What a win against Texas! Obviously, pretty much nothing went the way we thought it would, so let's do the same thing for the game against TCU. We reached out to Andrew Felts over at Frogs O' War, the SBNation site covering the TCU Horned Frogs. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: So coming into the year, I think it is pretty safe to say that expectations for this squad were not very high. How did the torrid nonconference start change the outlook for TCU's chances in the Big 12 this year?
FOW: The Frogs started the season 13-0, setting a record for the best start in program history in the process, but admittedly, the competition was not very good. Despite playing mostly mid-major programs with RPI's hanging in the low 200's, TCU showed some signs of improvement from the year before. The defense definitely took a major step forward, and the non-conference slate allowed for some of the freshmen and transfer players to adjust to TCU's style of play. I think the biggest positive from the 13-0 start was it gave the team and fans the confidence that the Frogs could compete and could win games. The players experienced what winning was like and built confidence moving into Big 12 play. Having followed the team's struggles for the last several seasons, it just felt good to win, regardless of who the competition was.
RCT: Since joining the Big 12, TCU has a total of 3 Big 12 wins. How does it feel to basically be the equivalent of Kansas football for this basketball conference?
FOW: That's actually a pretty good comparison. What I think a lot of people don't recognize is that when TCU moved into the Big 12 prior to the 2012 season, the program was a pretty mediocre Mountain West program. In TCU's final season in the MWC, the Frogs finished in fifth place, the highest finish ever for a TCU team in the Mountain West. With a coach that bailed before making the transition to the Big 12, TCU fans realized that this was going to be a long project that would require a lot of patience and effort. Prior to this season, the Frogs were only favorites in one conference game, so (a lot like Kansas football), you're going into every game as the underdog. That role can begin to wear on you after a while, but TCU fans are patient and are giving Trent Johnson the time he needs to set up recruiting trails and build this thing from the ground up.
RCT: Turning to the game, pretty much the only TCU player that gets recognition is Kyan Anderson, the lone bright spot on that awful team last year. Who else should the Jayhawk fans pay attention during the game?
FOW: Kyan Anderson is definitely the undisputed leader of this TCU team. He is the Frogs' leading scorer and usually dictates what kind of performance the offense as a whole will have depending on whether or not he is hitting his shots. Other than Anderson, one of the additions that I have been impressed with is sophomore Kenrich Williams, who is in his first season at TCU after transferring from New Mexico Junior College. Williams is a tough forward that currently has the fifth-best shooting percentage in the Big 12 at over 55%. Despite coming off the bench in the Frogs' first 16 games, Williams is third on the team in minutes played, points, and rebounds. One of his biggest strengths is his consistency. He plays with the same intensity and passion whether the Frogs are at home to a cupcake, or on the road against a nationally ranked team.
RCT: Until Saturday, the Jayhawks hadn't played well in opposing teams gyms, most of them being places with great home court advantages. Wednesday, we have to go to the dreaded.... Wilkerson-Grimes Activity Center?? That doesn't seem all that imposing. How has the change in venue affected the team/fanbase this year?
FOW: Don't underestimate the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center. The cozy 4,750-seat Fort Worth ISD-owned facility has several amenities, such as funnel cake available for purchase, convenient neon "OPEN" signs to alert fans as to which of the four volunteer-operated concession stands are ready to serve you said funnel cake, and even a pencil sharpener at the scorer's table, strategically positioned for Tyler Self to sharpen his father's pencils prior to media timeouts. At center court is a beautifully hand-painted basketball that is realistic enough to make the players temporarily believe that the game is actually being played on a large basketball. As if that wasn't enough, fans can take a scenic tour to some attractions nearby the "Wilk," such as the Tarrant County Community College, Taco Casa, and the Fort Worth Federal Correctional Institution, expertly staffed by the United State Bureau of Prisons. Are you sold yet?
In all seriousness, I don't think that the transition to the Wilk has affected the players all that much. If anything, it provides a low-key atmosphere to develop some of the transfer and freshman players before being thrown into a full-blown Big 12 basketball atmosphere. Trent Johnson said before the season that his team will play in the parking lot if they have to, and the players have adopted that mentality. From a fan perspective, this facility is about 15 minutes from the TCU campus, which has led to a pretty significant decrease in attendance. The venue isn't all that bad though. It is a sufficient temporary home for a team that, as you mentioned, had very little expectations coming into the season, and I think TCU fans are willing to put up with the inconvenience for one season in exchange for the $60-million renovations taking place at the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on campus.
RCT: How does the game turn out? Does TCU pick up where they left off against WVU and make the game competitive? Or does Kansas use the newly found confidence from the Texas game to bury the Horned Frogs?
FOW: The homer TCU fan living inside of me really, really wants to pick the Frogs in another upset. TCU played as tough as they've played since joining the Big 12 in Morgantown on Saturday, and I expect some of that to carry over into tomorrow's contest. However, I think that Kansas is just too good. After seeing how they thoroughly dismantled the Longhorns last weekend, it is really hard for me to pick against the Jayhawks.
There are two big keys that I think will determine the outcome of the game. The first of which is how TCU responds to the heartbreaking defeat to West Virginia over the weekend. The mental blow surrounding the manner in which TCU lost certainly feels like it could linger around, but I think the Frogs will be hyped up to invite a top-10 team to Fort Worth. The other big key for me is how effectively the Frogs can disrupt Kansas' offense. If they are able to alter shots and limit possessions throughout, I think TCU has a chance. My heart tells me 72-71 TCU in an upset, but my brain tells me 86-68 Jayhawks in a game where Kansas controls the tempo in the second half.
RCT: BONUS - Sonic the Hedgehog or Link from The Legend of Zelda? Explain using any reasoning you want.
FOW: This one is a no-brainer. A lot of people may not know this, but freshman TCU center Link Kabadyundi is actually named after Link from the Legend of Zelda because of his uncanny resemblance to the video game character. I have included a photo for comparison. The 7'1" Canadian dropped 12 points and grabbed six boards against Mississippi Valley State, his first meaningful game in a TCU uniform.
Plus I'm pretty sure Sonic the Hedgehog went to Baylor.
So that makes our count 6-1 in favor of Link. Obviously a landslide victory for him, but let's see how it finishes out.
A special thanks to Andrew for answering our questions today. Don't forget to check out the questions I answered for him as well.