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Getting to know: TCU basketball

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Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) comes down on top of TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) after blocking a three-point shot with seconds to go in the game, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. Mykhailiuk fouled Bane, who made all three free throws, which were enough to give the Horned Frogs the win.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) comes down on top of TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) after blocking a three-point shot with seconds to go in the game, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. Mykhailiuk fouled Bane, who made all three free throws, which were enough to give the Horned Frogs the win. by Nick Krug

Searching for its first win against a Top 10-ranked team since 2013, No. 16 TCU will welcome No. 10 Kansas for its third Big 12 game of the season Saturday night (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).

The Horned Frogs (13-1, 1-1 in Big 12) used a Big 12 tournament win against KU last season to propel them to an NIT title. From that team, they returned their top six scorers and all five starters.

“They really have a lot of veteran experience that's rock solid,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

As far as offenses line up, TCU is first in the Big 12 in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Kansas is second in both categories. TCU is averaging 87.1 points per game and KU is at 86.8.

Tabbed third in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, the Horned Frogs won 12 straight games to open the season. That streak ended in a one-point home loss to Oklahoma before they beat Baylor in overtime earlier this week.

TCU is 22nd in the latest KenPom rankings, which is fifth in the Big 12. Kansas (11-3, 1-1) is ranked seventh, only one slot behind Texas Tech.

Fun fact: TCU has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for six straight weeks. The school record for consecutive weeks in the poll is seven, which occurred in the 1958-59 season.

Series history: Kansas leads 14-2. The Jayhawks have a 5-1 record inside of Schollmaier Arena, but lost against the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 tournament last season when Josh Jackson was suspended.

BREAKING DOWN TCU

TOP PLAYER

No. 34 — G Kenrich Williams | 6-7, 210, sr.

TCU guard Kenrich Williams (34) puts a shot up over Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center.

TCU guard Kenrich Williams (34) puts a shot up over Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Averaging a team-best 14.8 points and 9.2 rebounds, Williams ranks third in the Big 12 in rebounding. He’s shooting 47.7 percent from the 3-point line and has dished 50 assists in 13 games.

A pesky defender, the fifth-year senior from Waco, Texas, ranks second in the conference with 35 steals. He missed the entire 2015-16 season because of a knee injury.

Out of high school, Williams had zero Div. I basketball offers. He opted to play his freshman season at New Mexico Junior College before transferring to TCU.

  • “His offensive numbers have gotten better as we’ve gotten the understanding of where he needs to be and what positions to put him in,” coach Jamie Dixon said.

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 10 — F Vlad Brodziansky | 6-11, 230, fr.

Brodziansky ranks fourth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (62.5 percent), averaging 13.7 points and 4.4 rebounds. He’s shooting 44 percent on 27 attempts from behind the 3-point arc and he’s recorded a team-high 24 blocks. He’s 30 blocks from setting a career school record.

Against Kansas last season, Brodziansky (pronunciation: BROAD-Zee-ON-ski), from Slovakia, scored a career-high 28 points in an 86-80 loss. He’s shooting 79 percent at the rim this season, according to hoop-math.com. He crossed the 1,000-point plateau earlier this year.

No. 00 — G Jaylen Fisher | 6-2, 200, so.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pressures TCU guard Jaylen Fisher (0) during the second half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. At right is Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33).

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pressures TCU guard Jaylen Fisher (0) during the second half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. At right is Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33). by Nick Krug

One of the most renown recruits to ever play for the Horned Frogs, Fisher is averaging 11.3 points and 5.6 assists per game. He’s shooting 41.7 percent from the 3-point line and a team-best 85.7 percent at the free-throw line.

He deals with albinism, an African-American with naturally blonde hair and cream-colored skin. Speaking to the Star-Telegram about it this week, Fisher said he had to build up thick skin in his childhood, but now says, “I’m pretty blessed to be even talking about this.”

No. 1 — G Desmond Bane | 6-5, 215, so.

TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) fights for a loose ball with Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) during the second half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center.

TCU guard Desmond Bane (1) fights for a loose ball with Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) during the second half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Mostly a shooter at the rim or the 3-point line, Bane is averaging 12.6 points on 57 percent shooting. He’s connected on a ridiculous 50.8 percent of his attempts at the 3-point arc, which leads the Big 12.

In three games against Kansas last year, Bane averaged 8.7 points on 10-of-16 shooting off the bench.

ONE THING TCU DOES WELL

Returning so many players from last season, the Horned Frogs have only improved on offense. They are the best shooting team in the Big 12 and rank sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (51.4 percent). TCU is shooting 41.2 percent from the 3-point line and have only committed an average of nine turnovers in its last four games.

ONE AREA TCU STRUGGLES

It was probably shown the most in TCU’s loss to Oklahoma, but the Horned Frogs have struggled with their transition defense. According to hoop-math.com, opponents are shooting 56.7 percent in transition.

MEET THE COACH

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon yells at his defense during the second half, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

TCU head coach Jamie Dixon yells at his defense during the second half, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Jamie Dixon is in his second season at TCU, where he led the school to Southwest Conference titles in his junior and senior seasons in the late 1980s. This season is the first time he’s ever returned all five starters from the previous year.

Before TCU, Dixon was the head coach at Pittsburgh for 13 seasons. He guided the Panthers to three Sweet Sixteen appearances and one trip to the Elite Eight.

VEGAS SAYS…

Kansas by 1. Similar to Texas Tech, the Jayhawks will have to face another balanced offense against TCU. Both teams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, so I think this game will come down to rebounding, especially on the offensive end. The fact that the losing team will already have two conference losses shows how tough the Big 12 will be this season.

My prediction: TCU 84, Kansas 81. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 8-5.

Comments

Andy Godwin 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Appreciate Bobby Nightengale making his prediction based on the eye test and not heart. Pick center has KU by 2 and gives them a 55.3% chance of winning. If I was a gambler, I might take TCU and the 2 points. Here is hoping for a 81-80 win for KU. I imagine the NCAA offices are closed, so apparently no Billy Preston?

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