Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Lacking offensive firepower, TCU tries to keep games close by slowing the pace and getting after opponents on defense, as Adrick McKinney did here in a 51-40 loss at Baylor.

The Big 12 debut seasons for TCU (9-9, 0-5) and West Virginia (8-9, 1-3) have been a washout so far, but at least one team will find some relief during Wednesday night’s misery-loves-company matchup. Here’s a primer on the game in Morgantown:

1. Can WVU recover from the Purdue debacle?
The margin of defeat against Gonzaga was wider, but Saturday’s 79-52 loss to a pedestrian Purdue squad was more embarrassing. From such a low point, will West Virginia regenerate intensity against a TCU team that’s winless in the Big 12?

Said WVU coach Bob Huggins: “All I can tell you is, (Monday) we had one of the best practices we’ve had in a while, for whatever that’s worth.”

Sophomore forward Kevin Noreen, the only big man to start at Purdue as WVU shifted to a four-guard lineup, sensed an unusual turn in Huggins’ demeanor during the 72 hours since the Mountaineers’ poor showing in West Lafayette.

“(Huggins) really wasn’t in our faces yelling; he was just really ashamed of how we played and embarrassed,” Noreen said. “I feel sorry for him, and I can’t blame him. We’ve got to play better.

“That’s just not the way we’re accustomed to playing. That’s not Coach Huggins’ style and that’s not our style. What you saw was not indicative of anything we want to do, and we need to change things fast.”

2. Back at full-strength
With Terry Henderson (lower back) once more participating fully in practice, Huggins suggested the freshman guard will return after a two-game absence. Gary Browne (ankle) also should be back to full-throttle after a gimpy outing at Purdue.

Huggins said Tuesday he expects to return to more motion offense, though the four-out, one-in lineup will be utilized when matchups dictate that WVU go small.

The motion attack, a staple of Huggins’ philosophy through the years, typically uses two big men and seemingly would mean more minutes from Aaric Murray (presuming he can avoid foul trouble). The junior center hasn’t met expectations that followed his transfer from LaSalle, but in a purely statistical sense, he has been WVU’s most productive influence. Through 17 games, here are the plus-minus team scoring totals for each player in the rotation:

Aaric Murray             plus 47
Keaton Miles             plus 34
Matt Humphrey         plus 23
Eron Harris                plus 21
Terry Henderson        plus 21
Gary Browne              plus 11
Dominique Rutledge  plus 10
Jabarie Hinds             plus 6
_______________________
Kevin Noreen             minus 23
Deniz Kilicli                minus 47
Juwan Staten             minus 43

 

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

TCU coach Trent Johnson lost two big men to early-season knee injuries.

3. TCU brings good effort, bad record  
First-year coach Trent Johnson didn’t offer any pie-in-the-sky projections upon coming to TCU from LSU last spring. He emphasized that the Horned Frogs needed to upgrade their talent level to compete in the Big 12 and, in a more localized view, that the basketball program needed to start carrying its weight among TCU’s more successful athletics teams.

Though the Frogs are winless in five league games so far, and figure to be an underdog in the remaining 13, Johnson hasn’t been disappointed with his players’ effort.

“Every team I’ve ever had — good, bad or indifferent — is always going to play hard, is always going to compete,” he said. “The one thing we’ve done a decent job of establishing is how we’re going to play on the defensive end. We’re going to do the best within our talent to make you earn your keep.

“On the other end, offensively, that’s going to be dictated on how much more talent we get and how much deeper we get.”

4. Fields of bad dreams
Amric Fields, the junior forward expected to be TCU’s top scorer this season, tore knee ligaments in the second game. The 6-foot-9 Fields was the Mountain West Conference’s sixth man of the year last season, when he averaged 9.6 points and 2.5 rebounds.

He went down only weeks after a preseason no-contact knee injury sidelined freshman center Aaron Durley.

“Don’t feel sorry for us, don’t feel sorry for TCU, don’t feel sorry for me,” Johnson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We’re going to come out and go to work. That’s all part of this game. For me, I tend to feel for the player. It’s just unfortunate we have two guys who would have really helped this basketball team we can’t have this year, but somebody else has to step up and play.”

Guard Kyan Anderson (11.4 points) and small forward Garlon Green (10.9 points) are the only Frogs averaging in double figures.

5. Keeping things respectable
Outside of a 63-45 loss at Oklahoma State, TCU hasn’t been blown out of any Big 12 game — with losses coming to Texas Tech (62-53), at Baylor (51-40), to K-State (67-54) and Iowa State (63-50).

“I was impressed down at TCU the way they stayed in the game,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg after Saturday’s matchup in Fort Worth. “The way they’re playing right now, they’re going to be in most games.

“They’re very physical and they do a great job on the offensive glass, and they play a low-possession game which is going to keep them in it.”

Not that Johnson is patting his team on the back for any moral victories. “Somewhere along the line,” Johnson said, “we’ve got to start making some shots at crucial times.”

TCU ranks 337th nationally (out of 345 Division I teams) in possessions per game at 61.4. It’s also among the lowest-ranked teams in points per possession (326th), points per game (344th), assists per game (323rd) and assist-to-turnover ratio (303rd).

The defensive metrics are much more favorable for the Horned Frogs: 145th in field-goal defense (41.4 percent),  77th in 3-point defense (31 percent) and 12th in points allowed (56.4).

“What they’re trying to do is make you score in the half-court,” Huggins said. “I think we all understand it’s easier to score in transition, so they want to make you do score in half-court, trying to make sure that they get back and are playing five-on-five.”

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Comments

  • wvman75

    It's easy to handle success. The sign of a true Mountaineer is how they handle adversity.

  • Protechcpa

    I can remember a very short time ago thinking "Enough talk about football, let's just move on to basketball. I cannot take any more." I am amazed by how quickly I am thinking "Can we talk about next year's football team? I cannot take any more (basketball talk)". Sad.

  • Dan

    "COME ON MAN"

    Its not coaching, this guys just plan suck. Getting that one or two top 30 recruit is the problem.

  • Jethro

    William. Go root for Marshall

  • Kevin

    1.) Yea, because the suit means everything, just ask Bill Belichek and his superbowl rings.
    2.) see #1
    3.) because Beilein had no terrible teams did he? See 2003/2004
    4.) because 700+ wins means nothing
    5.) you just argued on points 1-4 that the coach was the problem then you say "sneak Da'sean in the game"..........that makes sense..

  • WILLIAM

    5 Keys for win 1. IF HUGGINS WOULD WEAR A SUIT AND NOT HIS BLACK AND WHITE SWEATSUIT! 2. HUGGINS WOULD LOOK LIKE A MOUNTAINEER AND WEAR BLUE AND GOLD. 3. CALL JOHN BEILEIN FOR ADVISE. 4. IF HUGGINS WOULD STAY HOME AND LET SOMEONE ELSE COACH 5. Sneak Da'sean Butler in the game!

    • Larry

      William,

      If you're going to talk about Bob Huggins and Billy Hahn's game costumes...please get it right.

      The official name for their costumes is:

      "All Black Smock Pullover Pajama Top Clown Suit".

      I have offered WVU my services to coach the team for free so they can save 3 Million a year. I even offered to "pay them" to let me coach but I haven't heard back from them yet.

      Of course I would have no idea what I would be doing but at this point neither does Huggins.

      Its my contribution to the Mountaineer nation...

      • Kevin

        You missed your calling jacknuts. Surely you should have been a comedian. I mean, with classic gold comedy such as this.........hilarious, just can't stop laughing.........your only contribution to Mountaineer Nation that could possibly be worth anything would be to just STFU!

        • Larry

          What an enormous time drain! I'm speaking of your attempt to become an internet blogger and my attempt to read it.

          • Allan Taylor

            At least you guys are entertaining me.