Preston’s Hoops Preview: TCU (plus Shaka Smart quotes)

Jarrett Allen vs UAB. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Jarrett Allen vs UAB. (Will Gallagher/IT)

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Hoops Preview: TCU
Wednesday, January 11
Time: 7:00 pm Central
Television: LHN
Location: UT

Opponent Strengths:

In their momentary calm before the storm that is the next three games after tonight’s contest (WVU, @Baylor, @KU), the Longhorns (7-8, 1-2) host the TCU Horned Frogs (12-3, 1-2) at the Erwin Center. The Horned Frogs, under new head coach (and TCU alumnus) Jamie Dixon, have hopes for an ascension amongst their Big 12 brethren and hope Dixon’s hard nosed, purposeful brand of basketball will function in a talented, if not exactly headlining, group of hoops schools. So far, there’s little to see as far as a significant change between Dixon’s first squad and Johnson’s last, but he did a nice job at Pitt and he certainly is worthy of some leeway.

Halfcourt defense. Unsurprisingly, Dixon has brought his brand of aggressive, on ball defense with him to TCU. And, to his credit, Johnson left the cupboard relatively full of athletic, physical players, defensively. This is aided by TCU’s penchant to make teams beat them in the halfcourt as they won’t push tempo or purposefully get up and down the court. Texas will have to deal with TCU’s halfcourt defense and how well the Longhorns can function (especially in ball screen action) will be an important factor into who wins.

TCU looks to be led by 6’10 junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky (11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, .4 assists per game). Brodziansky has been a talented player since his arrival in Fort Worth, but he’s continued to blossom under Dixon’s leadership. The Horned Frogs use him comparably to how the Longhorns use Allen and Vladimir’s efficiency is high level (59% from the field, 79% from the foul line, .5 turnovers per game). Where Texas is going to have to be careful with Brodziansky is his ability to get to the foul line. The Slovakian big man is averaging almost six free throw attempts per game in conference.

Opponent Weaknesses

Perimeter turnovers. Robinson and Fisher are playmakers and dynamic in how they’ll attack off the bounce or as creators, but they don’t take care of the ball and are prone to live ball turnovers (sound familiar?). In three conference games, TCU’s turnover woes (when coupled with their rebounding, more on that in a sec) have allowed their opponents to average 13 more shots per contest. If Texas can take advantage of TCU’s lack of ball discipline, comparably, they’ll be in good shape.

Rebounding. For the amount of height and athleticism they have, TCU is not a good rebounding team. For the season, the Horned Frogs are allowing opponents to rebound 35% of their misses, offensively. That number jumps up to 40% in conference. Their own offensive rebounding percentage, in conference, sits at 31%. Basically, Texas shouldn’t get blown away on the glass by this Horned Frog team.

Texas Keys: Offense

Ball screen offense. It’s no coincidence that Texas’ (relative) offensive explosion against OSU and ISU came on the same days where Jones and (more specifically) Roach showed marked improvement in attacking ball screens as penetrators. For better or worse, that’s the offensive system that Shaka preaches/teaches. So, when it looks good, Texas will look good. When it doesn’t… How Kerwin and Andrew do at beating hedges and attacking rotation will win or lose this game for Texas, most likely. Live ball turnovers, as usual, will be a key stat to watch as it pertains to the Longhorns’ point guard play.

Texas Keys: Defense

Be solid. The more I watch and study about TCU, the more they appear to just be a team that is okay at pretty much everything but not special at anything. Texas would do well to work on the normal things any defense wants…plus in rebounding; create turnovers; limit free throw attempts; close out early on shooters…it ain’t rocket science. Texas’ defensive parts are pretty impressive, individually, and we are seeing the whole catch up to that. This is a game where that ability level should rise enough to take care of business on that end.

The Endgame

It’s not the best of matchups for Texas.

TCU wants to play with a controlled tempo (though they, like Texas, tend to be a chameleon team as it pertains to their pace). TCU wants to force you to execute in the halfcourt.

All things Texas has had issues with this year.

However, Texas has better talent and the last few games (turnovers against ISU excluded) have been positive indicators of progress.

I think it’s too close for comfort, but I do think Texas pulls this one out.

Prediction: Texas 69 – TCU 63

Projected Starting Lineup

Selected Shaka Smart Quotes from 1/9
On if he’s confident things are moving in the right direction: I think our guys showed some really good fight. In the Iowa State game, we shoot over 50 percent, we had some really good stretches defensively, but we turned the ball over 19 times and then we also had some stretches defensively where we gave them some opportunities we need to take away. It’s still consistency. We have to be more consistent doing the right things. I think our guys really showed a lot of fight and they stayed together and hung in there with each other.

On if it’s easier to manage a young team: Our guys understand that we need to grow as a team and we need to develop. I think they understand that anything that you want to do as a team, and individually for that matter, is a byproduct of playing better and making strides. Then, when you go down to the specifics of, whether it’s limiting turnovers or executing on offense or free throw shooting or defending a pick and roll, as we do those things better over a longer period of time, then the stuff that you’re talking about is a byproduct of that.

On point guard: Andrew [Jones] plays there some. Kerwin [Roach], the last couple games, has played there more when they are in there together, and they’ve been in there together a lot. Just the makeup of our team, we knew from the beginning that it was going to be point guard by committee. A variety of those guys will play there but [Roach] will definitely continue to handle the ball for us.

On if this week can help them get back on track: We’re just focused on TCU right now. We had practice earlier today. Any time you come back home after being on the road, you want to put your best foot forward. We have a team coming in here that’s a good Big 12 team and we understand that there’s certain things that they do well, and we have to be ready for and try to take away. It’s all about Wednesday for us right now. Being the best team we can be on Wednesday, and trying to do what we can do to win the game. Then we’ll focus on the next one.

On trying to get quality wins: League play just started. I don’t think anything is running out. Again, it’s about going 1-0 in you next game. Regardless of what happened in your last game, you have an opportunity to go 1-0. That’s what we’re focused on.

On playing well in a difficult venue: I think our guys know that we can do it, but at the same time we had too many self-inflicted wounds in that game to win, particularly against a team with Monte Morris and some older guys that knew how to take advantage of certain mistakes. We had a few possessions where we had the ball with really good opportunities and didn’t score in transition or missed a layup, and they were able to convert those. When you look back and watch the tape, those are huge. I think our guys, just from looking at them after in the locker room afterward, they know we’ve made strides as a team overall in terms of all the different elements of basketball. Now it’s about being more consistent and putting those things together.

On wanting to get a win before the upcoming tough stretch: We really haven’t talked about that. I’m sure, if they’ve looked at the schedule, I’m sure they have an awareness of that. To be honest, our focus this morning when we practiced was all about us preparing for the TCU game. That’s all we talked about, and we talked a little about coming out of the Iowa State game and some things we obviously need to learn from that. We have not referenced the rest of our schedule. We’ll make sure over the next couple of days to remind our guys that we have a very good Big 12 team coming in here, and that’s where our focus is.

On what he needs to see to know the team can take it to the next level: In general, consistency. I could give you a lot of specific examples. When you put together a stretch of very good play… We’ve had some games, Iowa State and Kansas State on the road, where I think we started really, really well, but then in those games we’ve hit lulls, particularly on offense but even on defense where we weren’t as good. Those need to be reduced. When we get a lead, we need to increase a lead. If we get down, it’s a matter of battling back. There are a lot of games that we’ve lost, close games, we’ve come really, really close to coming back and taking a lead, and it’s been a tied game, or a two point game or a one point game, and I think what you’ll see is as we get more consistent, we’ll be able to take leads back and have a level of resolve to finish the game.

On TCU head coach Jamie Dixon: He’s a great coach. He did a phenomenal job at Pitt and built that program around toughness, defense and grit. I’m sure he’ll do the same thing at TCU. He’s done a really good job there so far. He’s got those guys playing with a lot of fight and a lot of energy. He’s a really good coach.

On Kendal Yancy and Mareik Isom: Kendal is still out. As you know, he had a high ankle sprain, so those things are hard. I think they took him out of the boot. He and I did a pool workout together at Iowa State. That’s about the extent of what he’s doing right now. I would say he’s probably going to be out for at least another week. If he comes back sooner than that, I’ll be surprised. Mo’s been cleared, but we’re still trying to get him to the point where he can move. He’s practicing, but that ankle’s not 100 percent. He’s been cleared because it’s not like he’s going to re-injure it. It’s just a matter of recovering from it. He had a pretty invasive surgery in it about eight weeks ago. He’s still recovering from that, but he’s practicing and hopefully he’ll get in the game and help us soon.

On if Isom could get a 6th year: No. You have to ask the NCAA for it. You can try, but usually for guys that transfer they don’t get that.

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