The nice thing about basketball season: the next game comes quickly. There's never much time to linger on disheartening losses like Wednesday night. I mean, seriously, if one of those layups had just gone in, if the inbound pass could have been, if that Motley dunk hadn't been called an offensive foul, if...sorry. I started to spiral again.
Saturday the Bears head north to lovely Fort Worth, TX (I'm from there. Don't be mean to my city). They will do battle with the TCU Horned Frogs, a no longer insignificant basketball program. Seriously. They were ranked in the AP Top 25 at one point! Since this team is still a relative unknown, we asked Andrew Felts of Frogs O' War to tell us a few things about his team. Like last time, David Fankhauser (d_fankBU) answered their questions over on their site. Link HERE.
PC: The Frogs started 13-0 against a decidedly soft schedule and are (like Baylor) 0-2 in conference. Still, 13 straight wins are 13 straight wins. Maybe you’re tired of this question being batted around, but I have to ask: Is TCU for real this season? How competitive do you expect them to be in Big 12 play?
AF: That is a tough question to answer. It is hard to knock a team that went out and won 13 straight games to start the season, but the competition that the Frogs will face in the Big 12 is significantly better than the competition that the Frogs faced in the non-conference portion of their schedule. But with that being said, TCU showed that they can compete for 40 minutes while proving that they can win games. After finishing 0-18 in Big 12 play a season ago, winning early this season has been a big confidence boost for the program. I think that TCU will turn some heads in conference play this season. The Frogs competed tough against West Virginia and took Kansas State to the wire in Manhattan. Some of TCU's non-conference success has to carry over into conference play, but I think there will be somewhat of a learning curve. At the very least, the Frogs should scare some teams this year.
PC: Do you love Kyan Anderson more or less than your own mother? What has he meant to the TCU program?
AF: This is another tough question to answer... my mom graduated from the University of Kansas, and it's hard to love a Jayhawk as much as a Horned Frog. I'd say mom opens as a 5-point favorite, but Kyan could easily cover that spread. In all seriousness, Kyan Anderson has been one of the most prolific scorers in TCU history, and his contributions haven't gone unnoticed. Anderson has the 10th most points in program history, and is rapidly approaching TCU greats Lee Nailon and Kurt Thomas on that list. He has been a leader on the team since he set foot on campus. As one of just two seniors that have spent their entire collegiate careers at TCU, Anderson is a player that the rest of the team looks up to. Most of the time, as Kyan goes, so do the Frogs. He really sets the tone on the offensive end.
PC: Who on this team should we know about besides Anderson?
AF: One of the biggest reasons for TCU's hot start was the contributions of transfer players that are eligible for the first time this season. A trio of transfers have helped take some of the scoring burden off of Anderson, which has had a noticeable impact on Anderson's game. Kyan looks looser and less like "the guy" that feels like he has to go make a play every time down the court. Pittsburgh transfer Trey Zeigler, UTEP transfer Chris Washburn, and New Mexico Junior College transfer Kenrich Williams have all contributed significantly this season. Zeigler and Washburn have started every game and are combining for nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds per game. Zeigler has a higher ceiling, as he nearly averaged those numbers by himself during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Finally, Williams has been deadly off the bench. He is the de facto "6th man," averaging about 8 points and 6 boards per game.
PC: The defense seems to be this team’s calling card. They’re top 50 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rating, top 10 in block percentage, and have held opponents to the 2nd lowest 2pt% in the country. What sort of dark magic has Trent Johnson conjured to bring this about?
AF: Trent Johnson made me promise not to reveal his dark magic secrets, but I can say that strong defenses have usually been a staple of Trent Johnson coached teams. Looking back to last season, the Frogs' defense kept several of their Big 12 contests close. When Johnson took over, he really placed a greater emphasis on team defense and it has shown throughout his first three seasons at the helm. I think that some of the Frogs' defensive numbers this season are partly the result of playing non-conference teams that struggle to score the ball, but this defense is definitely the strongest aspect of the team. The Frogs' defense has kept their first two Big 12 contests relatively close and I imagine that pattern will hold on Saturday.
PC: Per the rules of competition, one of Baylor or TCU must win a conference game on Saturday. What’s the final score? On what matchup will this contest hinge?
AF: TCU and Baylor are similar in that each team has been right on the verge of winning Big 12 games this season. This could easily have been a match-up between two 2-0 Big 12 teams. The Frogs are close to putting everything together but two big issues have emerged in the Frogs' first couple of conference games. Turnovers and poor free throw shooting have cost TCU in conference play this season. I think that Saturday is the day that the Frogs put everything together and end their Big 12 losing streak. If the Frogs can cut down on turnovers, especially late in the game, as well as make improvements from the charity stripe, TCU will be in a good position to come away with a win. Defenses should shine, much like in TCU's game against Kansas State and Baylor's game against Kansas. I think we'll have a low-scoring affair. I'll take TCU winning 61-58 in a game that comes down to late free throws.
See that enthusiasm? That confidence? This ain't your older cousin's Horned Frog team. Thanks again to Andrew for taking time to answer our questions. Looking forward to more Big 12 basketball on Saturday.