TCU Basketball Preview: #103
Overall Rank: #103
Conference Rank: #5 Mountain West Conference
2008-09: 14-17, 5-11
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Jim Christian (14-17 at TCU, 152-75 overall)
Coach Jim Christian’s first year at TCU did not go all that well. The team ended up with a losing record and only won five conference games, but there were some impressive wins over teams like Texas Tech and UNLV. Coach Christian wants to take the next step this year and he should be able to do that thanks to a large and talented recruiting class.
Key Losses: G Jason Ebie, F Kevin Langford
Six new players will be suiting up for the Horned Frogs this season and three of them have the experience to step in right away and make large contributions. The biggest help, and perhaps the place where TCU needs the most help, is coming on the wings. Greg Hill is a tremendous shooter and the junior college transfer will add an immediate shooter to the team. Cheick Kone, a 6-10 sophomore, may need some more time to develop, but he could end up blocking some shots and making some noise on the defensive end of the floor. The incoming freshmen are not bad either and Garlon Green will certainly be in the mix for playing time on the wing. Nikola Cerina and Xavier Robinson round out the group of newcomers.
Ronnie Moss had a superb freshman campaign, tallying 10.2 points per game, yet it is Keion Mitchem who may end up playing a more important role on the team this year. While both can replace Jason Ebie at the point guard spot, Mitchem is a senior leader who is less prone to commit turnovers. That would also allow Moss to once again play off the ball and be more effective getting to the basket. Those two pretty much split starts last year, but both will likely at least begin the season in the starting lineup. However, especially if Moss proves he can run the show, the newcomers will drastically cut into Mitchem’s minutes and he would essentially turn into an experienced backup point guard.
Last year most of the scoring came from the frontcourt and that should be the case again this time around even without forward Kevin Langford and his 13.9 points per game. Unless Kone or one of the freshmen is ready to contribute a lot, Edvinas Ruzgas might have to take over the power forward position. In reality he is a 6-6 wing, but he does have some toughness to him. Last year he was the team’s most prolific outside shooter, connecting on nearly two per game. If he can manage to defend the opposing power forward, he could really stretch out the defense with his outside shooting ability. Eiland would be the other option to see some minutes at the four spot, but one of the wings will almost certainly have to play out of position at least part of the time.
Who to Watch:
Yet, since TCU has a center like Zvonko Buljan they can afford to play a little small. The 6-9 senior earned the Mountain West Newcomer of the Year honors last year and ended the campaign averaging an impressive 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. Buljan can dominate the paint, but he can also step out and hit the three-point shot and that makes the Horned Frogs a very difficult team to defend.
Yet, it was the team’s inconsistent three-point shooting that led to many defeats. The addition of Hill and Eiland should put an end to those shooting concerns. But at this point there is more hope than anything else. Those two junior college transfers will have to play major minutes, whether it is in a starting role or providing a spark off the bench. And if they can consistently hit the long ball, TCU will be playing in the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Keion Mitchem, Senior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Ronnie Moss, Sophomore, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Demodo Eiland, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Edvinas Ruzgas, Senior, Guard, 10.0 points per game
Zvonko Buljan, Senior, Center, 12.3 points per game