After a season of injuries and blowout losses led to a winless conference record, the TCU men’s basketball team looks to finish their 2013-14 season strong Wednesday night against 7th-seeded Baylor at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, Miss.
TCU head coach Trent Johnson was asked on Monday’s weekly media teleconference about how his team’s lack of depth created a matchup problem for his team against the taller and stronger Bears.
“Oh, we got an answer for Ricardo Gathers,” Johnson sarcastically joked. “My back up post is a 6’2” walk-on Thomas Montigel. He’s a senior so he’s gonna neutralize Ricardo.”
The Frogs were already small before losing junior forward Amric Fields, the team’s second-leading scorer, for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
“And then I’m gonna put Jarvis at 6’6”, 195 [pounds], like I have all year, at the four and he’s gonna take Isaiah out of it and then Karviar will play Jefferson and…no,” Johnson laughed.
With the team’s frequent bad luck seemingly casting its shadow every game, it’s hard not to eventually have a sense of humor about it. TCU only has four players on its roster that have played in every game this season.
“They cause a lot of problems, just like everybody else has in the league, and it’s unfortunate,” Johnson said. “They’re the worst matchup for us because their length, their strength. They shoot it. They really handled us every time we played them.”
TCU lost their last two games to the Bears this season by a combined 59 points.
“We’re gonna do the best we can to keep this thing within striking distance like we have all year long and then hopefully give ourselves a chance to compete going down the stretch,” Johnson said.
The last time these two teams met, Baylor hit 16 three-pointers as they routed the Frogs 91-58 in Fort Worth.
“They’re an NCAA caliber team. I know they’re seventh. There should probably be eight teams in this league going to the tournament. The league’s just that big and that strong.
Heading into Wednesday’s matchup, TCU is dead last in the conference in scoring offense, field goal percentage, rebounding and assists. The Bears lead the conference in three-point field goal percentage.
Johnson was also available for questions after the team’s practice Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m never sick of having a chance to play,” Johnson said.
While victory seems extremely unlikely for the undermanned Frogs, Johnson believes that the team has already proven their toughness and outperformed this season.
“For these kids to be in the situation they’ve been in this year,” Johnson said. “Yeah, we’re 0 for whatever, but they’re not losers.”
The second-year head coach also believes TCU still has plenty to offer recruits, despite the recent struggles. The Frogs are 2-34 in Big 12 play during the Trent Johnson era.
“I’m in one of the premier conferences,” Johnson said. “The only negative thing about TCU is they have to play for an idiot. There’s playing time out there. There’s great facilities. There’s a great education.”
When asked Tuesday about who can win the Big 12 Championship, Johnson didn’t hesitate to say that it was wide open.
“There’s about nine teams that are capable of winning this thing,” Johnson said. “I think seven [will make the NCAA Tournament], for sure.”
Johnson also didn’t mince words when speaking on the toughness of the Big 12 conference overall.
“This is, without a question, the best league in college basketball this year,” Johnson said. “There are eight teams in this league that are definitely NCAA worthy but if the powers that be only take seven, shame on them.”
Tip-off for Wednesday night’s game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT from the Sprint Center.