The big question tonight for KU fans is how much, if at all, freshman Ochai Agbaji will play. The other question is how Kansas will look rebounding from a dreadful effort in which they may as well have handed Iowa State the game on a silver platter.
As has been the case so often in Big 12 play in recent years, there isn’t a team that you can count on to provide an easy win to get things back on track. Such is the case tonight when, even in a home game, TCU comes in with legitimate hopes to knock off the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse.
The Horned Frogs have one of the conference’s best offenses, and maybe the best backcourt in the Big 12. However, half of that backcourt, junior Jaylen Fisher, might be unable to play tonight with a knee injury. Even if Fisher is unable to go, TCU still could have enough firepower to win. The Frogs rank 7th nationally in 2-point shooting, and they are 3rd in assists. One positive for the Jayhawks is that TCU doesn’t attempt many threes, but they do have guys who can shoot it, with four rotation players making 37 percent or more of their threes this season (of course, one of those is Fisher).
Defensively, TCU is one of the best teams in the Big 12, and nationally, at limiting 3-point attempts. The good news is, the Frogs are one of the worst nationally in terms of letting teams get to the rim. Obviously it would be a big help if that included some Udoka Azubuike dunks, but Dedric Lawson will get plenty of good looks around the rim tonight.
It’s also worth pointing out TCU really struggled in their first conference game, a narrow home win against Baylor. The Bears shot 58 percent on twos and got to the line virtually at will against the Horned Frogs, which maybe raises some questions about their defense overall, considering tonight will be TCU’s first game against a KenPom top-50 opponent, and their first true road game.
Players to Watch
Alex Robinson, 6-1 senior guard
I haven’t been a huge Robinson fan over the course of his TCU career, but there is no doubt he has stepped up in his senior season. He currently ranks 4th nationally in assist rate, and has a pretty low turnover rate to go with it. He once was a guy who you would try to make shoot the ball, but he’s over 50 percent on twos this season and at 38 percent from three. We’ll see if he can keep it up in conference play, but he’s probably your current first team All-Big 12 point guard.
Desmond Bane, 6-5 junior wing
Bane doesn’t take a ton of shots, but when he does shoot it’s probably going in. He led the Big 12 in offensive rating last season, and is shooting 64 percent on twos and 37 percent on threes this year. He’s also a career 42 percent shooter from deep.
Kouat Noi, 6-7 sophomore forward
Noi is like Bane a bit in that he doesn’t have the most well-rounded game, but he’s an efficient scorer. He also shoots it a bit more than Bane does without experiencing a drop in efficiency. Noi is shooting 64 percent on twos and 37 percent from three this year.
Kansas has historically been very good after a loss under Bill Self. Their last two-game losing streak in Big 12 play was in 2013; coincidentally, that second loss came at the hands of TCU in the infamous Topeka YMCA game.
There are two big advantages for KU in this matchup. First, it looks like TCU guard Jaylen Fisher will be unable to play tonight. Secondly, this is TCU’s first true road game of the season.
Statistically, the fact that the Frogs allow so many attempts at the rim bodes well for a team with Dedric Lawson on it, and I think Devon Dotson will be able to bother Alex Robinson just enough to throw TCU off its game. I like the Jayhawks to win by a little more than we would expect, 81-71.