Big 12 Team Preview: TCU Horned FrogsPosted by Kory Carpenter on October 31st, 2013
Where We Left Off: TCU’s first season in the Big 12 changed no one’s mind that the reason the Horned Frogs were the newest members of the Big 12 started with football and ended with the fact the school sits in the middle of the Dallas Metroplex. They never made much noise in the Mountain West, making a few NIT appearances in the 90s while still looking for their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1987. Most people predicted a steep learning curve after joining the Big 12, and most people would be correct. There was one bright spot last season, however, as the Horned Frogs stunned the college basketball world when they knocked off Kansas 62-55 at home on February 6. It was one of two conference victories for the Horned Frogs last season, and they finished a game behind Texas Tech for last place.
Positives: Four-star recruit and freshman Karviar Shepherd was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA in early July, which appeared to end all hopes for a successful season for the Horned Frogs. Surprisingly, though, Shepherd won his appeal a few weeks later and was cleared to play this season. The 6’10”, 225-pound center had an impressive offer sheet coming out of high school that included Kansas, Marquette, Oklahoma State, Texas and UCLA. The Dallas native’s decision to stay home and play in Fort Worth gave instant credibility to head coach Trent Johnson‘s program, and could potentially lead to more highly sought-after Dallas recruits down the line. Joining Shepherd will be last year’s leading scorer Kyan Anderson, who averaged 12 points per game and was on the Bob Cousy Award watch list last season, recognized as one of the best point guards in the country. The duo should lead the Horned Frogs to a few more wins in the Big 12 this season.
Negatives: While Anderson returns for his junior season and Shepherd is the highest ranked recruit to ever play for TCU, they still lost a number of key contributors on offense. Garlon Greeen (9.7 points per game), Adrick McKinney (7.5 points per game), and Connell Crossland (6.3 points per game) were second, third, and fifth on the team in scoring last season. And this was for a team that was #343 in the nation with an average of 55 points per game. Junior forward Amric Fields (7.3 points per game) and senior guard Jarvis Ray (6.2 points per game) are back, but they, along with Anderson and Shepherd, will have to carry the load offensively if the Horned Frogs want to put up 60 or more points on a regular basis. When Big 12 play began and through the Big 12 Tournament, the Horned Frogs surpassed 60 points four times. Two of those were wins, not coincidentally. By contrast, they put up less than 50 points six times in that span. Their record? 2-17.
Best-Case Scenario: Shepherd plays above his four-star ranking and becomes a legitimate NBA prospect while Anderson’s scoring output stays on the same trajectory and he averages 16 points per game. I don’t think expecting Anderson to average 16 points per game this season is a good idea, but there is no reason why he can’t improve on his 40.5% shooting percentage and end up somewhere around 14 points per game. With Shepherd, there is a reason schools like UCLA, Texas, and Kansas wanted him. But he will be the focus of almost every defense he plays this season and it is anyone’s guess how a true freshman will handle the extra scrutiny, not to mention the losses that undoubtedly come this season. If he handles everything perfectly and Anderson continues to improve offensively, the Horned Frogs could double their Big 12 wins from last season and maybe get within shouting distance of one of those postseason tournaments.
Worst-Case Scenario: Shepherd melts under the pressure of having to carry a team as a true freshman, Anderson doesn’t improve on his 1.3/1 assist-to-turnover Ratio, and the Horned Frogs are buried behind everyone in the Big 12, including Texas Tech. If Shepherd struggles early on or gets tired of all the losing, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him transfer to a bigger program. That could kill Trent Johnson’s hopes of landing another four-star recruit out of the Dallas area in the future.
Projected Starting Lineup:
- C – Karviar Shepherd (Fr., 6’10”, 225 pounds)
- F – Devonta Abron (Jr., 6’8″, 255 pounds; 7.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
- F – Amric Fields (Jr., 6’9″, 220 pounds; 7.3 PPG, 64.3% FG)
- G – Jarvis Ray (Sr., 6’6″, 195 pounds; 6.2 PPG)
- G – Kyan Anderson (Jr., 5’11”, 175 pounds; 12 PPG, 3.4 APG)
Reserves: Sophomore guard Clyde Smith III played 10.3 MPG last year as a freshman but was virtually nonexistent offensively, shooting 21.1 percent from the floor. Redshirt freshman center Aaron Durley could prove to be a solid backup to Shepherd in the post. The 6’10”, 270-pound big man could push his way into the rotation early on with his size and year in the weight room while recovering from knee surgery that kept him out all of last season.
Set Your DVR: The non-conference schedule leaves a lot to be desired for Horned Frog fans, but for a team looking to pick up as many wins as possible before another tough Big 12 season, you can’t blame Trent Johnson for going this route early in the season. Six of the 12 non-conference games (Longwood, Abilene Christian, Alaska-Anchorage, Texas-Pan American, Grambling State, and Texas Southern) should be considered near-locks at this point, even for TCU. The rest of the schedule could give fans hope for nine or even 10 wins before conference play, although that is likely a reach.
- 11/8 vs. SMU: The Metroplex rivalry between TCU and SMU kicks off the Horned Frogs’ season at the American Airlines Arena in downtown Dallas. SMU was 15-17 last season, and like TCU, also welcomes in a heralded Dallas recruit. Keith Frazier was a McDonald’s High School All-American and chose the Mustangs over a number of schools such as Kansas, Arizona, Florida, and UCLA. He and Karviar Shepherd will give the rivalry a much-needed talent boost this season. Oh, and a guy named Larry Brown coaches there, too.
- 11/24 at Washington State: The Cougars were dead least in the Pac-12 last season with a 4-14 mark and lost leading scorer Brock Motum. He is replaced by redshirt junior guard and former Kansas Jayhawk Royce Woolridge, who averaged 11 points per game last season.
- 12/5 at Mississippi State: The Big 12/SEC Challenge pits the Horned Frogs against Mississippi State this season as both teams look to claw their way out of their conference cellars. The Bulldogs finished ahead of Auburn and tied with South Carolina for 12th place in the SEC last year.
Outlook: TCU should be better this season with Trent Johnson leading the way as well as the influx of talent led by Karviar Shepherd. They have an easy non-conference schedule that should give them eight wins or so heading into Big 12 play, but that is where things get tricky. Even Texas Tech, which TCU appears to be closest to in the Big 12 in terms of talent, has an experienced group returning. If Shepherd becomes an All-Big 12 type of player and stays a few years while Johnson builds around him, the Horned Frogs could be competitive in a few seasons.