IOWA (5-0) VS. TCU (4-1)

DATE: November 26, 2022
TIME: 6:00 PM CT
LOCATION: Northwest Florida State College Arena, Niceville, FL
Television: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING: CBS Sports Online
LINE: Iowa -6.5
KENPOM: Iowa -6 (Iowa 70% winning probability)

Iowa meets TCU in the Emerald Coast Classic finals Saturday night, with a tip from Niceville at 6:00 p.m. And yes, announcers Brad Johansen and Steve Lappas will be back on the phone for CBS Sports Network. Bring a stopwatch, a shot clock instruction manual, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson to explain how time works.

I was going to make a scathing comment about how Iowa and TCU were close to joining the legendary winners of the Emerald Coast Classic, but this tournament actually has a legitimate history. They’ve been playing this tournament since 2014 — with a pandemic break in 2020 — and every champion eventually made it to the NCAA tournament. It may be a match at a JUCO gym in the Florida Panhandle, but the finale of the Emerald Coast Classic is a harbinger of what’s to come.

TCU is still hard to read after five games. They have played five teams, but all were ranked below Kenpom 200 at the time of the game. They lost a home game to Northwestern State by a point — longtime Iowa fans know how that can happen — and didn’t unceremoniously deal with Cal winless last night, so there’s certainly some signs of concern.

It’s Jamie Dixon’s seventh season in Fort Worth. The longtime Pitt coach couldn’t build on the continued success he’s had with the Panthers, but TCU made it into the field of the NCAA tournament last year, taking Arizona to overtime in the second round before bowing out.

TCU has most of that team’s key components back but is grappling with a series of injuries. Junior guard Mike Miles (6’2″, 195) missed two games with a bone contusion and returned against Cal last night to pick up 23 points. Last year’s backcourt teammate Damion Baugh is serving ​​an NCAA perpetual Suspension for signing an unauthorized agent during the NBA draft process last spring, so Dixon reached out to Shahada Wells (6’0″, 183), who barely played last year but turned 38 two years ago percent of three shot at UT-Arlington. Junior guard Rondel Walker (6’5″, 180) also has three starts and averages 22 minutes per game but has acted purely as a perimeter shooter.

TCU’s front line is hampered by a recent back injury to Emanuel Miller (6’7″, 215). The senior was averaging more than 13 points per game before sitting out last night; that seems unlikely given the quick turnaround we see him tonight. You have plenty of other options, however. Senior forward Chuck O’Bannon (6’6″, 215) is the only player to start all five games for TCU this season, and he’s essentially the Second firing guard. O’Bannon leads TCU by a wide margin on three-point attempts, but shoots just 21% from behind the arc. He was also a strong full-back, pulling more than 5 fouls per game, although his 68% free-throw rate leaves something to be desired. Sophomore JaKobe Coles (6’7″, 215) and junior Micah Peavy (6’7″, 215, see a theme here) take turns working with O’Bannon and Miller on the front seats. Both are willing if not particularly good perimeter shooters and marginally effective, but otherwise there’s not much to mention in their profiles.

In the middle, Dixon turns second Eddie Lampkin (6’11”, 263) and junior Xavier Cork (6’9″, 230). A solid rebounder and shot blocker, Lampkin has the size to cause problems down the lane but doesn’t score many points. Cork basically has no statistical profile at all.

There’s just not that much to consider here. TCU certainly has size and length up front, but it’s not particularly productive. They seem perimeter-oriented on offense, but they’re shooting a terrible 24% from three. Basically, they’re clogging up the defensive lane with all that length, resulting in some decent block rates and long possessions for the opposition, but they also still have to play against a team that’s above 165th in offensive pace. Iowa is ninth. This is an experienced and deep team, but it’s unclear how that translates to the court, and Iowa generally isn’t the circumstance you’ll have time to figure that out.