Wednesday, November 16, 2011

game preview: TCU

Date/Time: Friday, November 19; 6:00

TV: Nyet

History against the Frogs: 0-0

Last matchup: N/A

Last game: UVA 69, Winthrop 48 (11/15); TCU 103, Austin College 45 (11/14)

Opposing blogs: none that care about hoops

KenPom breakdown:

UVA: 61.1 (#341)
TCU: 67.6 (#169)

UVA: 103.7 (#105)
TCU: 100.5 (#169)

UVA: 92.7 (#31)
TCU: 102.3 (#214)

(Explanation of KenPom stats: "Tempo" number is number of offensive possessions per game.  "Offense" and "Defense" numbers are points scored/allowed per 100 possessions.  All numbers are adjusted, using the magic KenPom formula; therefore they are not actual, but projections of predicted results against an average team on a neutral court.)

Friday, we have a game that nobody can watch, against a mediocre opponent against whom we have no history whatsoever.  Why, then, a game preview?  It's not like I did one for SC State.  Well, because I've called this one of the most important games of the year - if not the most - and that deserves a preview.  Life on the bubble means having your fate controlled by the RPI, and that means playing good competition.  And this is our preseason tournament, so a win garners the reward of playing that competition.  Win this game, and the likely reward is a game against RPI-boosting Drexel.  Lose, and the likely punishment is a game against RPI-killing Norfolk State.  The ultimate goal of this tournament is to get Big Easter Marquette onto the schedule, and hopefully beat them, too.

About the opponent:

TCU is a football school, OK.  Similar to Boise State, they've hung their hat on football in order to try and raise the school's profile; in this, they've succeeded with a Big 12 invite.  However, that prioritization is reflected in their basketball results; they basically end up playing out the string to .500 records and no postseason most years.

-- When UVA has the ball

I can't believe I'm saying this, but: Assane Sene can be used as - an offensive weapon.  Troof.  In fact, this will be the case any time we face an opponent like TCU, which has nobody taller than 6'9" in their rotation.  Two games now, we have seen Sene assert himself on the offensive end with left-handed lay-ins, baby hooks, and general abuse of those shorter than him.  Sene actually got into double figures against Winthrop.

The team is going to have to get used to the idea of pounding it inside.  I don't think that's wired into their consciousness yet, which is understandable - that hasn't been a great strategy in the past.  This is the kind of game, though, where they can take advantage of a size advantage and get Sene and the other post players the ball.

TCU has historically been a team that allows a very high shooting percentage.  And under current coach Jim Christian, TCU has never finished in the top 300 nationally in blocked shot percentage - that is, the KenPom metric that gives you the percentage of defensive possessions that end in blocked shots.  This looks like it's going to continue; Florida-Gulf Coast, which is TCU's only D-I opponent so far this year (and has been D-I for all of like five years) shot over 61% against TCU, and over 42% from beyond three.  This is not a very good defensive team we're talking about.

Maybe I'm a little jaded from the Winthrop game, where shots were just not falling, but I'd like to see UVA start banging it inside and see how that works.  I bet it works pretty good.  TCU's tallest rotation player, Amric Fields, weighs in at 210 pounds.  He won't be able to guard either Mike Scott or Assane Sene.

The other interesting matchup that UVA may be able to exploit is at point guard, where TCU has a pair of smallish players.  I don't have any idea if Sammy Zeglinski will be available on Friday; if not, Malcolm Brogdon will once again be the backup point guard, and he'll have a huge size advantage on whoever guards him; TCU has VT transfer Hank Thorns, who checks in at 5'9, 165, and one-time UVA recruit Kyan Anderson, who isn't much bigger.  TCU has better size at the 2 and 3, but they give up inches and pounds at the 1.  Brogdon in particular may look to post up a defender, or draw a double team coming to help and hopefully find the resulting open man.

On the boards, UVA's attention should focus on forwardish-guard J.R. Cadot, TCU's ballhawk rebounder.  Garlon Green is a starting forward, but he's not a rebounder - he mainly gets only what his height hands him.  Like Fields, he's rather skinny and is more of a guard in a forward's body.

The final word, I think, is that UVA's point total depends on UVA.  There isn't much that TCU brings that's different from what we've seen or what we'll see in the future.  The UVA offense still has work to do to find its rhythm, and I think we can expect to see more of that herky-jerkiness until they really gel into a cohesive unit.

-- When TCU has the ball

TCU brings back two of its best players from last year in forward Garlon Green and point guard Hank Thorns.  Green is the leading returning scorer, and will probably lead the team this year.  TCU brought in a large infusion of transfer talent that shows up eligible this year, and Thorns may look to defer the scoring a little bit in favor of being a distributor.  Last year he averaged 7 assists per game (which was fourth-best in the country) against just 2.6 turnovers, so he is a threat.

However, when Thorns is not in the game, UVA should look to take advantage of Kyan Anderson, who has been turnover-prone in TCU's first two games.  TCU has thrown him into the fire as the backup point guard, and his numbers just scream "freshman."  His small-sample-size turnover ratio is barely above 1-to-1, and UVA should look to take advantage and create some fast break opportunities when Thorns is out of the game.

TCU's lopsided win against Division III Austin College skews their stats pretty heftily, but it's clear that the dangermen here are Thorns, Green, and Cadot.  Thorns rescued the FGCU game by hitting a layup in the closing seconds and played all but five minutes of the game.  Jontel Evans defending Thorns - that should be fun.  Our first string is probably better than theirs, but our second string is definitely better, and it's when the bench enters the game that UVA should look to go on its big runs.

-- Outlook

TCU has some players - Hank Thorns and Garlon Green are likely to be the best players we've seen so far.  J.R Cadot - not bad.  But UVA's defensive effort so far has been unimpeachable, and that's likely to continue.  When we find our offense, look out.  Full disclosure - this post has been brought to you by Sailor Jerry's, and not a small amount of it either.  (I got out early from class and decided to celebrate.)  However, the rum cannot obscure this fact: TCU is not good.  Not really "bad", but not good.  A loss here would be disappointing to say the least.  This game will have its competitive moments, but if we've got the tournament team that I think we do, it should be at least a 15-point win.

-- Final score: UVA 70, TCU 53


Brandon said...


Anonymous said...

Good news (?) is we still get to play Drexel...