November 25, 2011

Bobbing For Apples: Through 5 Games

Bobbing For Apples: Through 5 Games

The Facts: TCU started out its season 3-0 for the first time since 2007 before losing its final two games of the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands. The Frogs already have an impressive win on their resume vs. Virginia.

TCU will have a chance to record three wins with three upcoming games vs. Houston, Lamar, and Evansville. Houston is the best team of the three, but a good game from the Frogs should lead to a win in H-Town.

Hank Thorns leads TCU in scoring at 11.8 points per game, and he is followed by J.R. Cadot who averages 11.2. The distribution of scoring is indicative of what Jim Christian has told the media all along. The Frogs do not have a guy who will average 16-20 points per night. However, they do have 8-9 guys who can get 10-15 on a given night.

Thorns is averaging nearly 5 assists per game, and freshman point guard Kyan Anderson is averaging just over two per game as well. J.R. Cadot easily leads TCU in rebounding at nearly 8 per game. He already has 20 offensive boards on the season.

The Best:
J.R. Cadot has been nothing short of Mr. Everything for TCU through five games. Cadot leads the team in rebounds and is second in scoring. He is also shooting an impressive 61% from the field. Cadot is also the best on-ball defender that TCU has to offer.

Speaking of defense, TCU is averaging forcing its opponents into 25 turnovers per game. Their opponents already have 125 turnovers on the season which is an impressive number for TCU that never had an opponent turn the ball over more than 19 times in one game all last season.

Reggie Brown and Rob Evans have connected very well with Coach Christian's players. Evans brings 40+ years of basketball experience while Brown is a coach that can connect with the players on a personal level. Brown is also a very good recruiter in Texas having played and coached in Texas for years.

TCU has greatly improved its inside presence this season. The biggest factor in that: Adrick McKinney. McKinney ranks No. 2 on the team in rebounding and No. 4 in scoring. He is tied with Hank Thorns for the team lead in double-figure scoring games at 4.

TCU's 2012 recruiting class already has three players who have signed National Letters of Intent. All three have an opportunity to contribute to TCU next season. The biggest name of the bunch...Clyde Smith from the Hotchkiss School in the northeast. He is the second player from that region to commit to TCU in the last two years (Ryan Rhoomes). Smith is a scorer, a passer, a shooter, and a genius. Smith scored over 2000 on his SAT which earned him scholarship offers from Stanford, Notre Dame, Boston College etc.

Charles Hill is a hyper athletic guard from Trimble Tech in Fort Worth who's athleticism could only be rivaled by J.R. Cadot who will graduate after this season. Reggie Murphy committed to Arizona out of high school, and he is one of the more skilled big men in the junior college ranks for the class of 2012. He has the body of Adrick McKinney, but his pure basketball skills may even be better than McKinney who has totally altered TCU's inside presence this season. Murphy is a great passer who has a variety of moves around the basket.

The Funk:
Through five games, TCU has shot just 23% from 3 point land, making just 18 from behind the arc in five games. This is obviously a horrific number for the Frogs, but perhaps the sample size is too small, but a closer look at the numbers suggests some under performing thus far.

Garlon Green leads the Frogs in percentage (among players with at least 5 attempts) despite shooting just 35%. Point guard Hank Thorns is just 6-23 on the season. The ability to shoot the three pointer is something that TCU will need as its season wears on. Great teams are able to stretch the defense out with outside shooting, and consistent shooting takes what was a streaky offense and makes it constantly threatening.

The poor shooting seems uncharacteristic from some of TCU's players who are counted on to shoot the ball better. Freshman point guard Kyan Anderson is 0-9 so far from three point land, and Anderson, in practice, looks like one of the best shooters on the team. Craig Williams has also not connected yet on a three pointer despite solid shooting performances his first three years at Temple.

Perhaps most surprising to me has been the shooting of junior Nate Butler who has started all five games so far for the Frogs. Butler is just 1-6 from behind the arc and is just 6-24 from the field. Having watched Butler practice for the better part of three months, I can attest to the fact that these numbers are less than what he is capable of.

Butler earned the coaches' trust quickly in Fall practice, and his ability to contribute on both sides of the floor was something that TCU head coach Jim Christian immediately took note of.

Butler must be better. Butler is better. Not only will the Frogs need his offense, but he can also be one of TCU's best on-field defenders.

Finally, the Norfolk State game was obviously bad. However, fans who do not closely follow college basketball do not know that Norfolk State has a center likely to play in the NBA. They also do not know that NSU added both transfers and young talent that transformed the roster.

Norfolk showed their strength by only losing to Marquette by two points. TCU shot really poorly in the game. Everything from layups to three pointers did not fall, and TCU surely had a lot to learn from this game. They can turn an experience like this into a great learning opportunity by remembering exactly what it seemed like they may not have known.

When you play in a tournament, you have one shot. My senior year of high school, I was one of 6 seniors on my high school basketball team. When we go to the state tournament, we knew no one was going to stop us because we all realized that this was the only chance that we would ever have to win a state title.

TCU had a chance to win a championship. After beating a good Virginia team, taking care of business vs. Norfolk State would have taken the Frogs to a championship game vs. Marquette. Who knows what would have happened in that championship game, but TCU would have had a chance to do something special early in the season.

The next time TCU gets in a tournament whether that is the NCAA tournament, NIT, CBI, MWC championships etc, you hope that TCU remembers what it takes to win meaningful games that you absolutely must have during tournament time.

The Grade Sheet:
A- Unity and Attitude-TCU will not fall apart like the Frogs did a year ago. Jim Christian has spoke about how he loves this team's unity. Nate Butler has totally changed the mood in the room with his larger-than-life personality, and Christian is having a lot of fun coaching these players. There are several leaders on this team, but perhaps even more importantly, the players lead themselves.

After the Florida Gulf Coast game, TCU players decided to come in early the next day to watch more tape and film.

B- Hank Thorns - Hank Thorns is one game away from having a grade of an A on the season. He was huge for TCU down the stretch of the Virginia game, but he struggled from the field in the Norfolk State game, and TCU suffered because of it. Thorns is an all-conference performer who makes winning plays for his ball team. He finally beat Virginia, a team he had not beaten dating back to his days at Virginia Tech.

C- Depth - Does TCU have depth? Absolutely! Have they gotten consistency from all ten guys who are in the rotation no? It is important that TCU players do their job. Count on Me, if you will. If all ten guys do their job, TCU has a unit will have a lot of success ahead of them. Expect the Frogs to get better each day as the season goes on.

D- Paradise Jam online streaming - Did I really pay $5 to watch a game being streamed by some guy following the game on his flip cam? Heck yes I did! Nonetheless, I would have thought the could have given me a little more bang for my buck. The announcers were quiet, and the camera operator would forget to follow the game sometimes at key moments. This production was even below the shoddy Mountain Network Production. At least I had a double-double from In-N-Out while watching the game.

What I Won't Forget:
The Walk-Ons: Chris Zurcher and Thomas Montigel have only played in one game this season since both are walk-ons, but man! did they take advantage of their opportunity? Zurcher scored 9 points in just under five minutes of action, and Montigel wasted no time knocking down a three pointer.

Anderson to Green for the slam: Kyan Anderson and Garlon Green combined for one of the most electrifying plays of the year when Anderson threw a backwards over the head pass to Green for a monster alley-oop vs. Austin College. What a play.

Texas Tech on Dec. 6: If you are a TCU fan, you will be there to see TCU play its first Big XII game in any sport.

For the Record:
The last time TCU had 5 or fewer turnovers in a game was Dec. 30, 2010, vs. Tulsa.

TCU plays a team from 7 of the top 8 RPI conferences from 2010-2011.

16 of TCU's 30 games this season are versus a team that played postseason basketball a year ago.

Being a Tennessee fan, I miss Bruce Pearl. To me, UT IS TENNESSEE NOT TEXAS.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlexAppleDFW.

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