TCU Slowly Making a Case For Legitimacy

Posted by Justin Fedich on November 30th, 2016

Few pegged TCU as an NCAA Tournament team coming into this season, but after starting 6-0 for only the second time since joining the Big 12 four years ago, Jamie Dixon’s rebuilding process appears to be moving more quickly than expected. The Horned Frogs took a big step forward in last weekend’s Global Sports Classic, dispatching UNLV by four points on its home court and following it up with a 13-point win against Washington to claim the title. In a weird scheduling quirk, TCU will host Washington again tonight in Fort Worth. If the second game goes anything like the first — where the Frogs jumped out to a quick 24-8 lead and never looked back — Dixon’s group should be well on its way to a 7-0 start.

TCU brought their man home. Is Big 12 relevance next for the Horned Frogs?. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Considering his track record, it’s not a huge surprise that Jamie Dixon has TCU playing better than pundit expectations. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

TCU lost its top scorer from a season ago, Chauncey Collins, but has replaced him with standout freshman Jaylen Fisher. Although Fisher has endured some early growing pains — turning the ball over at a higher rate than anyone else on the team (2.7 miscues per game) — he’s also exhibiting an ability to find open teammates, leading the Horned Frogs with 5.3 assists per game and a nationally-ranked 34.6 percent assist rate. Fisher isn’t the only newcomer making an early impact, as Desmond Bane is averaging 10.3 points per game on 56.1 shooting from the field. During the UNLV game, Bane contributed 15 points and six rebounds, while Fisher gave 10 points and five assists against Washington. Fisher is likely to be the more consistent player this season, but both have already made their marks on a TCU team needing to replace Collins’ production.

While the contributions from Dixon’s freshmen have been integral to TCU’s early success, two other new players have made just as much of an impact. Alex Robinson (transfer from Texas A&M) leads the Horned Frogs in minutes (29.7 MPG), points (12.7 PPG) and steals (2.5 SPG), but it has been his defensive effort that has pushed the Horned Frogs to rankings of 13th nationally in steal percentage (13.5%) and ninth in defensive turnover percentage (25.3%), per KenPom. The return of junior Kenrich Williams, who missed last season with a knee injury, has been especially important on the glass. He was the team’s leading rebounder during the 2014-15 season and ranks first on the team again, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game. He pulled down 18 boards against UNLV, five of which were offensive. The player who has made perhaps the biggest jump from last season, though, is 6’11” junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky. While Brodziansky only averages 17.3 minutes per game — seventh on the team — he is making his minutes count. Brodziansky ranks 15th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (17.4%) and is second on the team with 4.8 rebounds per game. He is also getting to the foul line often, ranking 11th in Division I in average fouls drawn per 40 minutes (nine). He’s not on the floor very often, but Brodziansky is doing something to help his team win during the minutes he receives.

TCU’s next three games will reveal whether its undefeated start is a fluke or if the Horned Frogs are ready to be competitive in the rugged Big 12. After tonight’s rematch, TCU hosts a sneaky good Arkansas State team that has already beaten Georgetown and then follows that up with a road trip to SMU. If TCU survives those three games, it will host three winnable games against Wofford, Texas Southern and Bradley to close out the non-conference schedule. Even if it reaches 12-0, the dreams of an unblemished season through the new year will certainly be challenged, as TCU hosts Kansas on December 30 to open Big 12 play. Dixon would certainly like to have that opportunity.

Justin Fedich (11 Posts)

Justin Fedich is a sports journalism graduate of the University of Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter @jfedich.

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