TCU basketball played in the Mountain West from 2005-2011. This year they upgrade their level of competition as they compete in the Big12. They finished the season last year at 18-15. They were really good at home and really bad on the road. They went 3-1 against the NCAA tournament teams from the Mountain West conference (San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State) in Fort Worth. Away from home, they only secured one win in conference: 65-62 over Air Force. They did beat Virginia 57-55 in the Paradise Jam tournament.
Jim Christian decided to leave TCU for the Ohio University job. Trent Johnson wisely secured the job. He was on the hot seat at LSU- his conference winning percentage was only 25% the last three seasons at LSU. There were unhappy fans that Johnson failed to secure the commitment of Ricardo Gathers- the Louisiana player of the year- who ended up at Baylor. Before he was fired, Johnson found a safe landing spot at TCU. He has three returning players who averaged over 8 points per game and also secured a good transfer who is eligible immediately in Devonta Abron.
The future is off to a good start with the commitment of Karviar Shepherd- who is the 53rd ranked player on the 247 Sports Composite ranking in the class of 2013. Shepherd is a 6-9 center who will be a great building block for Trent Johnson's future teams.
Trent Johnson's record as a coach is 226-184. He has taken three different programs to the NCAA tournament: Nevada, Stanford and LSU. He was a hot coaching commodity after going 28-8 at Stanford and then 27-8 at LSU in back to back seasons. But his last three years at LSU (40-54) have taken some luster off his star.
Johnson's teams have tended to be more efficient defensively than offensively. According to KenPom, his teams have finished in the upper 1/3 defensively each year. Johnson's staff at TCU consists of: Donny Guerinoni- who has spent the last 8 years with Johnson; Brent Scott- who has been with Johnson for 4 years and Pooh Williamson- who has strong Texas connections. Williamson was the reason TCU secured the Abron transfer and probably a big reason why TCU landed Karviar Shepherd.
5-11 175 lbs Kyan Anderson (SO)
Kyan Anderson was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year. He averaged 8 points; 3 assists. He shot 41% from the field (36% from 3 point range) and 78% from the free throw line. His play was inconsistent as most freshmen are. He had only three games in a row of double figures scoring. He did have 9 points; 7 assists and only 1 turnover in a big win against UNLV in Fort Worth.
I've only watched him play once. But what I saw was a guard that managed the game well. He has the ability to score around the rim. He has a long and quick first step- which helps him get an angle on a defender. It will be interesting to see how he measures up against better competition each night in the Big12. His assist to turnover ratio was 1.4 last year; he also had a little over 1 steal per game.
6-6 200 lbs Nate Butler Lind (SR)
Butler-Lind was a role player last year- 16 minutes per game. He averaged 3 points and 2 rebounds. His contributions were mainly on defense for the Horned Frogs and probably will continue to be. He shot 30% from the field and 59% on free throws.
6-7 210 lbs Garlon Green (SR)
Considered more of a forward, Green will likely slide to the backcourt out of necessity. He is TCU's leading returning scorer. He averaged 10 points and 3 rebounds. His shooting numbers were better as a sophomore. He shot 48% from the field and 3 point range two years ago. Those numbers dipped to 42% and 33% respectively. He did increase his free throw percentage to 80%. He will likely be counted on for outside shooting on this team. Green, Fields and Anderson all averaged a made 3 pointer per game.
6-2 180 lbs Charles Hill (FR)
Hill is the freshman most likely to crack the rotation. He was a good player for Trimble Tech in Fort Worth- an athletic guard who can score from the perimeter and in transition. He has Big12 quickness but like most freshmen, the strength and speed of the game will be the biggest adjustments.
6-2 185 lbs Clyde Smith (FR)
Smith is an athletic guard from the Hotchkiss School who claims offers from Notre Dame, Boston College, Stanford and Iowa. He's a good student and a guy known for his basketball savvy. He should compete for minutes.
6-6 195 lbs Jarvis Ray(JR)
Ray was a seldom used guard last year. He only played in 12 games- averaging 2 points. He may be a rotation guy this year if one of the freshmen or Gore (transfer from Brown) is not ready to contribute.
6-2 175 lbs Christian Gore (SO)
Gore averaged 2 points in 12 games at Brown his freshman year. He transferred to TCU at semester break. He is eligible to play 2nd semester.
6-8 255 lbs Devonta Abron (SO)
Abron is a guy that I am familiar with having watched him a few times on the AAU circuit for the Dallas Mustangs. He plays hard and I think he will immediately be one of TCU's best players. He averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds for Arkansas. He averaged 3 free throw attempts per game. I expect his contributions to be mostly with defense and rebounding. He is listed at 6'8" but he looked closer to 6'6" when I saw him. He is muscled up but seems to lack the flexibility to create scoring opportunities for himself. But it was a big coup for Trent Johnson to land him as a transfer. I expect he will be a good player for TCU over the next few years.
6-9 210 lbs Amric Fields (JR)
Fields has a similar skill set to Garlon Green. He is a few inches taller so he will be expected to cover bigger players on the defensive end. He averaged 10 points and 2.5 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. They will need much better rebounding numbers from him. Less than 2 rebounds per 10 minutes for a guy that is 6-9 is not good. He shoots pretty well from the outside- 34% from 3 point range; 51% from the field. He shoots 73% from the line.
6-8 250 lbs Adrick McKinney (SR)
McKinney is a guy that will be counted on to defend and rebound. He's not an offensively skilled guy. But he will score off put-backs and around the rim. He averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds last year.
6-7 190 lbs Connell Crossland (SR)
Crossland saw a big spike in his minutes towards the end of the season. His last six Mountain West games, he averaged 17 minutes and 5 rebounds per game. His rebounds per minute numbers are the best on the team. That alone will likely earn him a spot in the rotation.
6-10 270 lbs Aaron Durley(FR)
Durley is a project. He committed to Marquette originally. He played alongside Cameron Ridley (Texas commit) in high school. He is a physical player who they are hoping develops into a force along the frontline in the years to come.
Outlook and Questions
TCU's transition is likely to be a rough one. Most polls are projecting them to finish 9th in the Big12 ahead of Texas Tech. They had a lot of success in Fort Worth last year and I would not be surprised if that carries over to this year with some big upsets at home.
Five questions for TCU heading into the season:
1. How committed is TCU to basketball and how much fire does Trent Johnson have to turn this program around? TCU plays in a 55- year old arena in desperate need of renovations. They have some solid players on their roster but none are expected to contend for all league honors. Will Johnson have the relentless energy to build TCU basketball like Scott Drew did for Baylor? Or is this a stop towards the end of his coaching career (he's 56)?
2. Who will provide the scoring inside for TCU this year? JR Cadot was only 6'5" but he was a beast inside- averaging 7 rebounds per game and getting to the foul line (5 attempts per game). Abron may be the guy- he is strong but not as athletic as Cadot. Will TCU be overwhelmed by the quality of athletes they will face on a regular basis in the paint?
3. Will the transition to the Big12 be a disadvantage or an advantage? Travel times and hassles are less. But routines will be different. Big 12 teams are used to going on the road to Ames, Lawrence, Manhattan, Stillwater, Lubbock, Waco, Norman, Austin. There are advantages in being familiar with the gym. Everything is new for West Virginia and TCU. That can work in their favor in Fort Worth, but could lead to some lopsided games on the road which can be confidence destroying.
4. Will Kyan Anderson be a top 5 point guard in the league? He has the potential to be- but he will need to take a big leap to be in the upper echelon. If he does, TCU could surprise some people.
5. What would be considered a successful season? On paper, TCU looks to be a team that will lose at least 14 conference games. The upside is probably 7 conference wins given the level of talent on their roster. Will the fans be supportive and patient and get behind Johnson in a tough rebuilding job?