TCU beat writer Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram graciously agreed to swap five questions and answers with me about tonight’s game with Wyoming.
First are my questions and his answers, followed by my answers to his questions.
Let me know what you think.
What has TCU done well specifically to put itself in position to possibly win the conference title? TCU has stepped up its defense. The Frogs are 10-0 when outrebounding their opponent and 11-1 when holding teams to under 47.6 percent shooting from the field. TCU has also been shooting well from 3-point range. The Frogs have made six or more 3-pointers in 11 consecutive games and 11 or more 3s in five of their last seven games.
What has been the biggest difference in the team when it plays on the road compared to home? Simply put, they’re more focused at home. On the road, too often, they have stretches of defensive lapses and let a team go on an extended run. But the road struggles also have a lot to do with the competition. As you know, it seems like every MW team is tough at home. No road game is a sure thing.
Which player(s) have had the biggest impact on the team that’s led to its success so far? It’s several of them, but Hank Thorns, without question, makes them go. He’s so dangerous from anywhere on the court that it frees of up other players to get easy baskets. It’s allowed forward Craig Williams to become a deadly shooter from 3-point range which spreads out the defense. Connell Crossland has started the last four games and given the Frogs a much needed boost defensively and on the boards. Lastly, J.R. Cadot does all the little things — steals, offensive rebounds, chasing down loose balls — that become keys to winning.
What does TCU need to do well Tuesday in Laramie, and what is TCU’s biggest concerns with Wyoming? The Frogs need to keep up their defensive intensity and let that help ignite their transition game. They also need to rebound well and limit second-chance points by the Cowboys.
I saw in your game story after the New Mexico game where guard Hank Thorns said this team wants to play in the NCAA Tournament. In your opinion, what does TCU need to do to get there and where do you realistically see this team going in the postseason? TCU needs to beat Wyoming and then play well against San Diego State Saturday. If TCU can at least split its two final regular-season games and win at least one game in the MW Tournament I think they’ve earned at least and NIT bid. But as wild and wide open as the MW has been this season a couple wins in the MW Tournament won’t be a shock (or upset) anymore. First things first, though. TCU could go a long way in cementing a postseason berth by winning at Wyoming tonight.
The Cowboys are 13-3 at home this season. What has made them so tough? Are they always this good at home? Wyoming has historically been good at home, winning 74 percent of the time, but not so much in recent seasons. Like most teams, Wyoming seems to play with more confidence at home and is more comfortable there, and the crowds have slowly grown to where there is more of a buzz in the arena and the players seem to feed off that.
Who/what do you think Cowboys fear most about TCU? The Horned Frogs’ athleticism and 3-point shooting ability. Players and coaches have told me all season they think TCU is one of, if not the most athletic team in the Mountain West. They are long and athletic and seem to be taking advantage of that more on the defensive end here recently. Wyoming is a bit athletically-challenged, or at very least not as deep athletically as TCU. Guys like Hank Thorns and Kyan Anderson are not the only guys that can make 3s. Case in point was the last time these two teams met in Fort Worth when forwards Amric Fields and Craig Williams made big 3s and key times in the game.
Wyoming has three consistent scorers in Martinez, Cruz and Washington. Of those three, who is playing the best lately? Cruz is coming off a 16-point game against Boise State and Washington had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. If you count the last game as “recently” I would say those two. Martinez has been the most consistent of the three. Washington has been in early foul trouble in recent games but didn’t pick up a foul against Boise State. Wyoming is a different team (in a good way) when Washington stays on the floor.
Like TCU, Wyoming has played in a lot of close games. TCU has been fortunate to win 13 of 16 games decided by 6 points or less. The Cowboys have lost more of the close ones, including four consecutive MWC games before Boise State last time out. Has the tough losses hurt the resiliency of the Cowboys or helped? One thing that has impressed me about this Wyoming team is its resiliency. They haven’t let tough losses get to them, nor big wins. Pretty impressive for a team that won 20 games combined the past two seasons. If anything, the team may be more resilient based on playing good teams tough, especially on the road. Not a lot seems to rattle this team.
What are the keys for Wyoming Tuesday vs. TCU? What do the Cowboys do when they’re playing their best basketball? Cutting down on turnovers. Wyoming had 14 in the first game with TCU, including nine in the first half. Point guard JayDee Luster needs to play better as well. The Cowboys also need to guard well along the perimeter – against everyone TCU puts on the floor. If they do those things, continue to play solid on defense overall and avoid prolonged scoring droughts, they usually find ways to win.