As a student at TCU, I can tell you that the men’s basketball program at the school is not something that students are especially proud of. The team plays in a high school gym this season (their new arena will be completed by the start of next season), and there are typically about 15 to 20 people in the student section during the games. The Horned Frogs have failed to make the NCAA tournament since 1998, when they lost to Florida State in the first round. The team had not been ranked in the AP top 25 since 1999, and the last time a player was drafted from TCU was 2001. However, the state of the TCU basketball program and the students’ excitement about the team seem to be increasing during this 2014-2015 season.
12-0. This unblemished record has propelled TCU to its best start in school history and has started what seems to be a turnaround for their basketball program. The Frogs are now ranked 25th in the nation, which is their first national ranking in nearly 16 years. The Frogs, who had entered the season with a 19-game losing streak, have won by double digits in all but two of their games and have a top-20 field goal percentage in the country. Of their 12 wins on the season, three have come against power five conferences (Washington State, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss).
The Horned Frogs’ hot start can be attributed to great team play. TCU ranks 19th in the country in both field goal percentage and assists, and they are in the top-45 in both points and rebounds per game. The Horned Frogs have just one player scoring more than 10 points-per-game (Kyan Anderson), but they have seven players with at least seven points-per-game. This means that they are getting consistent scoring from both their starters and top bench players, and the team is spreading the ball around. Coach Trent Johnson has also done a really good job this season of spreading around the minutes for his players.
The Horned Frogs have nine players that have played more than 10 minutes-per-game, and they have six players that have played more than 20 minutes-per-game. Anderson, who leads the team in both points and assists, has greatly benefited in a reduction of minutes that keeps him more fresh for the end of the game. Sophomore forwards Kenrich Williams (9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds-per-game) and Chris Washburn Jr. (7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds-per-game) have added strength a toughness to a team that has lacked it in the past. Furthermore, the strength and tenacity of senior forward Amric Fields has allowed the brunt of the work down low to be taken off of their undersized sophomore center, Karviar Shepherd. Shepherd, who was a four-star recruit out of high school, has been able to improve his offensive game (7.7 points-per-game) and defensive game (6.8 rebounds-per-game) because of the added help down low. Freshman guard Chauncey Collins has been a much needed spark off of the bench, and sophomore forward Brandon Parrish has been very good from behind the three point line, shooting 50 percent.
Despite the excellent start for the team, there is certainly reason to be cautious for both the fans and the players of this TCU basketball team. Each of the last two seasons, TCU’s first in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs have had nine wins out of conference. Then, once conference play began, the Horned Frogs have had a combined record of 2-34, including an 0-18 record last season. However, there is also reason for great hope. In five of the seven seasons that TCU has been ranked in school history, they have gone on to make the NCAA tournament. And, there is a great excitement around the campus of TCU for a basketball team that is finally taking some of the attention off of their football program.
The Horned Frogs’ next game will be on December 29 at home against Tennessee State.