Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Even the arrival of four-star freshman center Karviar Shepherd hasn’t been enough to deliver TCU a Big 12 victory this season. The Horned Frogs are in danger of becoming only the fourth power-conference school since 2000 to go winless in its league.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — TCU’s most recent in a soul-sucking string of 15 consecutive losses had just ended Monday night when coach Trent Johnson reflected on his depleted roster and the ignominy of what might be looming.
“The kids need rest,” Johnson said after Oklahoma State beat the Frogs 76-54, leaving TCU with just three opportunities to avoid a winless Big 12 record. “We need to regroup, find a way to play better and find a way to try to get a win.”
They haven’t found one yet this season, not in the Big 12 anyway.
For certain, there are worse teams in Division I than TCU, which won nine nonconference games, two of them over Conference-USA co-leader Tulsa. Still, the specter of going 0-fer in the league carries a historically rare and undeniable shame.
Since 2000, only three power-conference programs have failed to win a league game. One of those was a former Big 12 squad, Texas A&M, which suffered through an 0-16 campaign in 2004. Since then, only the Pac-10′s Oregon State (0-18) in 2008 and The Big East’s DePaul (0-18) in 2009 have been so perfectly imperfect.
TCU (9-18, 0-15 Big 12) hopes to avoid that miserable club by winning today at West Virginia, or next week against Texas or Oklahoma. Yet with injuries limiting Johnson to seven healthy regulars, securing even a single victory would be surprising in the loaded Big 12.
“Think about it: A week ago the team that was in ninth place in our league was Oklahoma State. Are you kidding me? And two weeks ago it was Baylor. Are you kidding me?,” Johnson said. “That speaks volumes about the strength of this league.
“I know one thing: I’d like to have this team—regardless of our injuries—and play in other leagues. This league from top to bottom, with the exception of one team, is extremely strong right now.”
Tipoff: Saturday 1:30 p.m. in Morgantown (Root TV)
Records: The lowly Horned Frogs (9-18, 0-15) sport an average losing margin of 17 points in league play, but their 74-69 loss to WVU in Fort Worth represented the closest call so far. West Virginia (15-13, 7-8) hopes to snap a three-game skid.
RPIs: TCU is No. 199 and WVU is No. 81.
Coach: Trent Johnson (246-225 in 15 seasons overall) is 20-39 at TCU, where Year 2 of his rebuilding project has been painful. The guy has been coach of the year in the WAC (Nevada), the Pac-10 (Stanford) and the SEC (LSU), but it may take something miraculous—like a .500 league record—for him to ever win that award in the Big 12.
TCU top players: Point guard Kyan Anderson, who contributes a team-high 34 minutes per game, averages 16.8 points and 4.5 assists. He had consecutive games of 27, 29, 25 and 23 points this month against Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and K-State. But in the first meeting vs. the Mountaineers, he managed 12 points on only seven shots (matching his fewest attempts against a Division I opponent this season). … 6-9 forward Amric Fields (13.1 points) is the only other Frog in double figures but he is questionable with knee injury . If Fields doesn’t play Saturday, TCU will have one eligible player who stands taller than 6-7. And that would be the 6-10 freshman Karviar Shepherd (8.7 points and 7.0 rebounds). … Brandon Parrish (8.7 points) and Jarvis Ray (8.5 points) are the other options for TCU, which has averaged a paltry 58.8 points in league play.
WVU roster notes: Juwan Staten’s player of the year odds have dwindled with each WVU loss, even though he’s still a statistical wonder: second in Big 12 scoring (18.1 points), first in assists (5.96), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.98), fourth in field-goal shooting (49. 7 percent) and tops in free-throw attempts (206). On 12 occasions this season he has played 40 minutes or more. … Eron Harris (18.0 points, 41 percent 3-point shooter) went 0-5 from long range at Iowa State. … The Mountaineers—who have allowed foes to shoot 54 percent and average 86 points during the past three games—are last in the Big 12 in field-goal defense (44.8 percent) and scoring defense (73.6). … WVU’s rebounding margin of minus-1.2 ranks next to last in the league, ahead of only TCU’s minus-8.4. … Terry Henderson (undisclosed illness) isn’t expected to play, leaving WVU with eight scholarship players for a third straight game.
Line: WVU favored by 14
Prediction: West Virginia 75-62