The Cyclones return to Hilton tomorrow in a bit of a funk. Before the game, Frogs O' War's Andrew Felts was nice enough to answer some questions about the 2015-16 version of the Horned Frogs. Check out my questions and his answers below!
WRNL: TCU sits at 11-15 heading into the final five conference games. What would be a successful ending to the season?
Andrew: With the way things have gone since the start of Big 12 play, I think that winning just one of the last five games would be considered a successful ending to the season for this team. The Frogs have struggled in conference play from the get-go, and the last few weeks of the regular season doesn't exactly provide any decent opportunities to pick up another victory. After tomorrow's game, TCU has road contests against Texas Tech and Kansas State and home meetings with Oklahoma and Baylor. If the Frogs are able to win just one more game this season, they'll grab their first signature victory of the season. So far, TCU has yet to knock off a ranked opponent or pick up a road conference win. They'll have five chances to accomplish one of those two feats before the year is finished.
WRNL: Trent Johnson has the Frogs sitting at the basement of the Big 12, winning two conference games this year and four the year before. Is his seat feeling warm, or is this all part of the process?
Andrew: This is a pretty heated topic in Cowtown these days. I think it would be hard to argue that Trent Johnson isn't on the hot seat right now. When he was hired prior to the 2012-13 season, everybody knew that turning TCU into even a semi-competitive team in the Big 12 would take several years. Most TCU fans, including myself, were content with the improvements made over the last three season, both on the court and on the recruiting trail. However, the momentum gained through these improvements has ground to a screeching halt after a very bad couple of months of basketball. The team stopped improving game-to-game, and has even started to show signs of regressing.
To me, the talent gap between TCU and the rest of the Big 12 is forgivable. It's going to take time to get recruiting to a Big 12 level, and Johnson has done a good job laying that foundation. But the problems with this year's team extend far beyond the talent gap. We've seen a TCU team that appears lackadaisical and generally disinterested in playing fundamental basketball. A lot of the promising developments made over the last couple seasons are being overshadowed by a team that comes out flat every night. I'm still a firm believer that Johnson should get at least another year to sell the new stadium to recruits, but the way this season has unraveled is definitely concerning.
WRNL: With the bench going almost 9-deep, who is the one player Iowa State should be focused on for this game, or are you expecting a balanced attack?
Andrew: Because the Frogs have struggled on the offensive end for much of the season, the scoring "attack" is usually pretty balanced. There are five Frogs averaging around 10 points per game, and it has become increasingly rare that one player goes off for a big night. If there was one Frog I would recommend keeping an eye on, it would be true freshman JD Miller. He is usually one of the first guys off the TCU bench and has started to pick up significant playing time lately. Miller proved in high school that he is a talented shooter, and some of that pure talent is starting to translate to the college game. He has struggled on the road this season, but we've seen some flashes of brilliance out of Miller. I think he is on the verge of having a breakout game. With continued development, he could be a very solid force in the Big 12 for years to come.
WRNL: Looking away from this matchup, who's on your All Big 12 Conference team at this point? It's probably safe to say Buddy Hield is a lock, but who takes the other four spots?
Andrew: I am definitely all in on Buddy Hield. I think he is one of the best players that this conference has seen in quite awhile. Georges Niang would probably take the next spot. Really throughout his entire collegiate career, he has proven to be a very talented, very consistent shooter. I'd put Perry Ellis on the list as well. He reminds me a lot of Niang in that he is a consistent scorer night in and night out. I would give Jordan Woodard a spot too. He has put together a very impressive season, but doesn't get a ton of credit because of Hield's presence. Finally, I'm going to go with Isaiah Taylor. Behind Hield, he might be the most athletic guard in the Big 12. I would put the top five players in the Big 12 up against any team in the nation. That group would be lethal.
WRNL: Prediction time: how does the game play out, and what's the final score?
Andrew: I always struggle to put together these predictions because I always end up sounding really harsh on my alma mater. But the reality of the situation is that this TCU team really struggles on the road, and they really struggle to put points on the board. That is not a good combination heading into a game at Hilton Coliseum. The Frogs are 321st in the nation in total scoring, averaging 66.2 points per game. The team has shown zero signs of being able to break out of this scoring slump, so I'm going to go with Iowa State in a rout, something like 78-54.