TCU Looks To Solidify Itself With a Big Week

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 5th, 2017

When we last checked in on TCU, the Horned Frogs were entering the season looking to parlay last year’s NIT title into the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid in two decades. Three weeks into the campaign, not much has changed other than perhaps the notion that Jamie Dixon‘s team could be even more formidable than originally forecasted. TCU currently owns the longest active winning streak in college basketball (13), but with tough match-ups on tap this week against intrastate foe SMU and Mountain West contender Nevada, we’re about to find out exactly where the Horned Frogs stack up in the national conversation.

With five double-doubles in eight games, wing Kenrich Williams has been a steady force for the Horned Frogs (AP/Ralph Laurer).

TCU’s 8-0 start, while impressive, isn’t a true indicator of its talent level because the team’s competition to this point has left something to be desired. Their best win to date is a neutral court victory over St. Bonaventure, but while the Bonnies look to be a contender in the Atlantic-10, they pale in comparison to stronger teams like SMU, who already boasts wins over Arizona and USC, and the Wolf Pack, one of college basketball’s 12 other remaining undefeated teams. That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate reasons to believe TCU can tangle with the Big 12’s best this season, because Dixon’s club certainly can. The Horned Frogs enter tonight’s game with a top-20 offense and a top-35 defense, headlined by their current standing as the nation’s top defensive rebounding team, collecting over 80 percent of their opponents’ misses. Significant improvement from Vladimir Brodziansky, J.D. Miller and Kenrich Williams have provided the spark, while additional support from VCU transfer Ahmed Hamdy and redshirt freshman Kouat Noi round out the corps.

The point guard timeshare of Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher is working out very well in the backcourt, but the player who could elevate the Horned Frogs from #8-#9 seed territory to somewhere more intriguing is sophomore shooting guard Desmond Bane. TCU was the only D-I program to offer the Richmond (IN) native a scholarship, but he became a cog in the Horned Frogs’ rotation last season and played capably after Fisher suffered an injury during the team’s NIT run. This season, while Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham and Oklahoma’s Trae Young have rightfully gained the majority of the headlines for their combinations of shooting prowess and high usage, Bane is off to a fast start himself in an admittedly smaller role.

Consuming just 17 percent of the Horned Frogs’ shots when he’s on the floor, Bane is sporting a lava-hot 87.5 percent effective field goal percentage and 86.3 percent true shooting percentage, tops in the nation in both categories. He’s been effective at the rim (15-of-17), from long distance (20-of-32), and the foul line (15-of-20). While he hasn’t played a prominent role in terms of usage, he’s made the most of his opportunities and has shown that he can hit shots from anywhere on the court, as demonstrated by this clip from last Saturday’s 92-66 win over Yale:

Following that victory, Dixon expressed a need to get Bane more involved in the team’s offense, saying, “I’m trying to understand why we don’t get more shots for him out of our motion and our transition… We do have good balance, but his numbers stand out. You’ve got to get him a few more looks.” The Horned Frogs are about to be tested in a way that they haven’t in the season’s opening stanza, and while they’ll remain a threat to finish in the top half of the Big 12 no matter what happens this week, their next two games figure to be very illuminating.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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