After a week off, the Oklahoma Sooners are back in action on the hardwood with a legitimate shot at winning the conference. Currently in a three way tie for second place, the Sooners must take the remainder of the season one game at a time. The TCU Horned Frogs are the first obstacle standing between Oklahoma and a potential regular season conference title. To preview the game, I reached out to Andrew Felts of Frogs O' War. Here is what transpired...
CCM - The Horned Frogs earned their first regular season sweep since joining the Big XII. Is it a sign and that the program is headed in the right direction under third year coach, Trent Johnson?
Andrew Felts - Absolutely. There have been a lot of "firsts" this year, and that is a direct testament to the job that Trent Johnson and his coaching staff are doing to build this program. As you mentioned, the Frogs had their first regular season Big 12 sweep, their first Big 12 winning streak, and their first road Big 12 win, all since late January. Most people associated with the program realized going in that this was going to be a long-term project, so it is nice to start to see some dividends in the third season in the Big 12. With a strong finish to the season, TCU could see a return to the NIT for the first time since 2005. Any postseason play for the Frogs would be another big step in the right direction as far as building for the future is concerned.
CCM - Throughout the season, Texas Christian has found themselves in a handful of close match-ups. Unfortunately, the decision has usual gone against the Horned Frogs. With three games left in the season, what is a weakness the Sooners can exploit on Saturday?
AF - Two pretty consistent trends have emerged in most of TCU's losses this season. First, in several of the Frogs' losses, there have been long scoring droughts where opponents are usually able to create some separation. TCU has fought to the end in nearly every Big 12 game this season, but the Frogs sometimes go five, six, or seven minutes without a basket, which allows the opponent to pull away. This same phenomenon occurred in the first meeting between Oklahoma and TCU. It took the Frogs nearly five minutes to score from the field against the Sooners to open the game. What kept TCU in it, at least initially, was Oklahoma's inability to take advantage of the Frogs' struggles offensively. I think OU committed five or six turnovers during TCU's scoring drought, or else the game could have been decided much earlier.
Secondly, in most of TCU's losses this season, the Frogs have struggled to close out games. Many times, TCU will be within striking distance near the end of the game but will fail to grab and hold on to a lead. I think that a big key for the Sooners will be whether or not they can take advantage if the Frogs fall into one of these ruts, especially late in the game. Playing in front of a home crowd should help, as these offensive struggles are usually punctuated when the Frogs are on the road.
CCM - On each screen, the Oklahoma Sooners like to switch often pairing up a 6-0 PG, Jordan Woodard with a much taller guard. Who on the TCU roster can take advantage of such situations and will they?
AF - The biggest mismatch that can arise from this situation is likely with Trey Zeigler. The 6-5 guard often excels at exploiting mismatches and driving to the basket. He has been on fire lately, scoring in double figures in three of his last four games, including a 20-point night against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. The Sooners did a good job of keeping him in check during the first meeting, allowing just four points and four rebounds in limited minutes. Much like in the first game, it will be important for the Frogs as a team to exploit mismatches and really work the ball inside.
CCM - Oklahoma has dropped a single game at home this season. What does TCU need to do in order to keep this one close?
AF - The Sooners have been very good at home this season, while the Frogs have struggled on the road. Two big keys for the Frogs will be whether or not they can keep their confidence levels high, and whether or not they can keep their hot shooting going. As of late, this TCU squad has been riding a confidence high unlike anything we've seen this season. Winners of three of the last four, the Frogs are finally putting everything together and team confidence has boosted as a result. On the offensive end, things are finally clicking. In the last four games, the Frogs' shooting percentage has risen from 37.3% to 47.5% while average points per game have increased from 59.7 to 70.5. To keep things close in Norman, I think the Frogs need to jump out to an early lead to keep their confidence high, as well as shoot around 50% to be able to compete with the Sooners' offense.
CCM - Give us your score prediction once again.
AF - I really like the way that this TCU team is playing right now. Last weekend, the Frogs gave Kansas all they could handle inside Allen Fieldhouse, and I expect TCU to do the same to the Sooners today. The TCU offense is going to be the key, and if things are clicking, I think the Frogs could pull off a big road upset. I'm going to go out on a limb and take TCU, 70-65. (Why not, right?) I think the potential exists for Oklahoma to overlook TCU with their Big Monday showdown in Ames looming. However, with that being said, the Sooners are a very talented team, and they play great basketball at home, so I would not be surprised if Lon Kruger has his guys ready to go and they come away victorious.
The game tips off tomorrow at 1 PM CST. Make sure you join us here for the game thread as we discuss the on goings of all things Sooners.