Of all the teams who play division 1 basketball, TCU is probably the most improved team. The Horned Frogs finished last season at 234 in KenPom, and currently sit at 42 before tonight's matchup with Kansas. After starting 13-0, TCU has dropped 5 of its first 6 Big 12 games, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism in Fort Worth.
The Horned Frogs rank 2nd nationally in both eFG allowed and 2 point defense allowed, and lest you think it is due to the nonconference schedule, which ranked 351st in strength, the Horned Frogs rank second in the league in 2 point defense during conference play as well, allowing opponents to shoot just 41.7 percent on twos. TCU doesn't have one great shot blocker, as Chris Washburn leads the team with a block percentage of just 6.8 percent, but the Horned Frogs have a lot of players who are semi close to that percentage, and it adds up to the Horned Frogs allowing opponents to shoot just 43.6 percent at the rim, second in the entire country.
The counter to this is that TCU still ranks just 5th defensively in the Big 12 thanks in part to allowing opponents to attempt 41 percent of their attempts at the rim, which ranks 293rd in the country. The Horned Frogs also rank last in defensive rebounding, allowing opponents to rebound 41.8 percent of their misses in Big 12 play, and they're 9th at sending opponents to the free throw line, a byproduct of allowing so many people to get to the rim. Lastly, while the Horned Frogs aren't allowing many three pointers and not a lot of great looks when they do allow threes, opponents are shooting just 25.3 percent on threes against the Horned Frogs, so the Jayhawks have a lot of leeway there to pick up some extra points.
On the other end of the ball, TCU ranks last in the league in 3 point shooting, shooting just 23.2 percent in Big 12 play, but the Horned Frogs have been a more respectable 34 percent overall this season. While this means that if the Horned Frogs get lucky behind the arc we could be in trouble, TCU takes even fewer threes than Kansas, attempting just 26.3 percent of his shots beyond the arc this season, so like the Jayhawks it looks like they'll attempt to win the game inside the arc.
Kansas, who scored basically only by offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line in the nonconference portion of the schedule, ranks 6th in the league in both categories. TCU is a good opportunity to build those back up, and given the underrated matchup problem that TCU presents, the Jayhawks will likely need to excel in those two areas to win the game.
Although he hasn't played much, senior Amric Fields is shooting 65 percent on twos both overall and in Big 12 play (though it's worth pointing out if Brannen Greene makes his next three threes, he will be shooting the exact same from three as Fields is from two).
Trey Ziegler, a transfer from Pitt and Central Michigan, ranks 7th in the league in usage rate and currently leads the league at getting to the free throw line, so even though he's shooting just 56 percent there, the Jayhawks will probably want to keep Cliff Alexander away from him as much as possible. It's also worth noting that even though he's a 6'5" forward, Ziegler is 5th in the league in assist rate at 25.4 percent in league play (for comparison's sake, Mason is at 22.8 percent).
Lastly is the love letter to senior guard Kyan Anderson, this year's winner of my "favorite non KU Player" award, the most coveted award in all the nation. Anderson has taken a bit of a step back from last year's insane numbers, but he still ranks third in the league in minutes played, 10th in true shooting percentage, 8th in assist rate, and 8th in getting to the free throw line. He's also probably due for some regression behind the arc as well: Anderson shot almost 40 percent from three last year, and was over 36 percent coming into the season, but is shooting just 32 percent from three this season. The Horned Frogs have run their offense a bit more through Ziegler this year, a big reason why Anderson's assist rate has dropped from last year, when it ranked 4th in the league and 36th nationally. That seems like a bit of a mistake to me but hopefully Trent Johnson keeps it up for at least one more game.
Kansas's insane second half against Texas halted my winning streak and dropped me to 12-6-1 ATS this season. The Jayhawks are favored by a closer than you might expect 5 against the Horned Frogs, and while I would not be shocked at all to see TCU cover or even upset the Jayhawks for the second time in three seasons, I will take the Jayhawks in a 71-61 win.