This isn’t your father’s Texas Christian University basketball team. When TCU was added to the Big 12 the league was forced to take on their basketball program as well. For four years the school has been a perennial cellar dweller. This season expectations have changed. Trent Johnson was let go and the school made one of the biggest splashes of the off-season when they hired TCU alum Jamie Dixon. Dixon has the Horned Frogs competing for a NCAA tournament bid in just his first year.
Jamie Dixon’s squad will be looking for their first win over the Cyclones in 20 years. The Cyclones have won the last 8 meetings and lead the all-time series 9 games to 5.
The match-up is a big one for both squads as they look to stay in the top half of the Big 12 standings and improve their NCAA tournament resume. In years past a win over the Horned Frogs wouldn’t have garnered much attention. This season is a different story as it would give Iowa State another quality road win over a KenPom Top 50 opponent.
Last Time Out
On Wednesday, Iowa State closed the deal against the Oklahoma State Cowboys by finishing the game 9 for 9 on field goal attempts. Many of the end of game woes the Cyclones have been plagued with this season were absent their last time out. The win was the fourth straight win for the Cyclones in Stillwater and their first true road victory of the season.
The Horned Frogs are strolling into Saturday’s tilt with some road success of their own. TCU snapped a 30 year drought in Austin against their rival Texas. TCU coach Jamie Dixon led the Horned Frogs thirty years ago (1987) during their last victory in Austin over the Longhorns by dishing out 9 assists to go along with 18 points.
Lets face it. Jamie Dixon is a good coach. The move to Fort Worth was questionable at the time, but the early returns are showing his gamble is paying off. The Horned Frogs have a top 25 adjusted defense to go along with a balanced scoring attack on offense.
Their main weakness on defense is their propensity to give up offensive rebounds. Opponents are corralling over 30% of their own missed shots, putting TCU at 216th in the country at limiting offensive rebounds. They make up for this by blocking almost 14% of their opponents shots and generating steals on over 11% of their opponents possessions.
The casual fan may think Jamie Dixon’s calling card is on the defensive side of the ball, but historically his offenses have been much better.
Decades from now, a wiser generation will recognize that Jamie Dixon was one of the best offensive coaches of his era.— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) December 31, 2016
In 13 seasons at Pittsburgh Jamie Dixon compiled an average adjusted offense rank of 21 while posting an adjusted offense outside of the top 40 just one time. While this years TCU team comes into the game with just the 69th (Nice!) best adjusted offense in the nation they have a couple of strengths on the offensive end.
The Horned Frogs share the ball well by assisting on almost 64% of their made baskets. For as much as they struggle on the defensive glass this team is very good on the offensive glass. When this TCU squad misses shots they are aggressive and wind up retaining possession 36% of the time.
TCU hasn’t exactly torched the nets from deep so far this season. Their three point field goal percentage is 10th in the Big 12. In other words, they are due to get hot on Saturday. Sad!
The Horned Frogs post an adjusted tempo that is slightly faster than Iowa State’s, their average possession length is almost two seconds longer than the Cyclones. TCU’s current conference-only adjusted tempo is 3rd fastest in the Big 12. Don’t expect either team to milk the clock on Saturday.
Players to Watch
Vladimir Brodziansky had a coming out party against Kansas by going off for 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in a game that TCU almost won. His size at 6’11" could give the Cyclones some issues around the basket if they get caught up in a half-court game. This shot blocker isn’t just a one trick pony. He has one of the highest offensive efficiency ratings (132.1) of anyone in the conference while taking all but four of his shots inside of the arc.
Jaylen Fisher (a former Prohm recruiting target) and Alex Robinson will facilitate the offense from the backcourt. Together they combine for over 9 assists per game. The true freshman Fisher is as talented as they come but struggles to take care of the ball. Fisher has already committed 19 turnovers in Big 12 play. By comparison Monte Morris has just one turnover in Big 12 play and 17 total for the entire season.
The Cyclones will have to locate Kenrich Williams on missed shots. The junior rebounds 14.8% of missed shots on the offensive end and over 22% of missed shots on the defensive end.
A name Cyclone fans might remember is Karviar Shepherd. The former 4 star, Top 100 recruit has been relegated to relatively small role this year under Jamie Dixon.
What to Expect
The Horned Frogs have played 10 players in all four of their Big 12 contests thus far. They will have the size advantage over the Cyclones, but that is nothing new for this year’s squad. TCU won’t try to limit the amount of possessions like Trent Johnson’s TCU team’s did in the past. They have played at a pace comparable to Iowa State this season.
This game will come down to Iowa State forcing turnovers on defense, which they have been good at as of late and limiting TCU’s second chances on offense which they have struggled with so far this season. Once again I wouldn’t be surprised to see Iowa State go small and get out in transition. This would neutralize TCU’s ability to block shots in the half court.
This game might play out much like the Oklahoma State game. If the Cyclones can limit TCU’s offensive rebounds and keep them off the foul line they have a great chance of earning their second straight conference road win.
Iowa State- 76 TCU- 71
- TCU commits 17 turnovers or more.
- Vladimir Brodziansky records a double-double.
- Naz Mitrou-Long connects on 4 or more 3 point shots.
Game Time: Saturday, January 14th, 4:30 p.m. CST
Line Open: TCU (-1); O/U (139)
The Foe: Frogs O’ War
TV: Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports Midwest (Brian Estridge, John Denton)
Cyclones.com Game Notes: available here.