scoring race by any means (81.5 per game), but the manner in which this game plays out, and the pace, especially when TCU has the ball, will have significant impact on the outcome.
This will be the first appearance on ESPN’s Big Monday telecast for the Horned Frogs, whose program is definitely on an upward trend despite a few recent losses. Think anyone at Pitt regrets not making more of an effort to retain him when TCU came calling? That decision included actually lowering his buyout when the Frogs made an offer.
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West Virginia’s current free throw percentage of 75.6% would be the top mark in school history if it can maintain it for the rest of the season.
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TCU features a hugely experienced lineup from all angles. The Horned Frogs returned all five starters from a year ago, and 79% of their scoring and rebounding output. They also have tons of court time, having played 39 games last season while winning the NIT, then getting an extra ten practices and five games during its trip to Australia before the start of the season.
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WVU is 11-0 when scoring more than 80 points, but lost the only game in which it allowed its opponent (Texas A&M) to do so. In four of five of TCU’s losses, the Frogs scored at least 84 points, and twice scored in the high 90s.
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TCU head coach Jamie Dixon is still a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild. In his early 20s, Dixon was in a Bud Light commercial that featured a woman dunking on him. At age 12, Dixon fired a space gun in a commercial
for Mattel. At age 10, he was the star of a TV commercial for Rice Krispies, pretending to celebrate a birthday while eating cereal, and at age 5, he did a TV commercial for Volvo, sitting in the back seat and smiling while his father played the driver. He was also in a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial.