The last time we checked in on coach Jamie Dixon’s hoopin’ Frogs, they had won their first three conference tilts and teetered on the edge of relevance. Their visit to the mountain in Morgantown revealed that men’s basketball had successfully kept their lower-tier conference opponents close, but the Mountaineers are a class above. This game felt akin to watching the scene in the movie Step Brothers when the foul-mouthed school children pummel Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly before forcing them to lick doggy doo. WVU won every statistical category, and TCU countered by tossing an unsightly 31 percent from the field. Bench scoring from the Mountaineers proved the Appalachian Army will challenge everyone during conference tourney time. I hope you didn’t stay up late on a work night to suffer through this entire 81-49 thrashing.
Later that week, TCU continued their road woes in Norman against an Oklahoma squad they’ve failed against many times but always in contentious one-score games. Not the case this go-round. The Sooners battered our boys by 20 points as TCU’s outside shooting continued to disappoint. OU forward Brady Manek’s athleticism confounded the purple defense as he scored 31 points while his crimson and cream brethren shot nearly 46 percent as a team from three-point land. Manek’s performance is unfortunately a documented deficiency for Dixon’s disciples. Athletic forwards are the kryptonite of a team who feature better guards than forwards. These games leave fans longing for the prowess of former Frog Kenrich Williams and his legendary hustle and cleansing of purple paint.
Considering the failings of men’s basketball in the previous week, no one could be blamed for skepticism as TCU returned home to host the 18th-ranked Red Raiders. Last Tuesday’s game is proof that, for better or worse, college basketball is always exciting. Senior guard Desmond Bane lit up the floor, scoring 27 points to complement Kevin Samuel’s double-double of 11 points and rebounds from the center position. Neither team shot better than 50 percent from the field, but the Frogs managed a slightly better grade while swishing eight long balls. Dixon’s squad nearly doubled up the Raiders on offensive rebounds, and Bane pumped the score out of reach when Tech attempted a late game charge. The Frogs’ 65-54 victory is easily the signature win for the group this season.
TCU, as well as Horned hardwood fanatics, hoped to parlay the momentum from an unlikely win against the Red Raiders into weekend momentum while visiting the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville. Samuel did everything short of driving the bus to the game to will his comrades to capture victory, but it wasn’t enough. The dominating center exploded for 24 points to complement a staggering 18 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. Guard play couldn’t keep pace to collect enough points to thwart the Razorbacks’ superior shooting percentage as Hog guards Mason Jones and Jimmy Whitt Jr. combined for 40 points. Whitt sunk better than half of his field goal attempts and was perfect from the bonus stripe while logging court time during all 40 game minutes. Both teams play a guard-heavy style reliant on field shooting, which explains the utter oppression of the paint by big man Samuel.
The past two weeks are demonstrative of the obvious obstacles that face Dixon and company moving forward. TCU struggles away from Schollmaier Arena. Save for their two-point victory against Kansas State, the Horned Frogs have looked hapless outside of Fort Worth. The Froggies lack consistent forward play outside of Samuel and consequently suffer defensively against opponents who possess those talents. Fort Worth’s finest are highly dependent on outside guard shooting. Bane’s personal percentage is generally indicative of how close the team came to victory. Samuel is fantastic. He’s becoming an integral part of the offense while remaining a rebound machine to complement his penchant for shot blocking. Sadly, if the center collects early fouls, Dixon is forced to make difficult compromises about when to delete the size from his offense and rely solely on underclassmen forwards for paint presence. These pitfalls for Dixon’s ballers should keep fan expectations in check as we move forward this season hoping to climb the bubble toward an outside chance of dancing in March.