|No. 19/16 Baylor (20-8, 9-6) at TCU (11-17, 2-13)|
Feb. 27, 2016 | 7:00 p.m. CT
Fort Worth, Texas | Schollmaier Arena (6,800)
TV: ESPNU and WatchESPN
Radio: Tune In App | Sirius 81 | XM 81 | ESPN Central Texas
As part of today's game thread, I included a little Q&A I did with Andrew Felts. You can see the counterpart here.
1. TCU has had quite a tough season after showing some progress last year. Have any silver linings?
Throughout TCU's first three seasons as a member of the Big 12, the team had steadily improved year to year. However, that progress came to a screeching halt this season. Not much has gone right for the Frogs, really from the very beginning, but that's not to say this season was a total loss. I think the biggest silver lining is that all but one player on the current roster will return next season. Devonta Abron, who has been a regular on the TCU bench, is the lone senior. Entering the 2016-17 campaign, Trent Johnson will have a very solid core of players with some extensive experience playing in the Big 12. Karviar Shepherd and Brandon Parrish will get the chance to shine during their senior seasons, Malique Trent and Chauncey Collins should be able to shoulder more of the scoring load now that they know how rigorous conference play can be, and newcomers Vladimir Brodziansky and JD Miller will have an entire year of Division I basketball under their belt. Not to mention, the team will add Texas A&M transfer Thomas Robinson and incoming freshman Josh Parrish, younger brother of the aforementioned Brandon, and Kenrich Williams will be back from a knee injury that kept him out the entire season. So, to answer your question, the best part of this season is that next season will be here soon.
2. I've started to see some rumblings about Trent Johnson's job security. Do you still have faith in him as the coach to bring TCU into relevance, or might the school need to find a different coach for the job?
This has been a pretty hot-button issue in Cowtown lately. I think the consensus among most rational TCU fans, including myself, is that he should get at least one more year to continue the rebuilding project. Trent Johnson has stressed since day one that getting this program to a level where it is even semi-competitive in the Big 12 will take some time. In his first three years, Johnson has done a phenomenal job on the recruiting trail. The program has had some of its best recruiting classes ever since he took the reigns prior to the 2012-13 season. However, for as good as recruiting has been, player development has been a major issue for Johnson. Karviar Shepherd is a prime example of this. After three years in this system, Shepherd looks no different now than he did when he first stepped on campus. I had been defending Johnson throughout much of this season because of his numerous successes on the recruiting trail, but a friend of mine recently noted that what's the point of recruiting top talent if you can't get them to succeed once they get to campus? With that in mind, I think Johnson has one more year to try and make a statement. If the team doesn't take a big step forward in 2016-17, then it will definitely be time to reevaluate the coaching situation.
3. As awful as the offense has been, the defense has actually been quite good for the Frogs this season. What has TCU done to maintain a top 50 defense, especially considering the offense ranks 339th in steals allowed, typically a death knell for efficient defense?
This is actually a pretty interesting phenomenon. Individually, TCU doesn't really have any great defenders. Karviar Shepherd can be solid in the paint, Brandon Parrish usually plays sound defense all around, and Chris Washburn, when healthy, can be a semi-dominant force. It's hard to define exactly, but collectively the Frogs are good at forcing teams off their normal rhythm. The team usually find success when they are able to slow things down and dictate the pace of play. With as many Big 12 teams there are that like to run fast-paced, almost run-and-gun style of offenses, forcing opponents to play slow has been one area where the Frogs have been successful. I really have no idea how they have maintained this high-level of defensive play despite all of the steals allowed. I imagine that it is partly impacted by the reduced number of possessions created because of the slow pace, but that one is a head-scratcher for sure.
4. TCU has managed to earn two wins in conference play. What has been the through line in those successes that Baylor fans might need to watch out for?
Really the only common theme that emerged in both of TCU's Big 12 wins this season was the incredibly slow pace of play. Like we discussed above, slowing down opponents has been one of the few tactics that has worked for the Frogs this season. TCU held Texas to 57 points on 37% shooting and Oklahoma State to 56 points on 39% shooting. In both games, the Frogs set the pace of the game relatively early and maintained that pace throughout the duration of the contest. In other close calls this season, the Frogs either established the pace too late, or let the opponent speed up the game down the stretch. And in other cases, the opponent dictated the flow from the very beginning, much like we saw in Waco earlier this season. The only way Baylor will struggle in this contest is if they allow the Frogs to slow them down enough so that the Bears can't function normally on offense. Also, both of TCU's Big 12 wins have come at home against teams that wear orange, so the Bears have that going for them.
5. What's your prediction for Saturday night's game?
Despite a brutal couple of months, the Frogs fought tough with both Iowa State and Texas Tech on the road last week. I'd like to think that some of that momentum and confidence spills over into today's game. Unfortunately, TCU is losing it's battle with attrition and it is impacting the team's performance. Karviar Shepherd and Devonta Abron are both battling issues, and a handful of other Frogs are banged up in one way or another. I don't think we see another 30-point drubbing, but Baylor should win pretty easily. I'd take the Bears something like 75-58.
Personally, I need the catharsis of Baylor thrashing TCU to get over the loss to Kansas fully. Let's hope that happens. Baylor has had ugly games in Fort Worth before.