The gauntlet that is known as the Big 12 conference play rages on as the hobbled TCU Horned Frogs hit the road to battle it out against the Kansas State Wildcats. Down their best player with an injury to Mike Miles Jr, TCU has limped in their last two games without him. Treading water by going 1-1, TCU has shifted their identity to a more overall team centric scoring approach. KSU has hit a rocky road in their past few games as well, currently in the midst of a losing streak. Who will bounce back in a crucial conference matchup?
TCU Vs. Kansas State Odds
Oddsmakers initially leaned Kansas State in a tight one, opening the Wildcats as a -2.5 favorite on their own home court. Bettors have also aligned with oddsmakers, backing Kansas State up to -4.5 as of writing. Not only is TCU without Miles Jr, but they are potentially without key big man Eddie Lampkin Jr who is listed as Questionable. The line movement indicates Lampkin may be opting out of this contest, a crucial loss for the depth of the Horned Frogs interior presence.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a blistering pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 146. Bettors were quick to back the over since the initial release of the total, taking it up to as high as 149. Without Lampkin, TCU’s interior defense opens up a little for cleaner looks at the rim for the Wildcats. They have had to rely on their defensive play to stay competitive without their leading scorer in Mile Jr, now taking a loss on both ends.
TCU Vs. Kansas State Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Pass, monitor TCU injuries
Update: Lampkin will take the court per his own tweet on Twitter. This is still a pass for now as Lampkin will be on restricted minutes
With that said, this is a pass for me as TCU is suffering too many losses that affects both ends of the court for my liking. I struggle to back Kansas State as well since the spread has already crossed the key number of -4, as well as their recent level of play showing that they are regressing hard back towards their expected level of play. With so much variance going on for both units as of late, I can not make a certain decision pregame.
That doesn’t mean a live play is off the table as I will monitor TCU’s depth as they have been impressive since the injury to Miles Jr. They play ten players meaningful minutes while 17 players in total have touched the floor one way or another. They also retain two of their top three scorers in Emanuel Miller and Damion Baugh who combine for 26 points per game for the Horned Frogs offense.
Miller plays at forward with a knack for the interior as he averages 6.4 rebounds per game, mimicking the lost production of injured Lampkin who hauled in 6.5 himself. Miller’s rebounding production will be critical as the Horned Frogs excel at limiting second chance points off the backs of their elite defensive play. This is where the Horned Frogs sorely miss Lampkin, losing a key interior presence.
Without Lampkin to man the middle, TCU may ramp up their Havoc style of play as they are one of the best at generating turnovers. They rank top-35 in both blocks and steals per game, turning their defense into offense for easy scoring opportunities. Baugh will most likely pick up KSU’s Markquis Nowell who is their key facilitator, making his Havoc abilities key to slowing down their offense.
TCU Vs. Kansas State Key Matchups
Who on TCU will contain Keyontae Johnson on the Wildcats?
Keyontae Johnson vs TCU interior defense
Keyontae Johnson exploded onto the scene for the Wildcats since his arrival and has been the key reason for their surprise success at this point of the season. While the team as a whole has slightly regressed in their last few outings, Johnson has continued his elite level of play by averaging 18.1 points per game and 7.7 rebounds.
He will be the main focal point on offense once again as he has a potential advantage in the interior. Especially if Nowell’s facilitating abilities are negated by Baugh’s elite on-ball defense, forcing Johnson to find more one-on-one opportunities.
Should TCU want to slow down Johnson, then they will have to force him to cough up the ball when he makes his drives to the rim. This can be achieved by sending a help defender at his blind side, or hawking the ball when he puts it on the floor. Johnson currently averages three turnovers per game.
With too much variance going on for both teams heading into this matchup, this is a pass for me as I will want to see this play out before a potential second half play.