clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hoops Preview: TCU provides Missouri the perfect opportunity to get right

The Horned Frogs have lost four in a row, and Missouri should be motivated to get back in the win column.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. An opportunity for us to kick back and remember the good old days. Who can forget those classic Missouri vs. TCU battles of old?

True, the lack of a traditional Big 12 opponent makes the annual SEC-B12 challenge a bit duller — when Missouri is chosen to play, that is — but it’s still a nice reprieve from the slog of the SEC slate. It’s especially nice when you’re coming off a frustrating loss, one in which you played OK, but couldn’t get past the star freshman point guard who got to shoot 21 free throws.

What could be better to cure those blues than a home date with a team that hasn’t won a game in nearly four weeks?

Jamie Dixon’s Horned Frogs are in their third straight season that doesn’t look to end in an NCAA Tournament bid. Frankly, it’d be nice if they settled on an identity. TCU isn’t necessarily bad, but they’re certainly not good. They play slow, but not the slowest. In their entire KenPom profile, they rate sub-150 in 13 of 24 areas, and only rank in the top 100 in three — three-point defense, opponent free throw percentage and opponent free throw attempts per field goals attempted. So Dixon’s frogs are defined by the fact that... their opponents don’t shoot free throws well? Huh.

The match up with TCU comes right ahead of a tough three-game stretch in conference play as well. For the Tigers to get two wins out of Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi, they’ll need to maintain their recent high level of play (Auburn, notwithstanding.) Banking a win and beefing up the non-conference record would help mitigate the damage if things go south.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (10-3) TCU (9-6)
Position Missouri (10-3) TCU (9-6)
PG Xavier Pinson (Jr., 6'2", 170) RJ Nembhard (Jr., 6'5", 200)
CG Dru Smith (Rs. Sr., 6'3", 203) Mike Miles (Fr., 6'2", 195)
WING Mark Smith (Sr., 6'5", 220) Taryn Todd (Fr., 6'5", 180)
PF Kobe Brown (So., 6'7", 240) Chuck O'Banon (Jr., 6'6", 215)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Sr., 6'10", 260) Kevin Samuel (Jr., 6'11", 255)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Only three players on TCU’s roster play more than 60 percent of available minutes, and all three of them could be trouble for Missouri. Freshman Mike Miles leads the charge as the Horned Frogs most potent back court threat. He’s a wash with the ball as he turns it over as much as he creates, but he can shoot. Miles hits at 43 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line. His partner, junior RJ Nembhard, shoots a little worse and creates a little better, making a pretty decent starting pair. The offense will more often than not run through them.

Down low is the biggest (literally) threat of all. Junior Kevin Samuel, standing 6’11”, does just about everything you’d want out of a traditional big — he shoots efficiently, blocks shots, rebounds and play sound defense. He’s a three-point shot short of an NBA skillset, and should cause trouble for the Tigers down low.

Luckily for Missouri, TCU looks to be much thinner after their first three stars, with Jamie Dixon spreading the minutes around. Kevin Easley plays solid defense out on the wing, and could make life difficult for players like Kobe Brown or Mark Smith. He won’t contribute much on the offensive end. Jaedon Lee gives TCU some extra interior size, but he’s limited in his attack. Look for him to be active on the offensive glass and be efficient when he gets looks. Freshman Mickey Pearson can also play down low in a pinch, but that’ll mean bad news for the Horned Frogs if it comes to that, as he’s yet to flash much more than mop-up skills in his limited minutes.

The back court depth is just as shaky. There are certainly some players there, but all of them have a flaw that can be exposed. Freshman Taryn Todd has a respectable jumper (34.4 percent), but can’t be trusted with the ball in his hands. Sophomore PJ Fuller prefers to get to the rim, where he can draw contact... but he’s even less dependable with turnovers (30.8 percent.) Maybe their best kept secret — or at least the guy who pops most on the stat sheet — is Argentinian guard Francisco Farabello. He’s a low-usage player, but makes the most of it, shooting three-fourths of his his shots from deep and making 45 percent of them. He also creates reasonably well for his roll without risking too many turnovers.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. TCU Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 110.3 (54) 16.6 (114) 50.1 (170) 19.4 (172) 30.4 (99) 40.5 (30) 28.6 (316) 54.2 (48) 72.1 (127) 12.4 (330) 8.4 (113)
TCU 97.3 (90) 16.9 (135) 48.9 (143) 17.2 (278) 28.1 (183) 25.2 (34) 30.3 (61) 50.7 (201) 68.4 (99) 9.5 (126) 8.7 (192)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | If it ain’t broke...

Sure, Jeremiah Tilmon’s free throw shooting may have played a big role in the Tigers’ loss at Auburn. But the big man continued his career-best level of play, logging 21 points, 10 boards and six blocks. TCU has a good paint protector in Kevin Samuel, but lacks depth, ranking 201st in two-point defense as a team. They avoid unnecessary fouls, so the Tigers shouldn’t look to rely too much on free throws. Instead, they should continue to turn to their big man, who should keep rolling against a thin Horned Frogs interior.

When TCU has the ball...

TCU Offense vs. Missouri Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
TCU 105 (115) 18.3 (290) 51.1 (122) 21.4 (276) 28.5 (154) 31.8 (172) 34.7 (116) 50.5 (145) 61.9 (334) 9.3 (209) 10.8 (307)
Missouri 92.5 (29) 17 (162) 44.8 (14) 17.8 (242) 30 (242) 37.4 (280) 28.6 (21) 45.8 (53) 69 (122) 8 (188) 8.6 (204)
NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Preventing a three-point outburst

TCU’s wins and losses are a pretty stark contrast by KenPom’s standards. Seven of their wins came against sub-100 teams, while all of their losses have come from teams within the Top 60. Their lone win in that latter range — at Oklahoma State, a one-point nail-biter. In that game, TCU shot 14 percent above their season average from three-point range. TCU’s isn’t good at much, not even distance shooting, but it is where they rank highest among KP’s measurables. This should fall right into Missouri’s wheelhouse — the Tigers have the nation’s 21st best three-point defense.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 73, TCU 64 | The Auburn loss was tough to swallow, but shouldn’t be too much of a stain on Missouri’s resume. With TCU, Missouri has an opportunity to get right before a tough week ahead with Kentucky and Alabama. TCU has the ability to pick the Tigers off if they lay an egg. But even an effort like the one against Auburn — minus the whistle happy referees — should be enough to get Missouri a win in the SEC-Big 12 challenge.