Daniel-Meyer Coliseum | Fort Worth, TX | Tip: 7 P.M. CT
TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate list)/ESPN Full Court/Watch ESPN
The Super Bowl is over — although Denver apparently never received the memo that it was starting — which means that most of the sports world finally turns its attention to college basketball. If you haven’t been along for the ride over the last three months, you might be surprised at what is going on in Austin.
In the offseason, Rick Barnes had his name on every Hot Seat countdown list, having just struggled through the program’s first losing record in his tenure. Texas also missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in his in 15 years on the Forty Acres, and a mass exodus of players left the Longhorns with no seniors and only one junior on the 2013-14 roster.
To say that expectations were at an all-time low was an understatement. After nail-biting wins against solid mid-major competition in Mercer and Stephen F. Austin, it seemed like it could be a very long season in a stacked Big 12 Conference. Instead, these young Longhorns have played with a chip on their shoulder and a physical nature that has served them well in a defeat of Kansas and key road wins against North Carolina, West Virginia, and Baylor.
Now, the Longhorns sit just three wins away from the magical 20-win plateau and the .500 conference record that seemed like a pipe dream a few months ago. Texas is now feeling very comfortable with its NCAA tournament chances and finds itself just one game behind Kansas as the conference race reaches the halfway mark.
There are still a multitude of tests awaiting the Longhorns. Road trips to Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma are still to come, while home games against Baylor, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia should all prove challenging, as well. The Horns will likely find it difficult to keep up their current success rate the rest of the way in the Big 12, but it’s still hard to believe that the team should comfortably finish with a winning conference record.
After pulling a clean sweep against four consecutive ranked opponents, the Longhorns have the prototypical trap game at TCU tonight. The Horned Frogs are down to just seven or eight scholarship players, depending on whether starting center Karviar Shepherd plays with the broken hand he suffered two weeks ago. If he isn’t able to go, TCU will not only have a seven-man rotation, but will also be severely undersized against the Texas frontcourt. The Horned Frogs have nothing to lose at this point, so the Longhorns can’t afford to look ahead to their road trip to Kansas State on Saturday.
TCU is not a good shooting team, and the offense often relies on point guard Kyan Anderson creating dribble penetration to make anything happen. Although the Horned Frogs burn a ton of clock in half-court sets and keep the number of possessions low, they still look for opportunities to score in transition, where Anderson is particularly dangerous leaking out on the perimeter.
Although Anderson often has to carry the offense on his back, there are other options for TCU. Freshman Brandon Parrish has shown some promise as an outside shooter and slasher, but against pressure he often will dribble the air out of the ball and put up challenged midrange Js that just clank off the iron. Amric Fields — who will be the lone big if Shepherd is out — is a 6’9″ guy with a solid outside shot and face-up ability to go with his post skills.
We’ll have more pregame thoughts on the Horned Frogs and provide Texas’ keys to the game on Twitter in the hour leading up to the game. Keep your eyes peeled to the Longhorn Road Trip timeline for the rest of our preview tonight. And if for some reason you feel like reading the same tweets twice, they will be archived here sometime tomorrow.