Not only is the Big 12 stout from top to bottom, but we play a true round-robin schedule, where we play each other twice
That commercial slays me.
The Horned Frogs, despite being 1-7 in conference, are no bums. We know from personal experience that they can keep things close, as do WVU, KState, Kansas, all of whom have had scares against TCU. In advance of tonight's game at 7:30pm on ESPNNews and WatchESPN, we exchanged some questions and answers with our blogging buddies Frogs O' War. Check out the other side of the coin, where dfank_BU answered FoW's questions.
PC: What is more surprising to you: that TCU got their first conference win on the road or that they are winless at home?
AF: I am definitely more surprised that the Frogs are winless at home. Aside from the tremendous home-court advantage that accompanies playing at a high school facility, it is clear that this year’s TCU team is significantly better than last year’s team. As Baylor fans can attest to, the Frogs have competed tough at home, but self-inflicted wounds have cost them the opportunity to win some games. TCU had a chance against West Virginia, Baylor, and even Kansas last week, but missed free throws, poor shooting, and late-game turnovers have cost the Frogs home wins.
On the flip side, prior to Saturday’s loss in Ames, the Frogs have competed very well on the road this season. TCU lost an ugly game to Kansas State in Manhattan in early January, then lost a heartbreaker to West Virginia in overtime a couple of weekends ago. Those two road losses came by a combined six points. I expect to see a TCU team tonight in Waco that knows that it can win on the road, but only if mistakes are kept to a minimum.
PC: The Frogs are top 10 in the country in FT rate, but almost dead last in FT%. Are teams intentionally fouling TCU on almost every possession now? How many more conference wins would TCU have if anyone besides Kyan Anderson could hit a free throw? How upset are you when TCU gets into the bonus?
AF: Quite honestly, if I was an opposing coach, I would kick around the idea of intentionally fouling TCU if they are getting good looks at the basket. As much as it pains me to say that, the Frogs seem to shoot worse from the line than from the field. Some teams realize this, but I think that the reason that TCU attempts so many free throws is because of how tough the Frogs like to play, especially in the paint. Trent Johnson-coached teams are always tough, and this year’s TCU squad is no exception. The Frogs seem to be pretty good at drawing fouls on the offensive end, but, as you alluded to, TCU’s free throw shooting is dismal.
It is hard to say that more made free throws would equate to more conference wins, only from the standpoint that it is impossible to predict what opposing teams would have done if the Frogs could hit free throws. But at the same time, missed opportunities from the line are legitimately costing TCU the chance to compete in close games. This stat drives me crazy: TCU has lost seven games (six of which were against ranked teams) by a total of 62 points. In those seven games, TCU has missed 87 free throws. I think that realistically, with better free throw numbers, TCU could easily be 4-4, maybe even 5-3, in Big 12 play. So yeah, I get pretty frustrated when we get into the bonus.
PC: When last these two teams played, they were both 0-2 in conference and wondering what direction their respective seasons would go. There has been a lot of basketball since then. How has TCU changed in the six intervening games? Has any particular player progressed or regressed over the course of conference play?
AF: For me, the biggest change since TCU and Baylor first squared off is that the Frogs have definitively proven that they have improved since last season. Although the wins haven’t exactly started flowing, TCU is competing in games that would have been blowouts last season. The first bright ray of light came in game against West Virginia in Morgantown. The Frogs flew across the country and took a top-20 team to the brink in their own house. I think for a lot of TCU fans, that was when it became blatantly clear that TCU was going to compete in games for the rest of the season. To add to that feeling, four days later, the Frogs were a 30-foot shot away from taking Kansas into overtime. I think that since Big 12 play started, the Frogs have realized what they’re up against, and they are adjusting to the style of play. By improving on the little things, the Frogs should start picking up wins pretty soon. *knocks on wood*
One strange element about this team is that throughout the course of the season, there haven’t really been any major shifts in talent or production. The Frogs set expectations for themselves when they went 13-0 to start the season, and for the most part, they have lived up to those expectations. The only problem is that the opposition has gotten significantly more difficult.
PC: KenPom projects TCU to finish with a 5-13 Big 12 record. How many more wins do you expect TCU to nab? Have you been disheartened by the losses, or have there been enough bright spots to keep your spirits up?
AF: I initially picked TCU to go 5-13 as well, and I think that is still an achievable mark for the Frogs. After taking West Virginia and Kansas to the brink, I think that TCU can hang with anybody, but the big question remaining is whether or not the Frogs can close out a game. I look at Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State at home as three winnable games for TCU. I also think that the Frogs can steal one on the road at some point, maybe tonight in Waco or next month in Stillwater. Throw in an upset somewhere and we’re looking at five or six Big 12 wins, which would be tremendous.
For the TCU fans that follow the team closely, I think the bright spots have outweighed the frustration of the losses. After all, TCU is losing games because of their own errors, not because they’re being outmatched. I think fans realize that the Frogs are better, but the little things are holding them back. Call me crazy, but with 14 wins already in the books, I think that if the Frogs can find a way to win four or five more before the end of the season, we could see TCU in the NIT. That’s obviously getting way ahead of things, but it would be a major step in the right direction for this program.
PC: An oldie but a goody: what’s your prediction for the game? Can TCU cool Baylor down from the perimeter? Can TCU score efficiently enough from the floor to negate their poor free throw shooting?
AF: I said this exact same thing last time, but I think tonight is the night where TCU puts everything together and finally knocks off a ranked team. After seeing TCU compete with the likes of Kansas and West Virginia, I know that the Frogs can hang with anybody. Winning road games is tough, especially in the Big 12, and Baylor has a solid home-court advantage, so the Frogs would have to really earn it tonight.
As you mentioned, I think a big determining factor will be whether or not TCU can score enough from the field to overcome other mental mistakes. Guarding the perimeter will also be vital tonight. I still have nightmares of Brady Heslip splashing buckets from absurd distances, so hopefully TCU can limit that with Heslip now bringing terror upon the NBA’s Development League. Baylor seems improved since the first meeting, but so do the Frogs. I’ll take TCU in a close one, 68-65.
Thanks once again to Andrew Felts for being both insightful and friendly. Here's hoping we get a fun, well-called game tonight.