West Virginia-TCU Preview
TCU continues to inch closer to matching its longest-ever winning streak, though plenty of question marks remain after it dominated a weak collection of non-conference opponents.
The Horned Frogs look to prove themselves against better competition in Saturday’s Big 12 opener when they host No. 17 West Virginia.
TCU (13-0) is the only unranked team of the six remaining unbeatens, though it leads the other teams receiving votes in the latest AP poll. Already off to their best start in school history, the Horned Frogs are three wins shy of their school-record 16-game win streak from 1997-98, when they set another school mark with 27 victories to earn their most recent NCAA tournament berth.
A stingy defense, which is holding opponents to 53.0 points per game on 33.8 percent shooting, has allowed them to already record four more wins than last season’s total. TCU has played one of the weakest schedules in the country, however, its most impressive victory was 66-54 at Ole Miss on Dec. 4, and eight of its wins have come against teams with five or fewer victories heading into play Friday.
Carrying non-conference success into Big 12 play has been a huge problem for the Horned Frogs, who were 0-18 in the league last season after a 9-3 start. In 2012-13, they were 9-5 ahead of their conference debut and went 2-16 in league play.
"The team has to get ready for a grind. It’s something we should enjoy because it’s a challenge," coach Trent Johnson said. "Everyone talks about getting ready for the NCAA tournament, but the Big 12 is like the NCAA tournament because it’s a bunch of teams who are NCAA tournament worthy."
TCU has held three of its last four opponents to 50 points or fewer, most recently winning 60-40 against Tennessee State on Monday. Kyan Anderson, the only Horned Frog averaging double figures with 13.4 points per game, had 16 despite shooting 2 of 11 from 3-point range.
The Mountaineers (12-1) have won five straight by an average of 21.2 points since a 74-73 home loss to LSU on Dec. 4. Juwan Staten has averaged 19.7 points on 51.3 percent shooting over his last three games and scored 18 in Tuesday’s 82-51 rout of Virginia Tech. He was 3 of 4 from beyond the arc to help West Virginia hit a season-high 10 3-pointers on 24 attempts. It had been shooting a Big 12-worst 30.1 percent from deep.
Gary Browne was also 2 for 2 from long distance, improving to 6 for 7 over his last four games after starting the season 4 for 16.
"I think we have a bunch of guys who are capable of making them on any given day," coach Bob Huggins said. "We have some guys who are not capable of making them, too, so we try to go with the guys who are making shots."
TCU has held opponents to a conference-low 4.2 3-pointers per game.
West Virginia won its only true road game 67-42 at Northern Kentucky on Dec. 7, though it was 4 of 21 from 3-point range. It lost six of its final seven road games in league play last season.
The Mountaineers are forcing a Division-I leading 23.0 turnovers per game, while TCU commits 12.2 per game.
West Virginia has won all four meetings with three coming by at least 11 points. The closest was a 74-69 victory in Fort Worth on Jan. 4, 2014.
TCU has dropped 13 straight against ranked opponents since a 62-55 win over then-No. 5 Kansas on Feb. 6, 2013.