Assessing the Season: TCU Horned Frogs

Posted by Nate Kotisso on April 24th, 2013

Nate Kotisso is a Big 12 writer for Rush The Court. You can follow him on Twitter @natekotisso

We’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: TCU.

Final Record: 11-21 (2-16)

The Expectations: What a confusing offseason it must have been for fans of TCU basketball. Granted, hoops on campus may not have had much of a fan base to begin with but the changes were intriguing. In 2011-12, the Horned Frogs enjoyed their first season above the .500 mark (18-15) since winning 21 games in 2004-05. They finished fifth in a Mountain West that sent the four teams in front of them to the NCAA Tournament. They also had the MW Freshman (Kyan Anderson) and Sixth Man of the Year (Amric Fields) coming back to school. This was easily looking like Jim Christian’s best year but sensing his time there was nearing due to his poorly performing teams before, he took the Ohio job when it was vacated by John Groce. TCU was of course entering its first year as a member of the Big 12 conference which, competition-wise, would be a step up from teams in the Mountain West. Trent Johnson, who pretty much did his best Jim Christian impression, left LSU to take the TCU job. Johnson has had experience coaching and succeeding at a private schools like TCU (see Stanford) but after losing standouts Hank Thorns Jr. and J.R. Cadot to graduation, 2012-13 was all about starting from scratch.

Trent Johnson loves the color purple. (TCU360.com)

Trent Johnson couldn’t tear himself away from the color purple. (TCU360.com)

The Actual Result: TCU won its season opener against a Cal Poly team that would steal a win at UCLA just two weeks later. After taking care of Centenary, the Horned Frogs dropped their first game of the season to Larry Brown and crosstown rival SMU. One clear problem facing the team was scoring the basketball. They lost back-to-back games to Houston and Tulsa, posting 48 and 49 points, respectively. There was also the Northwestern game where TCU lost by 24 points and only managed to put only 31 on the board. Despite this, they finished off the non-conference portion of their schedule with three straight wins to enter conference play at 9-4.

Conference play felt like one nightmare after another. In those 16 losses, TCU’s average margin of defeat was 17.9 points per game but they did have their moment in the sun. The first came against Kansas on February 6. The Jayhawks’ confidence was shaken a bit. They had been able to get by Texas and West Virginia on the road in games that were closer than they should have been, but had gotten some comeuppance after Markel Brown and Oklahoma State marched into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and left with an 85-80 win. On that Wednesday night in the Metroplex, though, Kansas started slowly and allowed TCU to control the game wire-to-wire in what I consider to be the biggest upset in the Big 12 era (dating back to 1996). It was anything but a sparkling performance for the Horned Frogs. TCU shot better as a team than KU but it made the same number of field goal attempts (18) as the Jayhawks, missed 16 free throws and lost the battle of the boards by 10. It also marked the first and likely final time the Topeka YMCA will get name-checked by Bill Self at a press conference. That will be the safest bet in the history of safe bets.

Their second shining moment came against Oklahoma in early March when they got out to a 22-point halftime lead and were able to hold off a furious rally to win on Senior Day. It confounded logic that a team struggling so much in league play was able to beat two teams who eventually made the NCAA Tournament, but it went along perfectly with the unpredictable narrative of the 2012-13 college basketball regular season.

Highlight of the Year: February 6. You couldn’t ask for a better way to notch your first ever win in Big 12 play. TCU didn’t need any style points in the Kansas victory, but winning from tip to final buzzer is all the more impressive. Daniel-Meyer Coliseum hadn’t been that loud since Jamie Dixon’s miracle shot to beat Texas netted them a Southwest Conference title in 1987. Hopefully wins like these can go from huge upsets to just another victory in the long run.

Player of the Year: Garlon Green. He didn’t lead the team in scoring but he has no trouble filling it up either. Known as a streaky scorer, I saw first hand what this meant. I attended the TCU-Rice game in December and witnessed Green, the team’s second-leading scorer, pour in 31 of TCU’s 65 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field. He had a little extra something to play for that night since it would be a homecoming of sorts (Missouri City is a suburb of Houston). In the win over Kansas, Green scored 20 on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting. He also went 4-of-4 from three-point range to go along with 18 points in the Oklahoma win. Green’s fingerprints were all over the high points of this season.

Surprise of the Year: Devonta Abron. The Arkansas transfer was able to play immediately due to a hardship waiver and his impact was just as immediate. In a sixth man role, Abron averaged seven points and nearly six rebounds per game. There’s no doubt he’s a skilled big who makes good use of his imposing figure (6’8″, 255 pounds). With forwards Connell Crossland and Adrick McKinney graduating, expect Abron to step into a starter’s role in 2013-14.

Overall Grade: DI understand the difficulty in a job in which you are in your first year as the head coach of a team moving into a different basketball league. At the same time, they lost 16 of 18 conference games; the “closest” defeat coming by nine points. It should be pointed out that a month after taking the job, Trent Johnson swooped in to take ex-Marquette commitment Aaron Durley into his 2012 class, but Durley was lost for the season after tearing his ACL in practice. The 2011-12 MW Sixth Man of the Year Amric Fields tore his ACL during the third game of the season. With the solid recruiting class Johnson has coming in (headlined by four-star center Karviar Shepherd) as well as top scorer/distributor Kyan Anderson returning, the outlook on TCU basketball is trending upward.

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