So the Big 12 Tournament is here. It's probably the last time that we'll get to chat with our Big 12 brethren this season, and I'm glad that we get to start out with the newest members of the conference, the TCU Horned Frogs. I took some time and chatted with Andrew Felts over at Frogs O' War this morning:
RCT: As an observer looking in from the outside, it seems to me that this year's run in the conference has actually been mildly successful. Even though they didn't win a lot in conference, they were able to stay out of the cellar and build some momentum going into next year. As a fan of the team and someone who follows them closely, would you be able to agree with that assessment?
FOW: I would definitely agree with that assessment. TCU tripled their total number of Big 12 wins since joining the conference this season and, as you said, finished higher than 10th for the first time. Even though the Frogs were 4-14 in league play, the program took some major steps forward. TCU won its first ever road Big 12 game, took both Baylor and West Virginia into overtime, and looked competitive against Kansas for much of both games. This is a TCU team that could have easily been 8-10 if not for some early season struggles. I think that casual fans might not see it, but if you look closer, this team definitely made some strides this season and will carry some nice momentum into next year.
RCT: While TCU still has a good chance of being invited to the NIT, there is a possibility that this could be the last game for Kyan Anderson. Can you talk a little bit about what he has meant to this program, and how can the team possibly replace him next year?
FOW: I love answering this question. I don't think there's another player in the country that has meant as much to his program as Kyan has meant to TCU. Anderson is a Fort Worth kid. He won a State Championship at a high school just seven miles from TCU's campus. He is a loyal, committed Horned Frog through and through. Anderson had the opportunity to transfer after the coach that recruited him bolted for Ohio University, however he decided to stay and help build the program that he followed since he was a kid.
If this is indeed Kyan's last game, and I really hope that it isn't, he will finish his TCU career in the top 10 in program history in 13 different offensive categories, including games played, starts, minutes, points, field goals made, three-pointers made, free throw percentage, assists, and steals. He is the most complete player ever to wear a TCU uniform. Anderson has a special ability to both score the basketball and create scoring opportunities for others. The magnitude of his contributions to this program over the last four seasons can't emphasized enough, and it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to replace a guy like Kyan Anderson.
RCT: Given the way this year has gone, are you satisfied with a likely NIT berth? Or were you expecting more?
FOW: An NIT bid would definitely be satisfying, maybe even surprising. After going 0-18 in Big 12 play last season, and looking every bit as competitive as a team that didn't win a conference game, expectations were low heading into this season. The Horned Frogs had some big question marks on a roster dominantly made up of new transfers and players who were recovering from injuries. A significant amount of Trent Johnson's guys hadn't played a full season at TCU before this year. After a very successful non-conference slate that saw the Frogs finish 13-0, albeit against mostly weak competition, this Horned Frog team really learned how to work together and win games. For a program in TCU's position, it's all about building and taking steps in the right direction. An NIT bid would certainly be a significant accomplishment for a team that is transitioning into the best basketball conference in the country.
RCT: In the game today, what do you expect the Horned Frogs will try to do to limit the Jayhawks. What have you seen in the first 2 games between these teams that could be used to stop the Kansas attack?
FOW: I think that the biggest key for TCU will be how well they perform in the paint. The Frogs have fared pretty well inside this season, including some mild success in both games against the Jayhawks. With Cliff Alexander out and Perry Ellis' status up in the air, TCU will really need to take advantage inside on both ends. It will be crucial for Trey Zeigler, Karviar Shepherd and Amric Fields to create open looks in the paint and connect on these shot attempts. On the defensive end, the Frogs are going to have to outrebound Kansas for the third time this year if they want to stay in the game. If Ellis isn't 100%, or if he can't go at all, TCU will really need to take advantage.
RCT: Finally, what's your prediction for the game? Is TCU going to extend their NCAA hopes and dreams for another day, or does Kansas turn into a nightmare to ruin the day for he Horned Frogs yet again?
FOW: I'm going to cheat a little bit and give you two answers. On one hand, if this injury situation is worse than it appears for Kansas, I think TCU will have a shot. If Ellis can't go and if Selden is still feeling the effects of his ankle injury, and if the Frogs can hit shots and limit mistakes, I think TCU will come away with a big upset win, let's say 68-67. (*begins researching insane asylums*)
However, I think that a much more likely scenario is that Ellis returns and does his usual thing. Tournament Kansas is a tough Kansas to beat, and the Jayhawks will undoubtedly feed off the pro-KU crowd in Kansas City. Realistically, I think TCU keeps things close for most of the game but Kansas wins it, 80-74.
RCT: BONUS - There's no question that Kansas City has the best barbecue in the nation, but if we were to have an NCAA potluck, what dish would TCU bring to represent it's regional tastes?
FOW: I would have to say TexMex. Fort Worth has some great options as far as Mexican food is concerned. (If you ever find yourself in Cowtown, I highly recommend Joe T. Garcia's.) I am intrigued by this NCAA potluck idea. It sounds delicious. You know, since there are so many teams in the State of Texas, we would probably have to coordinate with some of the other schools. If Texas Tech could throw in some tortillas, we'll provide some fajita beef and have a great entrée. We could talk to our good friends down in Austin and see if Rick Barnes could whip up some of his "Longhorn Nachos." Well, maybe that isn't such a good idea. Every year, Barnes raves about how great his nachos are going to be, and on paper, they sound good. But year after year, they are underwhelming and don't live up to expectations. And since we likely can't count on Baylor to bring anything other than ice water, TCU can go ahead and bring some frozen margaritas and cervezas as well. Now I'm hungry.
A big thanks to Andrew for chatting with us yet again. The nice thing about newcomers is that there hasn't been enough time to build up the animosity that seeps into other conversations.
And we are going to keep the pot luck theme going with all of our postseason Q&As. Hopefully we get a chance to build up a rather big feast.
Don't forget to check out the set of questions I answered over on Frog O' War.