Head coach Jamie Dixon is leading two teams. His Funkytown ballers are undefeated at home against the Big 12. On the road, their funk equates to body odor stinking up opposing gyms in a winless display of hapless hoopery. Saturday presented their best chance to snap a four-game road-losing streak. The Frogs went shot for shot with their religious rival in the first conference tip-off this season and won by four at Schollmaier Arena. It was assumed that the confidence of besting the Baylor Bears previously could travel with Team Purple during their short drive down Interstate 35.
Mass. [cq] Murderer
That’s my new nickname for Baylor point guard Makai Mason. The redshirt senior grabbed all the headlines from this game. The Bears’ first graduate transfer originally hails from Greenfield, Massachusetts, and he killed all the good guys. Mass. Murderer graduated from Yale after last season and earned his master’s in three-pointers against TCU on Saturday night, sinking nine long balls on his way to 40 points. Frog point guard Alex Robinson –– who etched his name in Horned Frog history by surpassing 1,000 points in his career –– shrugged at coach Dixon more than once during Mason’s shooting exhibition as if to indicate nothing could really be done against a player so hot. The Yale grad hit buckets from everywhere on the court and proved unguardable Saturday night. Mason’s teammates were simply window dressing to feed the ball and rebound. Only one of his Waco wingmen even amassed double digits on the score sheet. A career night from the Bulldog-turned-Bear accounted for half of Baylor’s points through most of the game. All that remained in the end was a chalk outline shaped like a horned frog surrounded by police tape.
The offense isn’t traveling. Dixon’s dribblers have eclipsed 70 points in a hostile gym only once in 2019, a game they lost by two at Oklahoma. The recurring problem is lack of effective paint presence. Zone and soft man defenses are luring TCU’s guards to slice toward the hoop but only to be gobbled up by multiple forwards forcing circus layups or pinning purple players against the baseline in poor position to attempt high-percentage shots. Frog center Kevin Samuel is still learning how to contend with smaller, athletic opposing forwards. When the good guys go cold from the field, it gets ugly. The visit to Baylor seemed eerily similar to the debacle in Lubbock on Monday, when the Frogs fell down early and only jogged from there. The Red Raiders scored 84, which had been the most given up by a reliably stingy Dixon defense. Baylor battered the Frogs by putting up 90, largely on the shooting of Mason, who will be hard pressed to repeat Saturday’s shooting performance this season or in the rest of his career.
There aren’t a lot of Froglights from the game in Waco other than Robinson’s thousand-point milestone. Senior leaders stepped up as Robinson and JD Miller scored 16 and 17 points respectively, and Kouat Noi continues elevating the offense by swishing 15. Desmond Bane disappeared amid the highlighter-green uniforms of the Bears, going scoreless in the first half and adding only five overall. Samuel, who struggled mightily against the Bears defense, disappointed with two. Freshman Kendric Davis is the only bench player dribbling significant minutes. The starters –– specifically Bane –– must show up and score fast if Dixon plans to log any road wins this season outside of Morgantown or Stillwater, which still aren’t guaranteed considering the chaos of the Big 12.
Who’s Winning Anyway?
The halfway point of the Frogs conference schedule is this Wednesday with the Fort dribblers hosting the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Ten games remain to be played before the conference tourney, and TCU has played everyone except OK State (second to last in the standings) and Iowa State, whom they visit on Saturday. The silver lining? The first half of the schedule was stacked with travel, and Dixon will be hosting the conference leaders on the backstretch. Frog hoops are seventh of 10 teams in the conference but stole a victory from Baylor and outlasted Texas in the F-Dub. The top five in the standings are K State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Texas Tech in that order. It’s a pileup on I-35 with only one and a half games separating the group. The Cyclones are the only team among the leaders that TCU has yet to visit, and they’ll get a home hack at the remainder as the season continues. Road trips include only Oklahoma State and West Virginia for the good guys after this week, and the Mountaineers and Cowboys are fighting for last place.
It’s impossible to predict which team will win this battle royale called Big 12 basketball. Kansas State and Baylor are peaking mid-season and tied for first. Kansas is and has been without their best player. However, the manner in which the Jayhawks posterized Texas Tech on Saturday makes them the safe bet down the stretch to remain the league’s top dogs despite being tied for third.