Much thanks to Andrew Felts at Frogs O' War for reaching out as we traded questions and answers for Saturday's matchup between TCU and Texas Tech, set to tip at 3:00 pm. Will update post with Andrew's questions and my answers.
1. Here we are again. Texas Tech and TCU are both sitting at an 0-fer in conference wins to start the Big 12 season. What's been the biggest adjustment for TCU heading into conference play?
I think that the Frogs' biggest struggle transitioning from non-conference play to Big 12 play has been the inability to handle a more physical style of play. TCU rolled through the non-conference portion of the schedule, entering Big 12 play with a perfect 13-0 record. Much like Tubby Smith at Texas Tech, Trent Johnson scheduled mostly mid-major opponents in order to build team chemistry, play with different rotations, and rack up some wins before conference play began. The down side of that is that the non-conference portion of the schedule didn't adequately prepare TCU for the size, strength, and physicality of the Big 12. Quite frankly, the Frogs have been beaten up as they transition into conference play. But with that being said, TCU has competed in each of those games and the Frogs are close to putting everything together to come away with a win.
2. One of the big things that Texas Tech fans have been able to cling onto as the season progresses is that Texas Tech is starting a very young team, something like 6th youngest in the country and Texas Tech fans are being pretty patient. Do you think that Horned Frog fans have that same type of patience as Trent Johnson builds his team?
Like a lot of universities in Texas, basketball has never been in the spotlight at TCU, which is an advantage for Trent Johnson as he continues the process of building the program to compete at a Big 12-caliber level. There are always the fans that expect success immediately, but I think that as a whole, TCU fans realize that this is a long-term project. After all, Gary Patterson didn't build the football program into a national power overnight. Trent Johnson has shown that he can bring big name talent to TCU. Karviar Shephed was the highest-rated player to sign with TCU in the program's history. Brandon Parrish and Hudson Price were both sought after recruits that TJ was able to bring to campus. Trent has already signed Jalon Miller, a four-star forward from Dallas, as part of the Class of 2019. In his first three seasons on campus, Trent Johnson has proven that he can recruit and bring big name talent to TCU. At the end of the day, Frog fans sat through four seasons of Jim Christian sputtering through the Mountain West, so I would like to think that our fanbase will be patient and give Trent Johnson the time he needs to establish recruiting trails and build up the program.
3. Kyan Anderson is easily the best player on the team (or I think so), what has he improved upon last year to this year?
Kyan Anderson is definitely the best player on this team. He is a prolific scorer that really leads the TCU offense. Most of the time, as Kyan goes, so does the TCU offense. The biggest difference that I have noticed in Anderson so far this season is that he is playing the game a lot looser and a lot smoother. Compared to last season, there are several other pieces to this offense that can take some of the scoring load off of Kyan's shoulders. The contributions of guys like Trey Zeigler and Chris Washburn have helped to reduce some of the stress on Anderson. I don't think that Kyan feels like he has to be "the guy," unlike in years past. If he has an off night, somebody else can pick up the slack. The addition of other contributors has taken some of that pressure and some of the scoring load off of Anderson, which has actually made him a better scorer, in my opinion.
4. Who are the two next best players that can impact the game for TCU?
As I mentioned above, Pittsburgh transfer Trey Zeigler and UTEP transfer Chris Washburn have been huge additions to the TCU offense. After sitting out all of last season due to the NCAA's transfer rule, each player has returned and contributed significantly so far. The duo combine to average nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. In addition to taking some of that scoring load off Kyan's shoulders, Zeiger and Washburn have brought much needed experience and depth to the TCU roster. I'm going to cheat a little bit and add a third player that has really impressed me so far this season. Kenrich Williams, a sophomore transfer from New Mexico Junior College, has appeared in all 16 games for the Frogs this season and has provided a big spark off the bench. In a reserve role, Williams is averaging over eight points and six rebounds per game. He is usually the first to check into a game and has been a nice addition to the starting five.
5. How do you think the game plays out on Saturday, which team gets that coveted first conference win of the year?
In each of TCU's first three Big 12 games, the Frogs have competed and been right on the verge of knocking off their opponent. With fewer turnovers and better free throw shooting, the Frogs could have entered the game with a 3-0 record in conference play. Instead, a lack of late game execution, and really poor free throw shooting has resulted in three straight Big 12 losses. This is the third time in a row that I've said this, so maybe the third time is the charm... but I think that the Frogs get everything sorted out and play a complete game on Saturday, en route to their first Big 12 win since 2013. TCU didn't have a mid-week game this week, so hopefully an extended period of time to work on mistakes and prepare for the Red Raiders will pay dividends for the Frogs. I'll take TCU in a close one, 70-66.
Thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer some questions! VTM's full preview will go up tomorrow morning.