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Big 12 Hoops Countdown: TCU

In a weeklong countdown based on the preseason coaches poll, MetroNews previews the basketball teams of the Big 12 …

TCU last season: 18-15 (7-7 Mountain West); 119 RPI

On the bench: Trent Johnson (226-185) made a curiously lateral move to Texas Christian after four seasons at LSU, where his first Tigers team went 27-8 and the remaining three went a combined 40-56. He’s been the conference coach of the year in the Pac-10, SEC and WAC, netting five NCAA berths and three NITs in 13 seasons.

Along with citing family reasons for moving to Fort Worth from Baton Rouge, Johnson admitted that conference realignment made the TCU job more attractive.

“I’m in this business to compete against the best, and be able to coach the best, and when you look at Big 12 basketball, find a league that’s been as good on a consistent basis the past six or eight years,” he said.

“You start looking at the basketball players in the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex, and there’s enough to go around. There’s a lot of them who are playing in other programs around the Big 12.”

Who’s gone: Three starters, guard Hank Thorns (13.5 points, 4.6 assists), forward J.R. Cadot (11.4 points, 7.0 rebounds) and forward Craig Williams (8.0 points, 3.8 rebounds).

Who’s back: Mountain West freshman of the year Kyan Anderson (9.8 ppg) returns at guard, as does junior forward Amric Fields (9.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg), the MWC’s sixth man of the year.

The Frogs’ most versatile frontline player is 6-7 senior Garlon Green (9.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg), who has made 78 consecutive starts. As a sophomore he shot better than 47 percent from 3-point range but was one 3-pointer short of qualifying for the MWC lead in that category.

Who’s new: Sophomore 6-8 forward Devonta Abron, one of the nation’s most highly recruited big men last year, transferred from Arkansas and became eligible immediately thanks to an NCAA waiver. Abron, who averaged 5.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes for the Razorbacks, should be an impactful presence once he transitions to Johnson’s system.

“He played at Arkansas where they go up and down, and here you’ve got to stick your nose in there on the half-court and body up,” Johnson said.

TCU signed 6-10 center Aaron Durley of Houston, 6-2 guard Clyde Smith III of Houston and 6-2 guard Charles Hill Jr. of Fort Worth — all three-star recruits. according to Another newcomer who will be eligible second semester is sophomore guard Christian Gore, an El Paso native who transferred from Brown.

Nonconference schedule: Outside of a trip to Tulsa, the puny slate gives TCU a chance to pile up first-semester wins. Don’t be surprised if the Frogs stand 12-1 on New Year’s Day.

Postseason prognosis: TCU was picked 10th in the coaches preseason poll, and Johnson isn’t in the mood to dispute that forecast — at least not this season.

“Every program in our athletic department is primed to compete at a high level with the exception of men’s basketball,” the coach said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, and it’s my responsibility and the players’ responsibility to get this thing to a point where we hold our weight in our own athletic department.”

TCU doesn’t have the horses to make waves in the Big 12 this season, and even an NIT bid looks like a long shot.

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