Here we go. First round of the Big 12 men's basketball tournament brings us a third matchup between the purples of K-State and TCU. Andrew Felts at Frogs O' War and I decided "what the heck", and caught up with each other on what to possibly expect in our first round game today. Keep your eyeballs peeled for his questions and my answers around 11am CT.
BOTC: The Horned Frogs have won twice as many conference games this year (4) as they had in their Big 12 history previously (2). Do you expect to see improvement on that in 2015-2016, or is this team going to be a 3, 4, maybe 5 win team in conference in the near future, given the capabilities of the opposition?
FOW: Next year’s TCU team is going to have some massive shoes to fill. The Frogs are losing three talented seniors to graduation: Kyan Anderson, Trey Zeigler, and Amric Fields. This trio of seniors have accounted for 51.4% of TCU’s total offensive production this season. The most pressing issue is at the guard position. Freshman Chauncey Collins is the obvious replacement for Kyan Anderson, however he has really struggled to adjust this season, which has limited his playing time. He will likely have a pretty significant learning curve next year.
Recruiting has been pretty slow-going so far. The Frogs signed Jalon Miller, a four-star forward out of Dallas in October. Then just yesterday, TCU pulled in another commit in Lyrik Shreiner, a point guard from Phoenix. A lot of TCU’s success or failure next season will depend on how well the freshmen and sophomores can adjust to their new roles within the team. With the losses that the Frogs will face, paired with what looks to be another very strong Big 12 Conference, I think that four to five conference wins is about what to expect from next year’s team.
BOTC: Help me sort this out: Kenpom has TCU rated 21 spots higher than K-State (59 to 80); ESPN's BPI ratings show TCU 14 spots better (62 to 76). However, in the RPI, K-State is 43 spots better (87 to 130). According to realtimerpi.com, the Wildcats have played the 16th toughest SOS, TCU 94. Finally, vegasinsider.com has K-State as a one-point favorite, after opening as an even pick. Is that just a bunch of numbers that, when compiled, say that no one really knows how this game is going to turn out?
FOW: I think that’s a fair assessment. TCU’s RPI numbers have been hurt all season because of a brutally bad non-conference slate. The Frogs had the 351st ranked non-conference strength of schedule – dead last in the NCAA. For me, the Frogs are somewhat of a hard team to measure. Despite a 17-14 record, TCU has no bad losses. Perhaps the worst loss of the season was the five-point loss suffered in Manhattan in January, but I would hardly consider that a bad loss. As far as quality wins go, all TCU has to hang their hat on is an upset win over then-21st ranked Oklahoma State in Fort Worth and a beat down of Ole Miss in Oxford in December.
With Kansas State’s inconsistencies this season, especially as of late, I think this is a hard game to forecast. If the same K-State team that beat Kansas and Iowa State in consecutive games shows up, the ‘Cats could find themselves in the Semifinals. But if the same KSU team that came to Fort Worth in February shows up, the Frogs should have a good shot at another win. TCU has been fairly consistent as of late, so I think the outcome of the game will depend mostly on which version of Bruce Weber’s squad comes to play.
BOTC: Has playing home games at the alternate site in Fort Worth been good or bad for TCU this year? How about for visiting teams?
FOW: I really don’t think that the alternate venue had much of an effect this season. If anything, it may have helped some of the freshmen and sophomores adjust to Big 12 play in a little bit of a calmer, low-key environment. TCU played most of its non-conference games at home, so the Frogs were used to their new digs by the time Big 12 play rolled around. As far as visiting teams are concerned, playing in a totally foreign environment might have had some impact, but I don’t think that it cost anybody any wins. I imagine that for some of the visiting Big 12 teams, it was similar to playing in a tournament like Maui – albeit with a much less exciting atmosphere – just in that it was a high-profile game played in a smaller venue.
BOTC: From an outsider's (to K-State) perspective - let's talk post-season tournaments. We know that for either TCU or K-State to make the NCAA, they've got to win four in a row now. But for the NIT - does the NIT selection committee take their (likely) first ever losing-record team in K-State? Does TCU have a shot at getting into the NIT with a couple of wins in Kansas City? Or do the Top 7 in the Big 12 make the NCAAs, and everyone else stays home altogether?
FOW: TCU and Kansas State are both in the same boat as far as the NIT is concerned. I think that both teams need to win at least two games in Kansas City to have a shot. That would give KSU a winning record and give either team a big quality win over Kansas. I can’t speak for K-State, but I think that if TCU goes 1-1 in the Big 12 Tournament, they are likely bound for the College Basketball Invitational. I imagine that a power conference team with a winning record would look pretty attractive to the CBI people. Additionally, the Frogs played in the 2012 CBI, so the two institutions are somewhat familiar with each other. Any postseason play for TCU is a step in the right direction as far as I am concerned.
BOTC: Prediction for the game? How will TCU exploit this K-State team to earn the chance to take on KU in the quarterfinals?
FOW: TCU can certainly come away with a victory if they shoot well from the field and expose the Wildcats inside, much like they did in the second meeting between these teams. The best case scenario for TCU is that the offense shows up and that the Wildcats are distracted by off-the-court issues. If that’s the case, I’ll take TCU 66-55. With that being said, if K-State is motivated and ready to go I could see them taking this one. If Marcus Foster, Jevon Thomas, and Nino Williams are all on the same page, it could be a long night for TCU.
BONUS QUESTION! BOTC: Since we're both most likely moving on from basketball after this week, what is the expectations surrounding the Horned Frogs' football team heading into 2015?
FOW: Expectations are as high as they have ever been for this TCU program. With Trevone Boykin and most of a prolific offense returning, Frog fans are anxiously expecting another season full of fireworks. The biggest question mark is going to be on the defensive end. With the losses of Chucky Hunter, Marcus Mallet, Paul Dawson, Kevin White, and Sam Carter, the TCU defense is going to need to reload to find success in 2015. With one of the best defensive coaches in the country in Gary Patterson at the helm, I think that most fans aren’t too worried about the loss of talent on the defensive end. For the first time since joining the Big 12, the Frogs will enter the 2015 season with National Championship aspirations.
I want to thank Andrew and Frogs O' War for joining in on these Q&A sessions. We all get some valuable insight, and it's fun to have the banter back and forth. Good Luck to TCU - and may the better purple team (hint...its us) win!