Texas (15-16, 7-11) swept the two regular season games against TCU (11-20, 2-16), with the game results serving to show the evolution of this year's Longhorn squad from defensive nightmare to a less salty defense with more explosiveness offensively.
The first game, played in the Frank Erwin Center, was an easy win for the Longhorns — even without point guard Myck Kabongo, Texas carried the result 60-43. The Longhorns managed to shoot 52.2 percent from the floor, though their overall offensive output wasn't spectacular. Instead, the effort swung on Texas allowing TCU a stingy 0.75 points per possession.
If you're not familiar with PPP, that 0.75 mark would put Texas tops in the country in raw PPP allowed. Stephen F. Austin is currently No. 1 with a raw PPP rating of 0.82.
The trend might have started even before Kabongo returned, but at some point this year, the Longhorns lost their defensive touch, plummeting from a top-10 defense in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency to one outside of the top 50. And Texas, which was by-far the nation's best defense at forcing missed shots, now ranks a still excellent (but still down from earlier) seventh in Effective Field Goal Percentage Defense.
At the same time, once Kabongo joined the lineup, the Longhorns saw their offense leap in terms of efficiency. And that's what we saw in the second contest, this one played in Fort Worth. Texas had a respectable 1.05 PPP in the first game, but that mark jumped way up to 1.24 PPP in Game Two. again, we're talking about a national-type mark — Indiana leads the nation in Offensive PPP with 1.18.
TCU's offense played much better as well. Aided by an outstanding night on the offensive glass — TCU grabbed 14 offensive boards to Texas's 17 defensive rebounds, or 45.2 percent of the available offensive rebounds — the Horned Frogs saw their PPP jump all the way up to a strong 1.07.
For the season, Texas averages 1.01 PPP. TCU averages 0.88.
When TCU has had big wins this season — the Horned Frogs have a pair of random head-scratchers against Kansas and Oklahoma in Fort Worth — they've typically come when the other team hasn't shot the ball well. Kansas got off on an absolutely horrific foot shooting the ball and finished 3-for-22 from behind the three-point arc. Oklahoma did a turn worse, failing to make any of its 16 shots from distance. Offensively, the Frogs carried the first game by going to the free throw line 38 times while making 8-of-14 shots from three against Oklahoma.
Sophomore Kyan Anderson (5-11 175) is arguably the most intriguing player on the roster, a score-first point guard with developing skills at the point position. TCU's leading scorer at 12.1 points per game and distributor at 3.5 assists per contest, Anderson has shown flashes of his ability level, like when he had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting and seven assists to just one turnover in TCU's last game against Oklahoma.
Wing Garlon Green (6-7 210) is the only other Horned Frog who averages better than 7.5 points per game (9.9), and he's the team's top three-point shooter at 35.5 percent from behind the arc. Green might be TCU's most important player — he's come up big in each upset win, scoring 20 points against Kansas and 18 against Oklahoma.
Part of that scoring drought is because TCU struggles offensively — see below — but another part is that the Horned Frogs play at a snail-like adjusted tempo of 61.5 possessions per game, the 320th fastest adjusted tempo in the country.
The post duo of Adrick McKinney (6-8 250) and Connell Crossland (6-7 190) are both excellent rebounders, gobbling up nearly 12 boards per game between them. McKinney is one of the league's better board men, ranking in the nation's top 15 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. Crossland is just outside of the top 150 (170th) in offensive rebounding and 339th in defensive rebounding. But McKinney's biggest strength is his physical play down low. His free throw rate of 75.1 is 20th in the country and first among all Big 12 players.
Nate Butler Lind (6-6 20) rounds out the starting lineup. He doesn't score a ton — he's third on the team in minutes, but is scoring just 4.8 points per game.
With the injuries the Frogs have suffered this year, they have an awfully thin bench. Devonta Abron (6-8 255) does provide another big body to help McKinney and Crossland down low. Abron is the team's best offensive rebounder, ranking 81st nationally in the category. Freshman Charles Hill (6-2 180) is the top guard off the bench. He's had a poor year shooting the ball, though some feel he has some offensive upside.
Typically, this is the part where I break down any specific or intriguing matchups that could swing the game one way or another. But I'm going to go about it differently here. First, let's take a look at the two offenses, both in efficiency and in the four factors that make up offensive performance:
Offensive Efficiency and Four Factors
Adjusted Efficiency — Texas (167th), TCU (307th)
Effective FG% — Texas (285th), TCU (328th)
Turnover % — Texas (268th), TCU (279th)
Offensive Reb. % — Texas (87th), TCU (171st)
FTA/FGA — TCU (60th), Texas (63rd)
Remember, that offense is considered Texas's bigger weak spot. But not only did Texas have the better offense, but the Longhorns were better in every category but one, free throw rate, and were only marginally worse in that one. Here's defense:
Defensive Efficiency and Four Factors
Adjusted Efficiency — Texas (53rd), TCU (165th)
Effective FG% — Texas (7th), TCU (207th)
Turnover % — TCU (161st), Texas (205th)
Offensive Reb. % — TCU (214th), Texas (246th)
FTA/FGA — TCU (99th), Texas (303rd)
Texas was more than 100 spots better defensively despite TCU being better in three of the four factors. The bottom line is that Texas has been so elite at forcing teams to miss shots — notice the 200 spot gap in Effective Field Goal Percentage Defense — that it somewhat makes up for a mediocre-to-bad defense in other areas.
The point here, overall, is that Texas is superior both offensively and defensively than TCU. That's not to say that the Horned Frogs can't win (just ask Kansas and Oklahoma), and anything can happen on a given day, but it really isn't a situation where you're going to be breaking down matchups.
Texas needs to shoot well (or at least not shoot poorly), and keep TCU off the free throw line. If the Longhorns can do that, they should come out of the first round of the Big 12 Tournament with a win.