A Rising TCU Tide Could Lift Big 12 Boats

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2016

While TCU fell from the ranks of the unbeaten on Wednesday night with a 15-point loss at SMU, the Horned Frogs’ ascension under Jamie Dixon has been obvious as the remaining pieces from the Trent Johnson era have blended well with young talents like Jaylen Fisher and Alex RobinsonIntent on leveraging a renovated arena and talent-rich local recruiting base, Dixon has already shored up the long-term stability of the program with commitments from 2017 four-star recruits Kevin Samuel and R.J. Nembhard. As a result, TCU’s future looks quite a bit better than its short term, but unlike with most coaching transitions, its present doesn’t look too shabby either. Dixon obviously did not walk into a Steve Prohm-like situation at Iowa State where the new guy was under pressure to win right away, but his early results in Fort Worth give reason to believe, which bodes well for a program that has gone 8-64 in Big 12 play since joining the league in 2012. Even if this immensely deep conference keeps TCU from climbing out of the cellar in 2017, mere respectability at the bottom of a league with so many NCAA Tournament candidates can be an advantage other middling power conference teams lack.

TCU may no longer be unbeaten, but their improvement can only help the rest of the Big 12. (AP/Bob Haynes)

Alex Robinson and TCU may no longer be unbeaten, but their improvement can only help the rest of the Big 12. (AP/Bob Haynes)

If you take a look around the nation’s Power 5 leagues, you’ll find a lot of flotsam among the dregs. In the ACC, Boston College and Georgia Tech’s seasons were pretty much dead on arrival (the Yellow Jackets’ win over VCU on Wednesday night notwithstanding). In the Big East, Georgetown, St. John’s and DePaul have a combined 1-8 record against the KenPom top 100. Rutgers and Penn State may eventually turn things around in the Big Ten, but neither figure to make much noise this season. And the bottom of the SEC rarely ever makes waves, either. Head west to the Pac-12 and you’ll see uphill battles ahead for Washington (which these Horned Frogs have already beaten twice), Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State. TCU has its work cut out for it this season, but even if Dixon’s team winds up on the bottom rung of the Big 12 ladder yet again, there are certainly worse places to be. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Opening Weekend in Review

Posted by Drew Andrews on November 15th, 2016

Opening night of the college basketball season gave nine of the 10 Big 12 programs a chance to begin their seasons with easy wins. Those match-ups went according to plan, as only Kansas played a team inside KenPom’s top 250 and, as a result, took the only loss. However, there was another surprise that could ultimately spell trouble for one of the contenders to the conference title. Let’s take a look at one key takeaway from each team coming out of the opening weekend.

  • Kansas – The Jayhawks came into the season with questions about leadership, scoring in the post, and whether Josh Jackson could make the leap to superstardom. The loss to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic on Friday night only provided a first piece of an answer to one of those questions. Frank Mason III exploded for 30 points and nine assists in the defeat, making it seem that he might be Bill Self‘s Option A for leadership and scoring this season. In the absence of the graduated Perry Ellis, Landon Lucas and Carlton Bragg will be asked to replace some of his frontcourt scoring load. Lucas proved that he could play the necessary minutes last year, but Bragg rarely saw the floor. After a meager 18-minute outing on opening night, it seems as if Self still has questions about the sophomore forward. Meanwhile, Jackson struggled to find a rhythm on both ends of the floor. Early foul trouble and questionable shot selection meant he saw more of the bench than expected, but it will be interesting to see how Self utilizes him in tonight’s clash with top-ranked Duke.
Josh Jackson struggled against Indiana. Can he break out against Duke in the Champions Classic? (Photo: Kansas City Star)

Josh Jackson struggled against Indiana. Can he break out against Duke in the Champions Classic? (Photo: Kansas City Star)

  • Iowa State  Monte’ Morris began his quest for conference and national honors with a bang against Savannah State (21 points and 11 assists), followed by a quieter but efficient outing (18 points and three assists) last night against Mount St. Mary’s. Steve Prohm started five seniors in both games, and if Iowa State hopes to again challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title, it will need every bit of experience and leadership from that group to get there.
  • TexasJarrett Allen certainly looked the part of star in the making in his debut for the Longhorns, but despite his 16 points and 12 boards, Texas was outrebounded on the offensive glass in its first two outings against Incarnate Word and Louisiana-Monroe. Shaka Smart‘s HAVOC defense certainly creates great energy and scoring opportunities via turnovers, but he has to be concerned that his players are giving up so many second chances to teams that were clearly overmatched in talent and size.

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One Burning Question: What’s In Store For Jamie Dixon’s First Season at TCU?

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 24th, 2016

TCU was woefully unprepared to compete in the Big 12 when the school jumped over from the Mountain West in 2012. Schollmaier Arena wasn’t in any kind of condition to attract the talent necessary to compete, and the hiring of Trent Johnson instead of a hungrier coach on the rise always seemed like a suspect move. TCU subsequently learned the hard way — in the form of an 8-64 league record over Johnson’s four seasons — that it needed to make serious investments in order to compete. After a $72 million renovation of its facility and the foresight to sense that Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh were growing tired of each other, those investments have now been made. The upcoming season won’t define Dixon’s tenure at TCU, but with seven of last year’s nine rotation players returning, a top-50 recruiting class, and a promising transfer eligible in December, a solid foundation exists in Fort Worth for TCU to climb out of the Big 12 cellar.

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

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

Backcourt: This is a group that has some potential, but it’s tough to see how the pieces fit together. Malique Trent is the team’s leading returning scorer at 11.6 points per game, but those points came on a paltry 38.9 percent shooting, including 25.2 percent from distance. Freshman Jaylen Fisher, who the Horned Frogs pried away from UNLV, is the prize of TCU’s recruiting class. He’s a play-making point guard rather than an attacker, but with a lack of high-level weapons around him, it may take some time before the team can fully capitalize on his skill set. The Horned Frogs should also get a boost from point guard Alex Robinson, who transferred over from Texas A&M when Trent Johnson was still coach and maintained his commitment through the transition. He won’t be eligible to play until after the fall semester ends, but he’ll be able to help Fisher shoulder the workload and give defenses a different look as a lefty.

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Welcome to the Show, Part II: Breakout Newcomers in the Former SEC West

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on November 18th, 2014

Last week, we sorted through Kentucky’s latest five-star recruiting haul and delved into Frank Martin’s latest freshman class to determine who the SEC East’s breakout newcomers would be in 2014-15. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the first-year players who are ready to make a splash in the division once known as the SEC West. A number of high-profile junior college pickups will help teams like Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi replace departing talent and reload en route to a potential NCAA Tournament bid.

Alabama: Justin Coleman. Coleman was a big pick-up for Anthony Grant, and the embattled Alabama coach may need his four-star freshman to come through in a big way if he’s going to keep his job. Coleman started the Crimson Tide’s sole exhibition game and had six assists (and four turnovers) in 31 minutes as the team’s floor general. He’ll cede minutes to Ricky Tarrant – an explosive scorer from the same spot – but it looks like Coleman will have every opportunity to remain his team’s primary option at the position. He’s a diminutive player at just 160 pounds, but he has the passing instincts and shooting range to make an impact against SEC opponents as a true freshman.

Justin Coleman Can Fly (Al.com)

Justin Coleman Can Fly (Al.com)

Arkansas: Anton Beard. Beard is one of two solid point guard prospects in Fayetteville. He’s currently locked in battle with junior college transfer Jabril Durham for a role behind or alongside Rashad Madden, who can handle either guard spot. As a result, this prediction could change as the season wears on. Beard grew two inches in his senior year of high school to bolster his solid man-up defense and develop into a high-major recruit. However, he struggled to find his shot in exhibition play (25% FG). Durham had similar issues, but his JuCo experience and stronger passing from the point carried him to a start in the Hogs’ season opener last weekend. The two newcomers will see their roles expands and contract based on Mike Anderson’s offensive and defensive strategies and Madden’s availability this winter.

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SEC Season Preview: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by David Changas on November 12th, 2014

The SEC microsite will preview each of the league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Texas A&M.

Texas A&M Aggies

Strengths. The Aggies feature junior point guard and Cousy Award semifinalist Alex Caruso, as well as three of the team’s four leading scorers from last season. Texas A&M also landed SMU transfer Jalen Jones, who left the Mustangs last fall and will be eligible immediately. In the team’s exhibition opener, a win against Texas A&M-Commerce, Jones led the team in scoring and rebounding, something he figures to do frequently this year. He averaged 14.0 PPG and 7.7 RPG two seasons ago for SMU, a program he left because of a dispute with head coach Larry Brown over playing time. So while the junior forward may arrive with some baggage, he will make up for the much needed scoring and rebounding that was lost when Jamal Jones and J-Mychal Reese left the program. The Aggies also return forwards Kourtney Roberson and Davonte Fitzgerald, who averaged 9.8 and 7.3 points per game last season, respectively. In addition, they added a top-100 recruit in guard Alex Robinson, who is likely to start. Texas A&M was a solid defensive club last season, and even though leading scorer Jones left the program under inauspicious circumstances, there is some talent on this roster.

Alex Caruso led the SEC in assists last season. (d1nation.com)

Alex Caruso led the SEC in assists last season. (d1nation.com)

Weaknesses. According to Kenpom.com, Texas A&M ranked 267th in the country in offensive efficiency last season, and the Aggies were 308th in points per game. With the departure of the team’s most prolific perimeter shooter, the burden will fall on Jalen Jones to pick up the slack. Robinson appears to be a solid incoming three-point shooter, but Billy Kennedy’s club likely will struggle to put the ball in the basket once again. Caruso was the SEC’s assist leader last season, but he is a mediocre shooter from distance (33%) and Kennedy does not appear to have many options beyond that. The Aggies are picked to finish ninth in the 14-team SEC, and without more output on the offensive end, there is no reason to think they can outperform that prediction.

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Negative Recruiting Reaches Staggering Depths

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 18th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Most college hoops fans follow the game purely for their own enjoyment. They don’t see what goes on behind the scenes – the extreme measures programs often take to keep their student-athletes eligible and the hostile interplay between opposing players. And they most certainly do not know everything there is to know about recruiting. The practice seems simple enough: woo players with the promise of playing time, high scoring totals, and wins; drop huge sums on gaudy locker rooms, maybe a game console or two; superimpose a silhouette of your school’s logo/mascot at midcourt, just to give that four-star shooting guard something to look at, something the other schools don’t have, every time he takes the floor. All of this is fair game, but anyone with even scant knowledge of college basketball recruiting, particularly amongst the best schools and players, can tell you there’s much more to it than shiny facilities and the prospect of maintaining a gaudy scoring average in an uptempo offense. The presence of agents, shoe company representatives, and other third parties, all attempting to influence top-level recruits’ decisions in one way or another – and quite often funneling them to a particular school – has only increased in recent years. Coaches and players are not oblivious to this; it’s not hard for them to point out those who are not playing by the rules.

It's truly dispiriting to learn coaches would go so far as to use a coach's medical condition against him in recruiting (Getty Images).

It’s truly dispiriting to learn coaches would go so far as to use a coach’s medical condition against him in recruiting (Getty Images).

That’s just one unseemly aspect fans rarely, if ever, get to experience. The number of top-ranked players who don’t come across some type of illicit financial arrangement – who are not offered something from someone – over the course of their recruitment is probably smaller than anyone not directly involved with recruiting could possibly imagine. Another side, an arguably worse one, is the concept of negative recruiting, wherein coaches bash coaches from programs, or simply bash their programs, in an effort to lead players away from competitors. It can be anything from pointing out a particularly unsavory aspect of one coach’s resume, to critiquing his preferred style of play, to commenting on the lack of fan or institutional support at his program. Sometimes, things get ugly, and on Tuesday, we learned of one particularly disconcerting case involving Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy.

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