Men’s basketball to begin with new set of challenges

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    The Horned Frogs will face several matchups that are very similar to last year’s with six common non-conference opponents.

    After the Nov. 13 home opener against Mid-American Christian, the team will go to Tempe, Ariz., for the opening round of the Preseason NIT. The Frogs will face Cal State Northridge in the first round.

    Northridge advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 after a 17-14 season and returns three starters. The winner will go on to face the winner of Arizona State-Texas State.

    If the Frogs were to win the Tempe Regional, they would advance to the NIT Final Four in New York City Nov. 25 and 27. If the Frogs lose, they will play third and fourth games on the home sites of the highest remaining teams.

    After the tournament, the Horned Frogs are scheduled to play at Nebraska before playing host to Louisiana Tech. Last year Nebraska came to Fort Worth and beat the Frogs soundly, 62-50, led by a sharp defensive first half.

    The Frogs’ performance in the Nebraska and Louisiana Tech games should answer two big questions about this team.

    Nebraska returns only four lettermen this season, but should still be a talented, well-coached team. The Huskers have a lot of large young talent, but the Frogs should be able to compete. If TCU wins this early road test against a sound defensive team, it would be a solid win to build on.

    Against Louisiana Tech, the Horned Frogs will see their first low post game changer in Magnum Rolle. Rolle, a 6-foot-11-inch center/forward, averaged 12.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest last year. If the Frogs’ smallish team can’t contain Rolle, they will likely have problems with similar players all year.

    Other schedule highlights include this year’s edition of the SMU game Dec. 2 at SMU, the Frogs holding Texas Tech Dec. 8 and a tough road test at Houston Dec. 23.

    “I think every game is going to tell us (a lot about this team),” said Frogs’ head coach Jim Christian. “Because we have a lot of young players and we have a team that is going to try and develop some confidence. All those games are going to be pivotal for us to prepare ourselves to play in the league we play in.”

    Last year, that league wasn’t friendly to the Frogs.

    Luckily for TCU, the conference race is open this year behind BYU. The Mountain West coaches selected the Cougars to win the conference with 215 total points. Behind them are San Diego State (166), UNLV (161), Utah (143) and New Mexico (141).

    TCU was selected to finish seventh in the conference, the same place it ended last year.

    This season will provide a new set of challenges for Christian in his second season. How the team responds to the loss of center Kevin Langford and guard Jason Ebie will determine whether this team can be successful moving forward, while trying to get the most of forward Zvonko Buljan and guard Edvinas Ruzgas’ final season.

    Horned Frog basketball is at a crossroads, and which path it takes won’t be decided until the first tip against Mid-America Christian University.

    “I don’t have a master plan,” Christian said. “My master plan is to keep building our program to be successful and get the right kind of kids in it. In that regard, we’re doing that … I think that we’re on the right track on moving towards the goals that we’ve developed for ourselves.”

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