Coming off the first loss of the season, it is easy to get a little bit down about how this team has been playing. Saturday, the TCU Horned Frogs come to town as the Jayhawks try to bounce back. To prepare for the game, I touched base with Andrew Felts over at Frogs O’ War, the SB Nation site covering TCU. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.>/p>
RCT: Last year TCU started out really hot, going undefeated in the non-conference schedule. This year, they finished the non-conference portion of the schedule with 4 losses. The schedule seems to be a bit harder this year, but does that explain the difference in results or did this team take a step back? How do you see TCU in the scheme of the Big 12 this year?
FOW: TCU’s 8-4 start through the non-conference portion season was the result of both tougher scheduling and a less experienced roster. After a pretty easy non-con slate that likely played a role in the Frogs missing the cut for the NIT last year, the school boosted their out-of-conference slate this season. TCU hosted a pretty solid mid-major in South Dakota State before traveling to Cancun to face Rhode Island and Illinois State. The Frogs also hosted nationally-ranked SMU and traveled to Washington to face the Huskies. On face value, those opponents are better than the ones TCU faced a year ago. But, the Frogs also opened the season with a young and relatively inexperienced roster. The team’s starting five on opening day featured three players making their first career start, including two junior college transfers playing in their first Division I game. Both of these factors resulted in TCU’s mild start to the season.
As far as Big 12 play goes, I think there’s some reason to be concerned about the Frogs potentially taking a step backward from their 4-14 finish a year ago. Not only has TCU struggled to replicate the production lost last season, but the rest of the Big 12 looks even better than it did in 2015. This team has always struggled on the road, and with the two most beatable teams remaining for TCU – Kansas State and Texas Tech – performing well, I have a hard time seeing the Frogs winning any games away from Fort Worth. That leaves only a handful of opportunities to capture league wins at home. Unfortunately, I think another 4-14 year is about as high as the Frogs can finish this season.
RCT: Obviously losing Kyan Anderson off of last year's team was a big blow, but what other key players from last year is this team missing? And which players (new or returning) have stepped up to fill the void?
FOW: TCU had a ridiculously rocky offseason that saw 10 of the team’s 16 players graduate, leave the program, or suffer an injury. Kyan Anderson’s graduation was definitely the biggest loss, but a series of unfortunate events left a huge void in the Frogs’ defense. One of the strengths of last year’s team was the interior presence, anchored by Trey Zeigler, Chris Washburn, and Kenrich Williams. Zeigler graduated, Washburn missed the first 11 games of the year with a broken finger, and Williams is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in October. Although Washburn is steadily returning to 100%, the defense has really struggled through the first couple months of the season. The lack of depth on the defensive end has been the most pressing concern for TCU as of late.
Initially, TCU was led by their duo of junior college transfers in Vladimir Brodziansky and Malique Trent. Straight out of Pratt Community College, Brodziansky emerged as a force on both ends of the court, leading TCU in both scoring and rebounding for the first nine games. However, with the return of Washburn from injury, Brodziansky has transitioned to a lesser role of the bench and his numbers have plummeted. Trent provided a spark on the offensive end as a talented shooter with some pretty deep range. He was one of just two Frogs averaging in double-figures, however the New Mexico Junior College transfer is currently suspended due to an unspecified violation of team rules. While it is still unclear whether or not he will make the trip to Lawrence, I do not expect him to play on Saturday.
RCT: Even though it was delayed a bit, TCU started playing in their new arena this year. How good does it feel to be back in a proper arena for a power conference team, or did you prefer the small confines of the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center that the team used last year?
FOW: It feels so good to finally have a Big 12-caliber stadium to call home. The Wilk was not a terrible temporary facility, but TCU was never going to gain any sort of respect in college basketball playing at a high school facility. This new level of dedication poured into men’s and women’s basketball at TCU by the school’s Athletic Department, Board of Trustees, and donors is really amazing to see. TCU has gone to the ends of the earth to enhance the football and baseball facilities on campus, so it is very cool to see that same level of commitment in basketball.
After nearly $80 million in renovations, the newly renamed Schollmaier Arena bears very little resemblance to the old Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, which was a dump even by Mountain West Conference standards. In addition to wider concourses, enhanced concession options, courtside seating, and a brand new videoboard and audio system, the new arena features a TCU Hall of Fame. Bearing an uncanny likeness to the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, fans pass through more than a century of TCU Athletics history as they enter Schollmaier Arena. Kansas fans usually travel well, and I highly recommend taking a visit to the new facility when these two teams meet again next month.
RCT: Kansas is coming off their first conference loss, one in which they never really looked to be in the game. How much are you concerned about the team taking out it's frustrations on the Horned Frogs?
FOW: I’m not quite sure what TCU did to upset the college basketball gods, but having to play against the #1 team in the nation, in Allen Fieldhouse, after a loss is just not fair. Having seen Bill Self coach throughout the years, it’s pretty clear that their locker room was not a fun place to be after the West Virginia game. There’s no doubt that Self will have his guys playing with an added chip on their shoulder. The tiniest of silver linings that I can pull from this situation is that Kansas’ last Big 12 losing streak, way back in 2013, included that infamous loss to TCU.
RCT: How about a score prediction? Does Kansas get back on track in a big way, or does TCU put another scare into the Jayhawks? Which matchup do you think is the biggest in deciding the outcome of the game?
FOW: There’s no reason Kansas shouldn’t come away with a big win on Saturday. The Frogs managed to keep things relatively close during the last meeting in Lawrence, but the bulk of the team’s production from that day is no longer on the roster. I am really high on the Jayhawks right now. To me, their starting five is as good as anybody’s in the nation, and I think they have the depth to make a deep postseason run. Kansas looks better than they did last year, and I think at best, the Frogs have remained about the same.
The biggest deciding factor in this game will likely be whether or not TCU can keep Kansas in check along the perimeter. The Jayhawks have been shooting lights out from behind the arc while the Frogs have really struggled to defend the deep ball. TCU allowed their first two Big 12 opponents – Oklahoma State and West Virginia – to shoot nearly 43% from deep. However, the Frogs have locked things down a bit better as of late, holding Texas and Baylor to just 26% from three. I really hate to sound so pessimistic. I am a TCU alum, and a huge fan of Trent Johnson and this program, but if the Jayhawks are connecting on their deep shots, this one will be over relatively quickly. My doomsday score prediction would be something like 94-68.
RCT: Bonus - Star Wars or Star Trek?
FOW: Admittedly, I don’t follow either franchise that closely. My dad and brother were big into the Star Wars movies as I was growing up, so I’ve seen a couple of those. I really don’t have any experience with Star Trek, so to give you an answer, I’ll go with Star Wars.
A big thanks to Andrew for helping to put this together. And please don't forget to check out the questions I answered for him over on Frogs O’ War