Burning Question: Will inexperience and injuries wreck TCU’s season?
TCU is not your typical power five conference job. In fact, it only became such a job three years ago. When Jim Christian sensed his seat was starting to warm at TCU, he left for Ohio, a less stressful and more comfortable mid-major gig. In came Trent Johnson, a coach who has had a modicum of success at every place he’s been, but who, like Christian, had sensed the pitchforks coming toward the end of his four-year run at LSU.
Johnson’s first two years in Fort Worth were rough for a couple of reasons. First, the leftovers from Christian’s tenure had to adjust to the transition of both coaches and to a much more competitive basketball conference (from the Mountain West to the Big 12). The Horned Frogs under Christian certainly weren’t slayers out west (18-44 in his four years), but they did finish 7-7 in league play the year before Christian hit the road. Secondly, injuries bit them pretty good. In 2012-13, starting guard Jarvis Ray injured his left foot in late December and was lost for the year. Amric Fields, the 2011-12 Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year, suffered a season-ending injury to his knee 12 seconds into TCU’s game against SMU. Conference play hadn’t even begun and the Horned Frogs’ season was all but done.
After an 0-18 Big 12 cratering in 2013-14, last season was Johnson’s first step in the right direction. TCU returned plenty of experience in the backcourt, with two-time all-Big 12 Honorable Mention point guard Kyan Anderson wrapping up a career that finished first in career steals and among the school’s top 10 in nearly every offensive category. Trey Zeigler, a transfer from Pittsburgh, was second on the team in scoring behind Anderson. A 13-0 start was built largely on fluff but winning is winning, and the team did collect a true road win against an Ole Miss team that eventually made the Big Dance. In conference play, the Horned Frogs were also a minute away from beating Baylor at home and a mere 1.8 seconds away from upsetting West Virginia in Morgantown. True to Trent Johnson’s style, last year’s team hit the boards and played stingy defense — TCU finished second in the Big 12 in blocked shots, third in offensive rebounds and ranked 53rd nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defense rating, the program’s highest finish since in nearly a decade. Read the rest of this entry »