TCU Has a Long Road Ahead to Compete in the Big 12 ConferencePosted by Brian Joyce on January 3rd, 2012
Brian Joyce is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s Tulsa-TCU game.
TCU led a valiant second half comeback against Conference USA foe Tulsa, but dropped the ball on New Year’s Eve. The Horned Frogs only managed 36.7% shooting on their way to a 74-66 loss to the Golden Hurricane. While TCU was undersized, it showed some fight. TCU forced Tulsa into 19 turnovers and managed to get to the free throw line a season-best 35 times, but it just wasn’t enough. As the Horned Frogs expect to make the jump to the Big 12 Conference for the 2012-13 season, it is clear that the program has a long road ahead to become competitive in a power conference.
TCU has a number of issues to work out before becoming a Big 12 caliber team:
- Size: Size is a huge issue for head coach Jim Christian’s squad. The Horned Frogs don’t have a single player that stands above 6’10”. TCU’s starting lineup on Saturday featured players standing at 5’9″, 5’11”, 6’5″, 6’7″ and 6’8″. Tulsa took advantage of its size advantage by posting both of its 6’4″ starting guards on the smaller TCU backcourt. Tulsa’s 6’4″ starting point guard Jordan Clarkson cruised on his way to a 23- point performance, guarded mostly by smaller players. When Christian subbed in the taller and more physical Nate Butler to guard Clarkson, the Frogs held Tulsa’s point guard to five points in over 18 minutes of second half play. But then presumably for an offensive boost in crunch time, Christian subbed in 5’9″ Hank Thorns and 5’11” Kyan Anderson to play on the floor at the same time. Clarkson shot over the smaller defenders for a crucial two-pointer with 1:31 remaining to give Tulsa the lead. He scored another four points in the closing seconds to seal the victory. The Golden Hurricane also established a dominating post presence as they started two players at 6’11”. Forward Kodi Maduka (one of the 6″11″ posts) scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as TCU didn’t have an answer for him. A product of its smaller lineup, TCU grabbed just 51% of available defensive rebounds as it was out-rebounded 35-27 on the night. With the length and strength of frontcourts in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs have a lot of recruiting to look the part of a power conference team.
- Defense: Defense is a major limitation to the Frogs becoming a competitive team. TCU’s defense allowed Tulsa to shoot 50% on the night. The Golden Hurricane became the seventh opponent this season to shoot at least 50% from the field in 13 games against the Horned Frogs. A theme throughout the season, TCU’s effective field goal percentage defense ranks no. 271 in the nation. The Horned Frogs’ porous defense won’t get it done in Big 12 play. The Big 12 currently features seven of the nation’s top 61 teams in adjusted offensive efficiency. If TCU were to join the Big 12 conference today, it would rank last in defensive efficiency by a long shot. Unfortunately, its offense wouldn’t rank much better. TCU would rank ninth in offensive efficiency in the Big 12 this season. The play on the court doesn’t lead one to believe that TCU is ready to make a move.
- Additionally: If TCU hasn’t been competitive in the Mountain West Conference, what makes the Horned Frogs believe they can be successful in the Big 12? History suggests that Christian’s team will be a bottom dweller in Big 12 play. In his first year at the helm in 2008-09, TCU basketball finished 5-11 in Mountain West conference play. In 2009-10, the Frogs stayed the same with another 5-11 conference record. Last year, however, TCU went backwards by finishing dead last in the MWC with a 1-15 conference record. Rather than make significant strides, the Frogs are regressing under Christian’s leadership. Conference realignment is driven almost exclusively by football and the money it creates, but that of course doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect other sports. TCU’s men’s basketball team will be forced to compete in a power conference league that it is simply not ready for. TCU had to practically beg to get into the Big 12, and now it will have a difficult time proving it belongs on the hardwood. If the Tulsa game on Saturday was any indication, the Horned Frogs have a long way to go before being even remotely competitive in the Big 12. And unfortunately, because the Frogs will begin play in the 2012-13 season, they don’t have a lot of time to get there.