At 7:00PM this evening Daniel Meyer Coliseum will host its first post season basketball game since... well... maybe ever? Have the Frogs ever hosted an NIT game? The world may never know... The Frogs' matchup with the Horizon League's Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers is, to this point, the high water mark of what has been the second best TCU Basketball season in 20 years. The Frogs enter the game in a 2 game skid after having their home win streak snapped by SDSU and getting pasted by tourney bound CSU in the MWC tournament, but are hoping to use that DMC mojo to extend their season. Playing in what could be his last home game, you'd expect Hank Thorns to come out and prepared and use the bad taste the past week has left in his mouth to grab a W. The CSU game was always a dangerous matchup as the Rams were playing for an at large NCAA bid while the Frogs were pretty much CBI or bust, but it was still disheartening to watch them fold like they did. Five more wins could rewrite that story in a big way.
The Panthers enter the contest 20-13 and 11-7 in the Horizon League where they finished in a tie for third during the regular season. Like the Frogs, the Panthers were also embarassed in their Conference tourney, losing 71-49 to Butler, and are looking to avenge a poor end to their season with a post-season run of their own. With a starting line up featuring on Juniors and Seniors , the Panthers have tested themselves all season, losing tough games to Michigan State, Wisconsin and Marquette, any of which could find themselves in New Orleans at the end of the month. Seniors Tony Meier and Kaylon Williams lead all Milwaukee scorers with 11 a piece, although they under-performed a bit as the season wore down. Look for them to come out firing.
As for what the "experts" think, it's pretty fairly matched. Heck, if you believe ESPN's "accuscore" system, the Panthers covering is a lock and there is only a 1% discretion between the Frogs winning and losing. The Frogs enter the game as 4 point favorites, but you'd have to think this one would be closer to one or even on a neutral court. TCU holds the edge in three of the four major statistical categories - points per game, assists and FG percentage- and rebounding is fairly close with the Panthers pulling down two more per game.
Where the Panthers kill you, though, is on defense, something the Frogs are rarely interested in, if ever. Particularly, the Panthers are interested in 3-point defense, where they rank 6th nationally. Considering how often the Frogs live and die by long range shots, this is particularly ominous. Even more problematic, though, is that the Panthers play the same style as TCU, jacking up 22 3's per game vs. our 20... and TCU doesn't defend the perimeter well. At all. The Frogs allow opponents to convert 38% of their 3 point attempts. As a reference, if a team shot 38% on threes for the season, it would be close to an NBA record. That's, how you say, not good. Typically when a team shoots as many threes as the Frogs and Panthers do, it's because they're lacking physically underneath. However, both teams feature length under the basket, so this one could come down to who wins the rebounding battle, a staple of TCU victories this season.
I'll be honest - I don't feel great about this. Yes, TCU has played solidly at home and yes they have pulled some upsets. However, the UNLV victory in OT came after a furious comeback and the SDSU game was only forced into OT because of a similar comeback. Milwaukee is by no means the caliber of team that those two are, but they are experienced and play solid D. I think it'll come down to the wire and could go either way. Could a TCU win be the yin to SMU firing their version of Doherty's yang? Can home court advantage push the Frogs to their first post-season win since 2005? YOU can help decide by showing up tonight. See you guys there.