3.05.14
Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:12PM

TCU Horned Frogs (9-19 overall, 0-16 Big 12) at Texas Longhorns (21-8, 10-6)
Frank Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 7 P.M. | TV: Longhorn Network
Vegas: Texas -18 | Pomeroy: Texas, 77-60 (94%)

It won’t be Senior Night, but the Texas Longhorns will play their final home game of the year when they host TCU tonight. In a season where the Horns were expected to finish at the bottom of the standings and maybe flirt with the NCAA bubble, they are instead safely in the field with a week left in the regular season and are only playing for seeding at this point.

In addition to that NCAA tournament seeding, the Horns are also still locked in a fierce battle for seeding at the Big 12 Championship tournament in Kansas City. Heading into tonight’s action, Texas is tied with Oklahoma for second, although the Sooners own the tiebreaker by virtue of a season sweep of the Longhorns. A half-game behind the Red River rivals are Iowa State and Kansas State, two teams who have home games scheduled on Saturday in arenas where they hardly ever lose.

TCU, meanwhile, is fast approaching history with their winless conference mark. At 0-16, the Horned Frogs are two losses away from a perfectly futile Big 12 campaign, and just three wins away from tying Texas A&M’s record 20-game Big 12 losing streak. With stretch forward Amric Fields (No. 4) out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury, the Horned Frogs now have just one player taller than 6’6″ on their roster.

The first time around, the Longhorns had a very tough time with TCU in Fort Worth, just days after taking care of Kansas in Austin. Early turnovers and horrid shooting made Texas fight for the win until the final seconds, as the Longhorns had to rely on a ridiculous 59.5% offensive rebounding mark to squeak out a narrow, 59-54 victory.

There are far too many tiebreaker permutations to compute before tonight’s action, but with wins in their final two games, the Longhorns would be guaranteed no worse than the No. 3 seed in Kansas City. There is still a doomsday scenario on the table where five teams could tie for second at 10-8, but my computer started smoking and shooting out sparks when I tried figuring out how those tiebreakers would shake out. So, for the sake of my laptop, let’s just hope Texas wins tonight’s contest.

Keys to the game

1) Hang on to the ball – Turnovers are what kept things close in Fort Worth, and they are what kept TCU within striking distance until late in the second half of games at Oklahoma and against Iowa State. With TCU taking the air out of the ball and limiting the number of possessions, even a moderate turnover rate can make things dicey against the Horned Frogs.

2) Dominate the paint – The Horned Frogs have a promising young center in Karviar Shepherd (No. 1), but he is their only post option and he is not yet a dominant one. Shepherd and TCU often give up far too easily when trying to establish an inside game, meaning that their only big man will often drift out and play a midrange game. Although he has a nice midrange jumper in his arsenal, the Horned Frogs cannot afford to have Shepherd anywhere but the painted area.

If the Longhorns play their typical style of tough, physical D, they can likely own the lane and force Shepherd off the blocks. In addition to making it tougher on TCU to score, that will also serve to increase Texas’ advantage on the boards. While it’s hard to imagine that Texas could top the 59.5% offensive rebounding mark and 79.5% defensive rebounding rate from the first meeting between these two teams, another strong performance on the glass would cripple TCU’s upset hopes.

3) Take away penetration – With Fields out of the game, the TCU offense is now almost entirely reliant upon the ability of point guard Kyan Anderson (No. 5) to generate points. He is great at varying his speeds and taking good angles to get to the rim, and he knows how to get his shots up through taller defenders, despite being listed at a very generous 5’11″.

Although he is also a good three-point shooter, Texas should be most concerned with taking away Anderson’s driving ability. None of the other Horned Frogs are very good at creating their own looks, so if Anderson can’t open things up with his dribble penetration, he’ll have to single-handedly beat Texas from beyond the arc.

2.04.14
Posted by Ryan Clark at 12:59PM

#15/18 Texas Longhorns (17-4 overall, 6-2 Big 12) at TCU Horned Frogs (9-11, 0-8)
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.

3.13.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 4:01PM

[7] Texas Longhorns (15-16 overall, 7-11 Big 12) vs. [10] TCU Horned Frogs (11-20, 2-16)
Big 12 Championship First Round | Sprint Center | Kansas City, MO
Tip: Approx. 8:30 P.M. CT | TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate list)
LRT Consecutive Game #252

The Texas Longhorns open play in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship with one, straightforward goal: win the whole damned thing. For the Longhorns, anything less than that will mean an end to a 14-year streak of NCAA appearances. And while Texas is hoping to preserve its historic streak, the rest of the program’s history is stacked against it. The Longhorns have never won the Big 12 Championship, despite appearing in the finals on six different occasions.

Rick Barnes and the Horns face an uphill battle in KC
(Photo credit: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

Even getting to that championship will be extremely difficult, as Texas must win three games in a row to reach that point. Until Saturday’s overtime win at Texas Tech, the Longhorns had not even strung together two consecutive victories in league play. Furthermore, Texas would still have to get past Kansas State and then either Oklahoma State or Baylor, three teams which the Horns posted a 1-5 record against in the regular season.

Of course, the old adage holds that you must take it one game at a time. For Texas, that would be sage advice. Although the Horns open tournament play against last-place TCU, they have to remember that the Horned Frogs have pulled off surprising upsets to earn their two league victories. Earlier this season, TCU shocked the college basketball world with a home win over a Top 5 Kansas team. On Saturday, they wrapped up their regular season by building a massive lead against Oklahoma and then hanging on for the improbable win. If Texas makes the mistake of looking ahead to a possible matchup with Kansas State tomorrow night, the Horns might not even get there.

Meet the Horned Frogs

For an in-depth look at the TCU roster and the team’s style of play, check out LRT’s preview of the first match-up between these two teams.

The first meeting

Texas had to grind it out with TCU in the first game, which saw only 57 possessions on the night. Even with such a slow tempo, the Longhorns were able to build a lead as large as 19 points and won the game by a 17-point final margin. Texas used stifling defense to limit the already-anemic TCU offense to just 0.753 points per possession, while having one of its best shooting nights of the season on the other end.

One reason Texas was able to get so many good looks is that the team made it a point to work the ball inside-out against TCU. Connor Lammert cracked double-digits in points for the first time in his collegiate career, logging 10 on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night. Since then, the freshman has continued to play with confidence, earning starts in the team’s last two games.

Ioannis Papapetrou also had a solid night against the Horned Frogs, scoring 13 points in his 34 minutes on the court. More importantly, the Greek forward snagged nine boards on a night where the Longhorns performed terribly on the glass. The Longhorns grabbed just 30 rebounds as a team, posting an ugly 26.9% mark on the offensive glass.

For TCU, the bright spots were in the frontcourt, where Connell Crossland (No. 2) continued his surge in conference play. The senior had 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Fellow big man Adrick McKinney (No. 24) led TCU in the scoring department with 13, while also logging eight boards.

The rematch

When the two teams squared off once again on February 19th, Myck Kabongo was back on the court for Texas, and he made an immediate impact. The sophomore point guard scored eight points in the first half and dished out five dimes, as the Longhorns took a 33-25 lead to the locker room.

Texas moved the ball extremely well in the first half, while Kabongo was aggressive with the bounce. The Longhorns could have been even more efficient on offense, if not for a series of poor passes into the paint that resulted in turnovers.

On the other end, the Longhorn defense had a tough time shutting down a TCU team that typically struggles to score. Even though Demarcus Holland did a solid job turning back the penetration of point guard Kyan Anderson (No. 5), the Horned Frog bigs repeatedly found great post position. Cameron Ridley especially struggled to force McKinney off the block, and he played only six minutes as a result. Even with that interior success, TCU did not limit its scoring to the paint, as Garlon Green repeatedly knocked down midrange jumpers.

In the second half, TCU coach Trent Johnson made adjustments to slow down the Horns, most notably tabbing Nate Butler Lind (No. 21) to guard Kabongo. While he is perhaps a step slower than Anderson, Butler Lind’s extra length made it tougher for Kabongo to score, even when the Texas point guard was able to drive the lane.

The Longhorns briefly experimented with a zone in the second half, but Anderson quickly took advantage without Holland in his shirt. Anderson penetrated the zone and hit his teammates in good position as the defense collapsed, logging six assists in the second half alone. He also chalked up some of those dimes by being alert after missed Texas shots, judiciously picking the spots where he could push the tempo for transition points. His leadership allowed the Horned Frogs to tie the game with just under nine minutes to go, and he kept them within a few buckets of Texas down the stretch.

In the end, it was clutch plays from Connor Lammert and Holland that iced the game, keeping Texas just ahead of a determined TCU squad. After a pass by Kabongo from the opposite three-point line, Lammert made an acrobatic, backwards layup in transition as he was fouled, and then he converted the free throw. A few possessions later, Holland drilled a three from the corner as the shot clock neared zero. Thanks to those timely buckets, the Longhorns escaped Daniel-Meyer Coliseum with a 68-59 win, their first true road win of the season.

Keys to the game

1) Clean up the glass – Although TCU is just an average rebounding team, the Longhorns had trouble keeping them away from the offensive boards in both games. Texas allowed the Horned Frogs to reclaim 37.8% of their misses in the first meeting between the two teams and 45.2% of their misses in the second game. The Horned Frogs do not shoot the basketball well and rely mostly on scoring from their bigs in the post. If the Horns wants to avoid the upset tonight, they have to take advantage of that offensive weakness by limiting second and third chances once they have forced missed shots.

Texas must challenge TCU big man Adrick McKinney
(Photo credit: Orlin Wagner/Associated Press)

2) Make the bigs uncomfortable – With TCU’s preference for dumping it into the post, Texas has to make it a point to put the Horned Frog bigs in uncomfortable positions. (No, not the back of a Volkswagen.) The Longhorns can force TCU to make entry passes further up the lane or perhaps choose to immediately double on the catch near the block. With TCU hitting less than 31% of their threes on the season, the risk of doubling down is diminished greatly.

No matter which approach is taken, the Horns have to focus on making things tough for McKinney and Devonta Abron (No. 23). The Longhorns also need to make sure that their interior fouls count, limiting the number of and-one opportunities they concede. At the line, TCU is the eighth-worst team out of 347 in the country, making less than 60% of their attempts. If the Horns are beat in the paint, they must make the Horned Frog bigs earn both of the points, not give up the two and still allow a chance for the bonus.

3) Aggression from the guards – TCU has a very stout defense that packs it in tight and forces opponents to beat them with outside and midrange shooting. In the last meeting, Kabongo showed how easily dribble penetration can make that TCU defense break down. The adjustment to put Butler Lind on Kabongo slowed down his attack, and it also slowed down the Horns as a result.

If the Texas point guard is unable to mix things up with the bounce, Holland, Sheldon McClellan, and Julien Lewis will need to pick up the slack and drive from the wings and along the baseline. Otherwise, the Longhorns will be forced to win this game with their jump shots, and those have been very inconsistent all season long.

2.19.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 7:51AM

Texas Longhorns (11-14 overall, 3-9 Big 12) at TCU Horned Frogs (10-15, 1-11)
Meyer Coliseum | Fort Worth, TX | Tip: 7 P.M. | TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate List)/ESPN3.com
LRT Consecutive Game #246

If there’s one thing the Longhorns can be thankful for this season, it’s that the Big 12 schedule-makers seem to have a bit of compassion. For the second time this year, Texas will get a chance to bounce back from an uninspired, embarrassing defeat by playing the worst team in the Big 12.

On February 2nd, the Longhorns blew out TCU by a 60-43 count, just four days after being waxed by 26 in Manhattan by Kansas State. Tonight, the Longhorns are looking for another bounce-back win against that same TCU team, three days after getting smoked at Kansas, again by 26 points.

Rick Barnes is still looking for answers this season
(Photo credit: Ed Zurga/Associated Press)

For Texas, any and all NCAA hopes now rest on a miraculous run through the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. In most years, that would mean that the Longhorns would want to position themselves on the bottom half of the bracket, avoiding top-seed Kansas and the huge home-court advantage they have at the Sprint Center. This season, the Jayhawks are in a virtual three-way tie for first — Kansas State has a half-game edge — with six games left to play.

With such a contentious battle waging at the top of the league, it’s far too early to tell if Texas would benefit more from being the 7-seed or the 8-seed. About the only thing that is clear about the bracket at this point is that Texas is practically guaranteed to be playing on the tournament’s opening night, necessitating a four-wins-in-four-days run to reach the NCAAs. The Longhorns are currently five games behind the three teams tied for fourth through sixth, meaning that even if Texas ran the table, Iowa State, Baylor, or Oklahoma would have to go 1-5 down the stretch just to fall into a sixth-place tie with the Horns.

Of course, there’s always the NIT. In 2006, the rule was removed that required teams to have a .500 record to make the field, but there has yet to be a team invited with a losing record. North Carolina made the 2010 NIT with a 16-16 mark and went on to reach the championship game, where the team lost to Dayton.

If Texas were to play in the NIT, their record would have to include a loss at some point in the Big 12 tournament. That gives Texas at least 15 losses and means the Longhorns would need to go 5-1 down the stretch or win two games in Kansas City to ensure a .500 record. Needless to say, Texas cannot afford to lose to teams like TCU if it wants to avoid the CBI or a March spent on the couch.

Meet the Horned Frogs

For an in-depth look at TCU, check out LRT’s preview from the first meeting between these two teams.

The first match-up

Texas had to grind it out with TCU in the first game, which saw only 57 possessions on the night. Even with such a slow tempo, the Longhorns were able to build a lead as large as 19 points and won the game by a 17-point final margin. Texas used stifling defense to limit the already-anemic TCU offense to just 0.753 points per possession, while having one of its best shooting nights of the season on the other end.

One reason Texas was able to get so many good looks is that the team made it a point to work the ball inside-out against TCU. Connor Lammert cracked double-digits in points for the first time in his collegiate career, logging 10 on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night. Since then, the freshman has continued to play with confidence, earning starts in the team’s last two games.

Ioannis Papapetrou also had a solid night against the Horned Frogs, scoring 13 points in his 34 minutes on the court. More importantly, the Greek forward snagged nine boards on a night where the Longhorns performed terribly on the glass. The Longhorns grabbed just 30 rebounds as a team, posting an ugly 26.9% mark on the offensive glass.

For TCU, the bright spots were in the frontcourt, where Connell Crossland (No. 2) continued his surge in conference play. The senior had 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Fellow big man Adrick McKinney (No. 24) led TCU in the scoring department with 13, while also logging eight boards.

Since then…

The Horned Frogs pulled off the biggest upset of the year in their very next game, knocking off Kansas at home for the program’s first Big 12 victory. The TCU defense confounded the Jayhawks for most of the game, holding Kansas to just 13 points in the first half. Kansas used full-court pressure to close the gap in the second half, but TCU responded once the lead had been sliced to just four points. On the night, Kansas made less than 30% of their shots and hit only 3-of-22 from behind the arc.

Outside of that historic win, it has unfortunately been business as usual for the hapless Horned Frogs. That outstanding defensive performance against KU resulted in just 0.821 points per possession for the Jayhawks. In the three losses since that game, TCU has allowed an average of 1.184 points each time down the floor.

Point guard Kyan Anderson (No. 5) has particularly struggled over the last two weeks. In the team’s last five games, he has still managed to average 10 points per game, but has been rather ineffective as a facilitator of the offense. Against Iowa State on Saturday, Anderson finally posted a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, logging eight dimes against two mistakes. But in the four games prior, which included the previous loss to Texas, the sophomore had six asissts with 11 turnovers.

Unfortunately, Anderson is being asked to shoulder far too much of the load for the Horned Frogs. He is the team’s best playmaker, and when he is unable to penetrate with the bounce, TCU’s offense often bogs down. Even against Iowa State, in a game where he finally was able to set up teammates, Anderson dragged down the offense with a 2-for-11 performance from long range. It doesn’t appear that the Horned Frogs are going to find the answers this season, but they certainly won’t be able to find much success until Anderson can put together another complete game.

Connell Crossland has come on strong in Big 12 play
(Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Although the point guard has been struggling, the Horned Frogs have found a recent spark from Crossland, who has started every game since cracking the starting five against Texas. While he’s averaging just over 10 points per game, his biggest contribution has been on the glass. Crossland averaged 9.6 rebounds in those five starts, and now has offensive and defensive rebounding rates that are both ranked in the Top 300 nationally. Although TCU still struggles to convert their second and third chances, Crossland’s strong work on the offensive glass is at least giving a very bad offense a few more chances to score.

Keys to the game

1) Push the tempo – With Myck Kabongo back for the Longhorns, there is no reason why Texas should settle for playing at TCU’s desired pace. The Horned Frogs are hoping to limit the number of possessions and keep the score low, mitigating the advantages that Texas has on both ends of the court. If Kabongo and Texas can exploit mistakes by Anderson and look for opportunities to score in transition, it will be very tough for TCU to keep up with the Longhorns. Acquiescing to TCU’s pace will only increase the chances for an ugly road loss.

2) Close out defensive possessions – TCU reclaimed nearly 38% of their missed shots in the first meeting between these two teams, and the Horned Frogs outrebounded the Horns overall. With Crossland playing out of his mind, the struggling TCU offense is finally getting some extra chances to put the ball in the basket. Although TCU doesn’t often turn their offensive boards into extra points, Texas cannot afford to find out if tonight’s the night they flip that script. If Texas can close out their defensive possessions after one shot, it will demoralize the Horned Frogs and make it very unlikely that they can score enough to keep pace with the Horns.

3) Attack inside – The Longhorns found success in the paint against TCU during their first meeting, and they did that without the services of Jonathan Holmes, who will be on the court this time around. If Texas again makes it a point to get touches inside, the team should be able to repeat history and find some easy looks at the rim. More importantly, a commitment to attacking the paint will hopefully result in whistles on Crossland, McKinney, and Devonta Abron (No. 23). With Anderson struggling, TCU is having to rely even more on its experienced frontcourt. Tagging the TCU bigs with early foul trouble could quickly cripple their hopes for another home upset.

2.02.13
Posted by Ryan Clark at 4:37PM

TCU Horned Frogs (9-11 overall, 0-7 Big 12) at Texas Longhorns (9-11, 1-6)
Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 7 P.M. CT | TV: Longhorn Network
LRT Consecutive Game #241

On Wednesday, the Texas Longhorns suffered their worst loss in more than seven years, as they were blown out by 26 points at Bramlage Coliseum. Texas posted its second-worst defensive performance of the year, allowing Kansas State to score 1.268 points per possession, well above the team’s season average of 0.885 points allowed. It was a demoralizing loss in every facet of the game, as the Wildcats out-hustled Texas to loose balls, forced turnovers, and scored at will for the entire 40 minutes.

Fortunately, the Longhorns should be able to quickly put that loss behind them. TCU comes to town tonight for the first meeting in five years between these former Southwest Conference rivals, currently riding a seven-game losing streak. The Horned Frogs and first-year coach Trent Johnson have suffered through terrible luck in the injury department and are still looking for their first conference win in the Big 12. Texas could not ask for a better opponent to face when in dire need of a bounce-back performance.

By the numbers

Folks who have complained about their inability to watch the Longhorn Network might be thankful for the lack of carriage tonight. Both TCU and Texas struggle to score, while both teams also have strong defenses. Add in the fact that the Horned Frogs play at the 15th-slowest pace in all of Division I hoops, and the points could be few and far between in this one.

TCU’s adjusted offensive efficiency is ranked an abysmal 329th out of 347 teams in D-I. The Horned Frogs score an adjusted 0.867 points per possession, with that number dipping even further in conference play. Against Big 12 opponents, the Frogs have managed just 0.804 points per possession, and they have posted a league-worst 38.6% effective field goal percentage.

Making those scoring problems even worse are TCU’s struggles to hold on to the ball and to convert their freebies. The Frogs have coughed it up on 22.5% of their possessions and have made only 60.2% of their free throws. That percentage at the line is 10th-worst in Division I, which should help a foul-prone Texas defense tonight. The Longhorns send their opponents to the line more than any other team in Big 12 play, so they have to hope that TCU continues leaving points at the charity stripe.

Defensively, the Horned Frogs have performed admirably, although their numbers are helped out quite a bit by a very weak non-conference schedule. TCU faced only one team ranked in the Top 100 by Ken Pomeroy, and played only one other that ranked in the Top 150. Since shifting to league competition, the Horned Frogs have allowed 1.057 points per possession, ninth-best in the conference.

The tempo-free areas where TCU has excelled defensively are turnover percentage and free-throw rate. The Frogs have forced Big 12 opponents to turn it over on 22.6% of their possessions, the best rate in the league. Their FTR is second-best in the Big 12, as they give up roughly one free throw for every four field-goal attempts.

Meet the Horned Frogs

The Horned Frogs seemed to be heading in the right direction at the end of Jim Christian’s tenure, pulling off big home upsets over UNLV and New Mexico last year. Although they lost three key players from last year’s team, a lot of promising young talent and a solid recruiting class gave TCU fans a reason to be excited heading into their first Big 12 season. But, thanks to a rash of injuries, Coach Johnson has been forced to shift his rotation all season long, and he’s rolled out nine different starting lineups this year.

Big man Aaron Durley (No. 44), who had originally committed to Marquette, was lost for the year after suffering a knee injury in pre-season workouts. Expectations were also high for Amric Fields (No. 4), who was the Sixth Man of the Year in the Mountain West last season. Unfortunately, he also suffered a knee injury just minutes into the third game of the season. As if those setbacks weren’t enough, the Horned Frogs also lost Jarvis Ray (No. 1) for six to eight weeks after he injured his foot in a non-con win over Southern.

Kyan Anderson has quick hands on the perimeter
(Photo credit: David Smith/Associated Press)

With so many key contributors lost, even more pressure has fallen on the shoulders of sophomore point guard Kyan Anderson (No. 5). Tabbed Freshman of the Year in the Mountain West last season, Anderson has started all 20 games for the Horned Frogs this year and has an impressive assist rate of 26.9%. He is the team’s only consistent three-point shooter, as he sinks 35.9% of his looks and averages nearly four attempts per game.

Anderson’s 11.6 points per game are tops on the team, and his 3.1% steal rate ranks just outside the Top 300 nationally. Most impressively, Anderson logs those steals without drawing whistles, as he has been called for just 1.7 fouls per 40 minutes.

The only other Frog to start in every game is senior forward Garlon Green (No. 33). He has shown some nice post moves on the block, but also has a solid mid-range game and accuracy beyond the three-point line. Although he averages just under two attempts from long range per game, Green has connected on 38.9% of those shots.

One area of Green’s game that is frustrating is his work on the offensive glass. In the loss to Iowa State, his ability to extend possessions with offensive rebounds and get easy second-chance points were a key to TCU staying competitive with the Cyclones. But on the season, Green’s offensive rebounding percentage is a paltry 3.9%. If the 6’7″ senior would fight more consistently for boards on that end of the court, the Horned Frogs could be much more competitive in the Big 12.

One man who is rebounding consistently is fellow senior Adrick McKinney (No. 24). A hometown kid who played at Trimble Tech High, McKinney is ranked just outside of the Top 100 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. McKinney snags 12.6% of his opportunities on the offensive end, while reclaiming 22% of opponents’ misses on the other end.

Adrick McKinney is a key contributor inside
(Photo credit: David Smith/Associated Press)

McKinney is a handful inside, but most opponents have made him work for his points. The senior makes just 53.4% of his free throws, which is why defenses have no problem fouling him when he gets the ball in good position down low. McKinney’s free-throw rate of 71.5% — meaning he takes roughly seven free throws for every ten field goal tries — underscores that problem.

For a Texas team that has struggled defending the post since Jonathan Holmes’ injury, this is a welcome development. As long as the Horns make their post fouls count and don’t allow and-one opportunities, they can limit McKinney’s effectiveness by sending him to the stripe.

The other big man for TCU is sophomore Devonta Abron (No. 23), who hails from Seagoville outside of Dallas. A transfer from Arkansas, he was given a waiver and allowed to play immediately due to an ill family member. Like McKinney, Abron struggles at the line, and opponents send him there often. His free-throw rate is an even 70%, while he actually makes just 52.4% of his attempts from the stripe.

At 6’8″ and 255 pounds, Abron is a presence in the lane. His 4.6% block percentage is tops on the team and averages out to roughly one block per game. He’s ranked in the Top 250 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages and has increased his playing time to more than 24 minutes per game in Big 12 contests. Abron still has great strides to make offensively, but he’s certainly developed quite a bit in his short time with TCU.

Freshman guard Charles Hill, Jr. (No. 0) is currently the flavor of the month for that fifth starting spot, having surged onto the scene in conference play. After averaging just 2.2 minutes per game in non-conference games, Hill has started five of seven Big 12 games and is averaging more than 26 minutes against Big 12 foes.

The freshman is an aggressive guard with great slashing skills, and that driving ability really opens things up for an offense that can become very stagnant at times. Unfortunately, he has struggled to actually put the ball in the basket, sinking less than 30% of his shots on the year. Until he proves that he can hit a midrange jumper or consistently knock down the triple, defenses can sag off of him and take away that driving threat.

Senior guard Nate Butler Lind (No. 21) has also started five games in Big 12 play, but has logged eleven starts on the year. He also brings dribble penetration to the table, but has been marginally more consistent than Hill when it comes to knocking down the midrange jumper. Like Hill, he also has not made enough threes to warrant tight defense, so that hampers his ability to put it on the floor and get to the paint.

The final player of TCU’s core rotation is 6’7″ forward Connell Crossland (No. 2). A juco transfer from Logan College, he has been a solid rebounder off the bench and is averaging 21 minutes per game. He nearly logged a double-double in the team’s Big 12 debut, snagging nine boards to go with eight points. Crossland has continued to impress in conference play, ranking second on the team with five boards per game. He’s also turned it up on the offensive end, averaging 11.5 points in the team’s last two games against Baylor and West Viginia.

Keys to the game

1) Take advantage on the glass – Texas has struggled all season to secure defensive rebounds, and that problem has only become worse with the absence of Holmes. Texas Tech reclaimed 48.6% of their missed shots, while the Wildcats grabbed 40% of their misses on Wednesday night. TCU is a very average rebounding team that has a tough time making shots. If Texas can actually take advantage of that weakness on the glass and hold the Frogs to mostly one-shot possessions, the Longhorns should have no trouble tonight.

2) Take care of the ball – One area where the Frogs do find success is in forcing mistakes on the defensive end. Ball control has been a recurring problem for Texas, and those problems resurfaced in that ugly loss to K-State. The Longhorns ended 27.5% of their possessions with a turnover, and simply cannot afford to do the same against TCU tonight. The Horned Frogs are going to try to make this a low-possession game, so each and every mistake will be magnified.

3) Speed up the Frogs – One way to avoid a low-possession game with highly-leveraged possessions is to force TCU to speed things up. The Frogs were able to hang with Iowa State for about 15 minutes when they matched the up-tempo approach of the Cyclones, but ultimately made too many mistakes and couldn’t play good transition defense.

Meanwhile, Texas showed that it was willing to throw out some pressure against Texas Tech last Saturday in an effort to speed up the Red Raiders. The Horns would be wise to try that same approach with the Frogs at random times tonight, not only making TCU uncomfortable on offense, but also hopefully contributing to some easy fast break points for Texas.