TCU has started off its first year of the Jamie Dixon era 11-1 and they sit at 36 in KenPom, with their lone loss by 15 at SMU. It is probably worth noting they have just 4 top 150 wins, with two of those against a disappointing Washington team and the other two at home to Illinois State and Arkansas State. If you’re into comparing common opponents, they won by just four at UNLV (though that was the day after Thanksgiving).
Offensively, TCU has been a bit like Jamie Dixon’s Pitt teams in that they get a ton of points by crashing the glass. The Frogs rank 13th nationally in offensive rebounding, and they’re doing it without a ton of height. TCU’s starting front court goes 6-11 (but he is playing fewer than 20 minutes per game) and 6-8, with the backups mostly in the 6-8 to 6-7 range. They’ll get some offensive rebounds against Kansas, but not as many as when they played a bunch of sub 150 teams.
Elsewhere, TCU gets to the free throw line a ton. Kansas has had some trouble fouling inside, but the perimeter guys mostly do a pretty good job of defending without fouling. And, since this always comes up, TCU takes just over a third of their shots from three (and they rank 225th in attempts), so they’ll have to be absolutely lights out to pull the upset that way.
Defensively, TCU has been better. They allow teams to shoot just under 44 percent on twos, and force a ton of turnovers (23.4 percent, 16th in the country). Of those, I buy the former a bit more. If the team cares about turnovers at all, a power 5 team can usually force mid and low majors into turning the ball over quite a bit just due to a size and athleticism advantage. They won’t have either tonight.
Players to Watch
Jaylen Fisher, freshman guard
Fisher spurned UNLV to attend TCU, and has been pretty good for a freshman. He is shooting just 43.5 percent on twos, but 34 percent from three isn’t bad and he has a 28.8 percent assist rate. His turnover rate is nearly that high, but he’s a freshman. I don’t see him necessarily developing into a first team all Big 12 type guy, but he should have a nice career for TCU.
Vladimir Brodziansky, junior forward
The aforementioned 6-11 starter, big Vlad (since I don’t want to type his last name again) ranks 7th nationally in blocks percentage, is drawing 6.6 fouls per 40 minutes, and is shooting 64 percent on twos. He also doesn’t commit a ton of fouls. Kansas is likely going to struggle with him, it’s just a matter of how much.
Kenrich Williams, junior forward
Williams stands 6-7 and is currently the 15th best offensive rebounder in America. He’s also shooting 41.4 percent on threes. Normally these guys would terrify me, but Kansas has quite a few rangy perimeter defenders they can throw at him. He’ll likely get some offensive rebounds.
Things to Watch For
- 3-point shooting: Kansas has been hot, and TCU is pretty good at protecting the rim. Some free points via the three will help
- Defensive rebounding: As I stated, TCU crashes the offensive glass. Kansas has had a lot of trouble with those teams, and a lot of it has come from the wings and bigs just not finding a guy to box out. I assume they’ve worked on it, so they’ll put it to the test tonight.
- Transition: TCU plays fairly slow, and Jamie Dixon has played reeeeeeeally slow throughout his career, so they’ll likely try to slow Kansas up as much as possible. However, crashing the glass like they do can lead to some runouts. Kansas will need them to take some free points.
TCU probably isn’t as good as the 36th best team in the country, but they’re pretty good. Kansas can’t afford to overlook them. I’ll take Frank Mason and Devonte Graham against a backcourt led by a non lottery pick freshman any day, and I don’t think TCU has anyone to stop Josh Jackson either. Unless TCU is out of character in terms of 3-point shooting, I think this is close for a half or so and then Kansas pulls away. Kansas 77, TCU 69.