Who: Texas Tech (13-4, 2-3) vs. TCU (14-3, 3-2)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, United Supermarkets Arena
When: Wednesday, January 18, 6:30 p.m. (CT)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Through 17 games, TCU’s mark of 14-3 is tied for best in program history.
Quotable: “When I watch TCU on film, the team expects to win. That's a huge compliment to Jamie [Dixon] and his staff. They have brought a winning mentality, similar to us. It wasn't a rebuild job at TCU. It was a job saying let's go and try to win year one.”—Chris Beard
The TCU Horned Frogs are having an outstanding—and to most people, surprising—season. They have accomplished this by meshing veterans with newcomers. Chief among the newcomers is head coach Jamie Dixon, a TCU alum who was a sterling outside shooter for coach Jim Killingsworth in the mid-eighties.
Dixon will trot out freshman guard Jaylen Fisher who is the most highly rated recruit ever to sign with TCU, freshman shooting guard Desmond Bane who moonlight’s as a super-villain, and Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson. Those three players have combined for 34 starts this season, and have been critical to the team’s success.
But the veterans have been equally crucial. 6-foot-11 Slovakian Vlad Brodziansky is arguably the best player on the roster. He leads the team in scoring with 13 points per game, pulls down six rebounds per outing, and shoots at a 62-percent clip from the floor. His 2.29 blocked shots per game is 30th best nationally.
Kenrich Williams, a slender, 6-foot-7 wingman, averages 10 points and 10 rebounds per contest. That rebounding number is No. 27 nationally, and No. 1 in the Big 12.
The aforementioned guard tandem of Fisher and Robinson certainly make life easier for players such as Brodziansky and Williams. Each averages approximately five assists per game, and Robinson’s assist/turnover ratio is a solid 2.1. Suffice to say that any team playing TCU will have its work cut out trying to keep the Horned Frog guards out of the paint.
As one might expect from a team with two play-making guards, TCU records plenty of assists. Seventeen-and-a-half per game, to be precise. And that number is No. 16 nationally. The Frogs are also No. 44 in steals per game, and No. 33 in blocked shots per contest.
Following a disappointing road loss at Oklahoma, the Texas Tech Red Raiders present something of a mystery. They have been murder in the confines of the United Supermarkets Arena where they are undefeated, with one of their victims the then No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers. On the road, contrariwise, they’ve been shaky as heck. The TCU battle will be another chance for the Red Raiders to prove their toughness and resilience at home.
Combo guard Keenan Evans has pushed his scoring average to 14 points per game. He shoots at 48 percent from 3-point range, and averages over three assists per contest as well.
Forward Zach Smith averages 13 points and eight boards per outing, presenting a similar statistical profile to TCU’s Kenrich Williams. Smith is also Tech’s leading shot-blocker with 28 swats on the season.
Point guard Devon Thomas has emerged from the woodwork to be one of the very best players wearing scarlet and black. He averages only five points per contest, but that’s only because he doesn’t shoot it very much. However, as the season has progressed, it is becoming quite clear that Thomas, who can get the rack almost at will, is becoming more of a scoring option on a team that needs one. Thomas’ biggest claim to fame, however, is his assist/turnover ratio of 4.71, which is No. 3 nationally. Thomas and Evans against TCU’s Fisher and Robinson will be one heck of a guard matchup.