The road has not been kind to the Kansas Jayhawks. The Big 12 has not been kind to the TCU Horned Frogs. Saturday, the TCU Horned Frogs host the Jayhawks in what is an important matchup for each tean. 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: So first of all, how are the new digs? It's only been half a season, but how awesome is it to have a new arena? Anything any of our readers should know if they travel down for the game?
FOW: The new stadium is incredible. The TCU Athletic Department, boosters, and Board of Trustees did a fantastic job raising the funds to put together a truly state-of-the-art facility. Because of some construction delays, it didn't actually open until late December, so today's game is actually just the eighth inside the new gym. After a year and a half at a Fort Worth ISD multi-purpose facility, it is hard to describe just how great it is to have our own $80-million, on-campus stadium. I'm optimistic that the school can use the arena to sell the program to recruits and help advance TCU's status in the college basketball landscape.
I highly encourage visiting fans to check it out because it really is the nicest facility in the Big 12. Kansas fans, in particular, will notice that the TCU Athletics Hall of Fame that greets visitors as they walk into the stadium closely resembles the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at Allen Fieldhouse. In a layout that is eerily similar to that at KU, the TCU Athletics Hall of Fame takes fans through more than a century of the university's accomplishments across each and every varsity sport. For the average fan that doesn't know much about the history of TCU, it is a very cool exhibit.
RCT: Unrelated to this game, TCU is getting to host Big Monday against Oklahoma State this upcoming week. How excited are you to be able to showcase your new home, especially against a team you have a good chance against?
FOW: Monday's game is definitely a big one for TCU. The Frogs are staring down the barrel of a 1-17 finish in Big 12 play. Home games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State provide what are likely the team's last two legitimate chances at wins this season, so it will be important for the Frogs to pull out all the stops against the Cowboys on Monday. As far as Schollmaier Arena is concerned, I think it is a great thing for the university. The upgrades to TCU's football and baseball facilities are pretty well-known, so it will be nice to get to show off the renovated basketball facility as well. Because of their struggles throughout history, the TCU men's basketball program has never really been taken seriously. Trent Johnson and his staff have started to lay the foundation for future success in Fort Worth, and having a facility such as this one will go a long way in building the caliber of the program.
RCT: Big 12/SEC challenge: what are your thoughts? TCU has a 3-0 record in it, so you guys must love it, right?
FOW: I am 100% a fan of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, mostly because the Frogs have had so much success against the SEC since Trent Johnson came to TCU in 2012. Purely as a college basketball fan, I love the matchups. ESPN usually does a good job of pairing teams, and this year was no exception. It was a real treat to see Kansas vs. Kentucky and Buddy Hield vs. Ben Simmons. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State played competitive games as well, not to mention TCU's big win over Tennessee.
Looking at it from a deeper perspective, I think that the event has the chance to do more harm than good for the upper echelon of the Big 12. Going back to last weekend, you kind of get the feeling that Kansas, Oklahoma, and Baylor had a lot to lose but not much to gain. Kansas and Baylor were both playing inferior teams at home, and OU had to defend their #1 ranking on the road against a struggling LSU team. I think that because the Big 12 is so far ahead of the SEC in terms of overall strength, the SEC has much more to gain from the event than the Big 12. But hey, as long as it provides a seemingly guaranteed win for TCU every year, I'm all for it.
RCT: TCU has had a rough go of it in conference so far, only getting a shocking victory over the Texas Longhorns. Was this something you saw coming? What's going wrong with this team in conference play?
FOW: Prior to the beginning of the season, there were some concerns about replacing the offensive production from Kyan Anderson, Trey Zeigler, and Kenrich Williams. Trent Johnson brought in four talented scorers in this year's class, which helped to reduce some of those concerns. However, they came right back during the non-conference portion of the season as TCU struggled to score the ball against significantly inferior opponents. As the winter progressed, it became clear that the Frogs were going to take a step backwards while the rest of the Big 12 seemingly took a step forward. While TCU's struggles this season are disappointing, they are hardly surprising. It was already going to take a lot to just match last year's record, so falling short of that goal is something that was probably expected by a lot of Horned Frogs fans.
The problem with the team is just that - they can't score. As a unit, the Frogs have under-performed in nearly every facet of the game on offense. They miss easy layups and shots in the lane, three point shooting has been atrocious, and free throws continue to be a major issue. The first half of the meeting between these two teams at Allen Fieldhouse is a great example of this. The Frogs couldn't do anything in the paint. They were driving to the rim and getting decent opportunities, but the shots just weren't falling. TCU enters today's game with an offense scoring 68.7 points per game, good for 278th in the nation. Things have been even worse in league play, as the team is averaging just 62.8 points against Big 12 foes. Unfortunately, I don't see how the Frogs turn this around in time to do anything meaningful this season. We're 22 games into the year and they are still facing the same issues we saw in November and December.
RCT: What is your prediction for this game? Kansas only won by 7 at home this year, so can the Horned Frogs take advantage of the new home and get their first big victory?
FOW: Schollmaier Arena will pick up its first-ever sellout today, and there's no doubt that the place will be rocking. I'd like to think that TCU can keep things close once again, but I'm just not seeing the offense being able to put up enough to come out on top. On the three-year anniversary to the date of TCU's shocking 62-55 win over then-5th ranked Kansas, I think the Jayhawks pick up a road win, something like 74-62.
RCT: Bonus - Pizza or Lasagna?
FOW: Oooh, this is an easy one for me. Pizza all the way. It's so customizable. There are endless possibilities.
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