Gonzaga and Texas Christian University will go head to head in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon. The Zags will be playing for their 8th consecutive berth in the Sweet 16, while the Horned Frogs will be hoping to book the school’s fifth trip to the Sweet 16 and first since 1968 (when only 23 teams played the tournament). Needless to say, these two programs have very different basketball traditions.
Meet the opponent
Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (22-12, 9-9 Big 12; NET #28, KenPom #26)
TCU eked out a 72-70 win over Arizona State in Round 1 with a JaKobe Coles runner in the dying seconds. It felt like an improbable win after the Sun Devils largely controlled the game. Junior guard Mike Miles Jr. (17.6 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 spg) is as advertised—an explosive and strong guard who can break down defenses off the bounce and destroy opposing game plans. The team revolves around Miles and he rose to the challenge and carried his team for most of the night, keeping them in position to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and avoid the upset to the 11th seed Sun Devils.
TCU has hit some serious highs throughout the season, particularly with a 23-point blowout win over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence back in January. On their best day, the Frogs can be a serious problem. However, they also dropped a game to Northwestern State (KenPom #352 at the time) this season although Miles and senior guard Damion Baugh missed that contest, and lost 4 straight games in February during conference play.
What to watch for
The Plan for Mike Miles: TCU’s offense on Friday against ASU was not a pretty sight for most of the game. The Frogs rely far too heavily on Miles to create off the dribble, and run him a lot of high screens or isolation. Miles is an excellent player, but that is an exhausting way to play. The Zags will have to decide how much they want to commit to stopping Miles while daring his teammates to step up and beat them versus letting Miles get his while eliminating the rest of his team as viable options. Based on what I saw on Friday night, the former might be the way to go.
Dominating the Paint: TCU is not big on the interior, as their starting power forward and center are both listed at 6’7” though they do have athleticism down there. Gonzaga leaned heavily on its frontcourt in the first round against Grand Canyon, and Timme and Watson should have the strong edge in this matchup though the Frogs are willing to play a tough and gritty game despite the size they will give up. Gonzaga will need to remain tough inside while also preventing penetration on the other end to force TCU into shooting jumpers (see next point).
Three-point line: TCU is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. The Frogs have shot the ball at a 30.8% clip from long distance this season, which puts them 336th in the country. That probably means they will have a season best mark against Gonzaga on Sunday...I kid, or do I? While they have not been deadly from 3, the Frogs are one of the very best in the country at defending the three-point line and hold opponents to the same 30.8% mark which is good for 26th in the country. On the other hand, at 38.6%, Gonzaga is ranked 9th in the country at converting 3s and looked comfortable in Ball Arena on Friday night finishing the evening 7-15 from range. Strength v. strength will be on display. Let’s see who wins.