Frogs vs. Ponies on the Hilltop Tonight

Dixon has his Frogs off to an 8-0 start

DALLAS—The TCU and SMU men’s basketball teams don’t play for the Iron Skillet like the Horned Frog and Mustang football teams do, but Wednesday’s cross-town rivalry game at Moody Coliseum still holds plenty of intrigue. For one, the Frogs enter this contest a perfect 8-0 following a 77-54 win over Arkansas State on Saturday at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth. Junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky led the Frogs with 18 points and five blocked shots.

TCU, who is in year one under new head coach Jamie Dixon, is now receiving votes in both polls, but Dixon is adamant that despite their unblemished record, the Frogs remain a work-in-progress. “Getting better, we’re improving. I can get excited about what we can become,” Dixon said during his postgame press conference on Saturday.

The Frogs field a starting five consisting mostly of upperclassmen. Besides Brodziansky, that group also features Kenrich Williams, a 6-7 junior from Waco who is currently TCU’s leading rebounder, senior Karviar Shepherd, sophomore Alex Robinson, currently the Frogs’ leading scorer at 11.9 points per game, with Desmond Bane, a true freshman guard from Indiana, rounding out the quintet.

SMU is 6-3 in year one of the Tim Jankovich era on the Hilltop and the Mustangs also head into this matchup off a win. On Sunday afternoon, the Mustangs pulled away from Delaware State to finish with a 74-60 win in what was a two-point game at halftime. Last Friday, the Ponies clawed their way to a 49-43 victory against Cal State Bakersfield, a former Division II powerhouse who made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament last spring.

SMU is a perfect 5-0 at Moody this season and thus far, the Mustangs have been led offensively by newcomer Semi Ojeleye, who is averaging 17.7 points per game. Ojeleye, a Duke transfer, also averages 7.7 rebounds per game.

Against Delaware State, the Mustangs had two players, big man Ben Moore (16 points, 11 rebounds) and guard Sterling Brown (11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds) log double-doubles. Sophomore guard Shake Milton (11.1 points per game) joins Brown, Moore and Ojeleye as the SMU starters averaging double figures. Besides their balanced scoring, another big strength for the Mustangs thus far has been their rebounding as they are plus-12.3 in rebounding margin.

SMU has been unbeatable at home thus far, but the Ponies have lost road games to Michigan, USC and most recently to Boise State. And like any team who is replacing three key contributors from last season in Markus Kennedy, Nic Moore and Jordan Tolbert, the Ponies’ confidence has been up and down thus far.

“I’d like to see us play more confident,” Jankovich said after the Delaware State game. “We’ve had a pretty rough schedule early on, but it’s not like it [our confidence] is poor either. I think there’s going to be an upswing. I hope it’s Wednesday night. I definitely think this team will play without reckless abandon.”

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A graduate of both Oklahoma State and Arkansas, Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer who currently covers the Stars for in addition to various assorted other gigs. Hunt is currently in his 10th season covering FC Dallas, which he does for The Dallas Morning News. He’s also covered the Mavs and Rangers for Fox Sports Southwest and worked as a freelance writer for media outlets and websites from across the country. Hunt also works on the television side of sports, as a stats guy for college football, high school football, Mavs and Rangers broadcasts. You can follow him on Twitter @dfwsportsguy93