Big 12 Previews: West Virginia & TCU

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2018

With tip-off mere days away, we’re continuing our 2018-19 Big 12 coverage by going around the league team-by-team. Be sure to check in throughout the season and follow Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman on Twitter @BSGoodman.

TCU

A healthy Jaylen Fisher (middle) is vital to TCU’s fortunes. (USA Today Images)

Well, that didn’t take long. Just two years after extending its investment in basketball by hiring Jamie Dixon away from Pittsburgh, TCU made its first NCAA Tournament in 20 years. It wasn’t always pretty, as the Horned Frogs started just 5-8 in Big 12 play before rallying in late February, but fans need not be focused on such things when a drought is that long. Dixon’s squad sported the Big 12’s best offense, led by an army of shooters and a big man in Vladimir Brodziansky who could operate both inside and out. While he and Kenrich Williams played pivotal roles, they aren’t irreplaceable, and the return of the entire backcourt as well as some additions will go a long way towards picking up the slack. As the curtains open on the 2018-19 season, TCU is arguably the best team in the entire state of Texas, a notion that would have been impossible to entertain just a couple of short years ago.

Who’s Gone:

  • G Kenrich Williams: 13.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 39.5% 3FG
  • F Vladimir Brodziansky: 15.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG

Who’s Back:

  • G Jaylen Fisher: 12.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 43.9% 3FG
  • G Alex Robinson: 9.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 1.2 SPG
  • G Desmond Bane: 12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 46.1% 3FG
  • F Kouat Noi: 10.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 43.4% 3FG
  • F J.D. Miller: 24 GS, 7.9 PPG
  • G R.J. Nembhard: 6 GP, former four-star recruit

Who’s Coming In:

  • F Kaden Archie (four-star recruit)
  • C Yuat Alok (nation’s top-rated juco transfer)
  • F Lat Mayen (redshirted in 2017-18)
  • F Kevin Samuel (redshirted 2017-18, former four-star recruit)

Outlook:

Offense is going to be this team’s calling card once again. Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson make an excellent backcourt duo, as both are very comfortable with the ball in their hands. Robinson is better at creating for others than for himself, but he’ll have plenty of teammates to take advantage of his strength. Desmond Bane, who led the Big 12 in eFG% and true shooting percentage as a sophomore, is back for another go, and Kouat Noi and redshirt freshman Lat Mayen will help spread the floor as well. The interior is going to be a question mark on both ends of the floor, as Williams’ ability to pressure multiple positions will be missed, but a top-four finish in the league and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend are fair expectations as Dixon aims to build on last season’s momentum in Fort Worth.

West Virginia

Sagaba Konate will look to erase even more shots in 2018-19. (Justin K. Aller/Getty)

No player embodied Press Virginia in recent years like Jevon Carter, a wall of a guard who defended all 94 feet, called out other teams’ plays and generally made life miserable for opponents in Morgantown. He and Daxter Miles’ proficiency on defense was nothing new coming into 2017-18, but the emergence of Sagaba Konate as one of the country’s leading rim protectors added a completely new dimension to Bob Huggins’ system. A 1-4 stretch in mid-to-late January doomed the Mountaineers’ aspirations of dethroning Kansas in the Big 12 race, but they bounced back en route to a 26-11 finish and Sweet Sixteen run before becoming the first of three consecutive Big 12 teams to fall at the hands of Villanova.

Who’s Gone:

  • G Jevon Carter: 17.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.6 APG, 3.0 SPG, 39.3% 3FG
  • G Daxter Miles: 12.9 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 34.7% 3FG
  • G Teddy Allen: 7.2 PPG

Who’s Back:

  • F Sagaba Konate: 10.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.2 BPG
  • F Esa Ahmad: 10.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG
  • G James Bolden: 8.7 PPG, 41.1% 3FG
  • F Wesley Harris: 37 GS, 5.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG
  • F Lamont West: 9.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG

Who’s Coming In:

  • G Brandon Knapper (redshirted 2017-18)
  • F Andrew Gordon (top-ten juco transfer)
  • G Jermaine Haley (top-ten juco transfer)
  • C Derek Culver (four-star recruit)
  • G Jordan McCabe (four-star recruit)
  • G Trey Doomes (three-star recruit)

Outlook:

As much as people talked about the way West Virginia’s pressing system fostered depth, that wasn’t really the case in the backcourt as Carter and Miles averaged a combined 64 minutes per game. That’s a lot of production to replace, and their successors will be incredibly green. James Bolden was a solid enough perimeter defender a season ago, but expecting him to fill Carter’s shoes is a stretch to say the least. When Brandon Knapper, Jordan McCabe, Trey Doomes and Jermaine Haley step onto the WVU Coliseum floor next week, they’ll be doing so for the first time. There’s going to be a drop-off, but the key question is how big that drop-off will be. If they don’t prove themselves capable, Konate’s going to be busier than Huggins would prefer. The ‘Eers would also benefit from a big year by Esa Ahmad after academic issues and inconsistency limited the senior forward a season ago. Expecting West Virginia to contend for the league title might be too much, but if Konate and Ahmad help set the pace and some of the guards earn Bob Huggins’ trust, this team will be a good bet to go dancing for the fifth straight season, a feat that has happened just twice in program history.

Brian Goodman (973 Posts)

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


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