After dropping their first two efforts without senior big man, Cameron Ridley, the Texas Longhorns look to build off Tuesday's narrow win over Kansas State with similar results tonight against the TCU Horned Frogs. To that end, we caught up with Andrew Felts of Frogs O' War to discuss TCU's roster makeup, how the Horned Frogs can capitalize on Ridley's absence, and the expected outcome tonight.
BON: TCU entered the season tasked with replacing the bulk of its 2014-15 production, including filling the shoes of Kyan Anderson and Trey Zeigler. How would you assess what Trent Johnson has been able to do with the current roster devoid of last season's core?
FOW: Trent Johnson’s recruiting philosophy during the offseason seemed to be focused around replacing the scoring production lost with the departure of Anderson and Zeigler. Johnson’s recruiting class was chock full of talented shooters that possessed the ability to light up the scoreboard on any given night. Four-star forward JD Miller averaged over 24 points per game at Seagoville High School in Dallas, Lyrik Shreiner did one better, averaging over 25 points per game at Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix. Junior college transfers Malique Trent and Vladimir Brodziansky each averaged over 15 points per game at their respective schools.
So far, Johnson’s guys have done a pretty good job filling the scoring void. With some collegiate experience (albeit at a much lower level), Trent and Brodziansky have made a relatively seamless transition to the Division I game. In fact, the two JuCo transfers are the two leading scorers on this year’s team. I’m excited about the JD Miller’s future. He has shown some flashes of brilliance off the bench and currently averages just under six points per game despite seeing only 15 minutes of action each night. He is the kind of shooter that could average in double-figures with more playing time.
BON: Last season, TCU was undefeated entering Big 12 play before dropping 10 of its first 11 conference games. Now, TCU sits at 8-6 and 0-2 in conference play. Are TCU and its fans in for another long season, or can we expect the Horned Frogs to snag some winnable Big 12 games?
FOW: To steal a phrase from Wall Street, I have been somewhat bearish regarding how the Frogs will perform in Big 12 play. The non-conference portion of the schedule saw TCU go 8-0 against teams with RPIs of 200 or below and 0-4 against teams in the top 150. With the Big 12 as good as it has potentially ever been, opportunities for conference wins could be few and far between for TCU this season.
The top half of the league has looked borderline unbeatable during the first two weeks of conference play, but after seeing the Frogs take West Virginia to the brink on Monday, I’m starting to feel better about picking up somewhere around 4-5 league wins. Realistically, TCU will need to take advantage of every break that goes their way, starting tonight with a Ridley-less Texas team.
BON: Vladimir Brodziansky is a name fans may not be too familiar with just yet, but that doesn't disregard his efforts in leading TCU in scoring as a versatile big man. What have you liked about his game to this point, and with Cameron Ridley out, what do you expect to see from him against a foul-prone Prince Ibeh and Shaquille Cleare?
FOW: I have been a huge fan of Brodziansky so far this season. He made a nearly seamless transition from Pratt Community College to TCU, although his numbers have cooled off a big as the Frogs transitioned Big 12 play. To put it simply, Brodziansky is a very smart shooter. He seems to understand his strengths and usually avoids playing outside his game.
The Slovakian native enters the game against Texas as the leading scorer for the Frogs, averaging 12.9 points on a team-high 59.1% shooting from the field. He also has the fewest turnovers and fouls per minute of any player on this year’s team. There is certainly a chance that Brodziansky could force Ibeh and Cleare into foul trouble. The Frogs were incredibly physical against West Virginia up front and I expect more of the same tonight against Texas. Whether or not he is able to find success in the paint will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the game.
BON: Finally, what do you expect to see from tonight's matchup? Will Brodziansky and Karviar Shepherd be able to have their way inside, or will Texas' seemingly countless heaves from the perimeter pay off?
FOW: I think the biggest key to the game tonight will be whether or not TCU can defend the arc. The Frogs have struggled to contain deep shooters so far this season. Most recently, West Virginia was able to shoot 9/17 from behind the arc, including a flurry of threes late that sealed the game for the Mountaineers.
Up against a Texas team that thrives off the long ball, this one has the potential get out of hand if the Frogs can’t limit guys like Javan Felix and Connor Lammert. I think that a lot needs to go right for TCU to come away with a win in this one. If the Frogs can guard the perimeter, find success inside, and keep Texas off the free throw line, there’s a chance TCU could pick up their first win against UT since the days of the Southwest Conference. More realistically, I think Texas pulls out a 66-62 win thanks to clutch shooting down the stretch.