First, let me thank Jamie at TCU's SBNation community, Frogs O' War, for reaching out on the Q&A session. There's some obvious questions with both teams that need answered, and hopefully we did our respective teams justice. You can find their questions (and my answers) here.
BOTC: TCU started the season 13-0, against a slate of teams that averaged #255 (of 351) according to Kenpom.com rankings. Because of the success, the Frogs have worked their way up to a top-50 ranking (currently #48). Is the 13-0 start legit, or just a product of playing really bad teams?
FOW: More than anything, the 13-0 start signaled that TCU wasn't going to be beaten by a lesser team, and that they weren't going to go into a game unprepared. They took care of business against a slate of non-conference opponents that were pretty sub par. That being said, this team is absolutely better than it has been the past two seasons, and has been bolstered by a few transfers and healthy bigs that weren't around, or were forced to sit out, last season. What people don't realize is that TCU lost three big men, Devonta Abron, Amric Fields, and Aaron Durly, before the season even began, and while Fields played a little bit in the back half of the season, Abron and Durly were gone for the year. That left true freshman Karviar Shepherd all alone in the paint, surrounded by Kyan Anderson and a few gutsy, but over-matched walkons. This season Abron is healthy, Fields is healthy, and the Frogs have added Chris Washburn, who has been a beast early on this year. Add in other guys like Chauncey Collins, Trey Zeigler and Kenrich Williams, and TCU is starting to accumulate a bit of depth.
BOTC: Expanding on the previous question, Trent Johnson's tenure features a combined 31-7 nonconference record, and a 2-37 record in Big 12 season and tournament play. Is this season shaping up to be more of the same?
FOW: Hopefully not. This team should be better equipped (health permitting) to handle their Big 12 conference schedule. They'll be able to stay in most games, because they play good defense and their scoring is improved. If I had to guess, despite already being a game into conference play, I'd say TCU probably has what it takes to win about 5 conference games. It doesn't sound like much, but it would be a vast improvement on previous years, and would put the Frogs around 18-13 on the season.
BOTC: Further expanding...with TCU's success on the gridiron, does the fanbase really care enough to drive a change with the basketball team? Is there murmuring of Johnson's time coming to an end if conference performance doesn't improve?
FOW: There's a handful of die-hard basketball fans, but it'll take a little more success for most people to really get on board. Basketball is the third sport at TCU, and is quite a ways behind football and baseball, both of which had incredible success in 2014. Also, I wouldn't equate current records or successes with how good Trent Johnson has been for this program. It was absolutely in shambles when he took over, and in three seasons he's gotten that house in order. If he can continue to recruit like he has in the first few years, it shouldn't be too long before TCU is consistently competitive. So, while TJ is in his third season, there hasn't really been any talk about him getting fired, and I don't think his seat is incredibly hot.
BOTC: The Frogs are currently boasting the 3rd best effective field goal percentage defense in the country, 2nd best defense against two-point field goals, and 9th best in blocked shot percentage on the defensive end. What's keying the defensive performance so far, and is it sustainable in the Big 12?
FOW: The added support down low has done wonders for the defense, which tends to fall into a really effective zone when the Frogs need a stop. Karviar Shepherd and Chris Washburn have been very good down low, and lanky guys like Trey Zeigler and Kenrich Williams who can lock down the perimeter and rebound well. Ultimately though, that is the end of the court where Johnson has had the biggest impact so far. He's really instilled a good work ethic in this group of guys, and they know that if they grind it out on defense, they'll be in most games late. I think it'll be sustainable in Big 12 play, simply because TCU's defense has been good the first few seasons with fewer, smaller bodies. In TCU's first season in the Big 12, they had the third best scoring defense, allowing just over 62 points per game. That number ballooned last season thanks to injuries, but should be back down again this season. And, despite all those injuries, TCU's defense still managed to force over 12 turnovers per game, a number that's up to 13 this season.
BOTC: Kyan Anderson is a player anyone paying attention to Big 12 basketball should know. Who is TCU beyond Anderson?
FOW: As strange as it sounds, Kyan Anderson is probably one of the top 10-12 TCU basketball players of all time. He's closing in on top 10 in scoring, and for the past few seasons he's worn many hats. Beyond him this year, look out for guys like Brandon Parrish, who can create space on the court with his 3-point shot, Chris Washburn, who is a workhorse down low, and Karviar Shepherd, a sophomore who could end up being one of the best to every play at TCU. Amric Fields is a fan favorite, and if it wasn't for a few injuries, he'd be higher up on people's radar as well.
BOTC: How does TCU come into Bramlage and go home with a win?
FOW: Well, it comes down to defense. If the Frogs can slow down the Cats, they have enough offense to stay in the game, and even play with a bit of a lead (see the first half against West Virginia). Depth may come into play if guys get into foul trouble, but barring that, it should be a close game. It'll take a pretty good shooting performance from Anderson and Parrish, and a solid night cleaning glass by the bigs for TCU to come out on top, but it certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility.