Big 12 Previews

TCU vs. Arizona NCAA Basketball Preview and Prediction

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern State at Texas Christian

Here is everything you need to know about the TCU Horned Frogs and the Arizona Wildcats in our TCU vs. Arizona NCAA Tournament men’s basketball preview.

NCAA Tournament

South Region – Second Round

No. 9 TCU (21-12) vs. No. 1 Arizona (32-3), 8:40 p.m. CT, Sunday, TBS, San Diego, Calif.

How They Got Here: TCU earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona won the Pac-12 Tournament championship.

NCAA Tournament Results: TCU: def. Seton Hall, 69-42 (first round); Arizona: def. Wright State, 87-70 (first round).

Winner gets: A trip to the Sweet 16 next week in San Antonio.

 

Projected starting lineups

TCU: G Mike Miles, G Damion Baugh, G Chuck O’Bannon, F Emanuel Miller, C Eddie Lampkin.

Arizona: F Azuolas Tubelis, C Christian Koloko, G Bennedict Mathurin, G Dalen Terry, G Justin Kier.

Players to watch

TCU G Mike Miles: The sophomore, who made the Heartland College Sports All-Big 12 Second Team after averaging 15.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and dishing out 107 assists entering the NCAA Tournament, had another fine game in the NCAA Tournament opener against Seton Hall. Miles had 21 points, four rebounds and two assists in just 28 minutes. It was what he without the ball — his defense, his pick-setting and his running of the team — that stood out, too. It’s the seventh time he’s scored at least 20 points in a game this season, and the growth of his game is one of the best things about TCU this season. Miles isn’t interested in a valedictory for a fine season to this point. He’s interested in helping the Horned Frogs upset the Wildcats.  

Arizona G Bennedict Mathurin: The consensus Second-Team All-American is at the heart of Arizona’s incredible rise out west. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Mathurin was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 tournament. He was averaging 17.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game entering Friday’s opener with Wright State. The finalist for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award had 18 points and five rebounds against Wright State, and he showed how dangerous he is from the 3-point line with four made baskets from distance. He’s the focal point of the defensive game plan for TCU.

 

Key storylines

TCU: Head coach Jamie Dixon can grouse all he wants about how ‘old’ he is when people ask him about 1987, but the limit did not exist when it came to the pride he felt after the Horned Frogs beat the Pirates on Friday night. The TCU alum HAD led the Horned Frogs to their last NCAA Tournament win back in 1987. But, after Friday’s win over Seton Hall, he can remove that from his bio. The Horned Frogs showed off their balance in that game, with both Damion Baugh and Emanuel Miller hitting double figures and TCU’s revamped defense making the Pirates darned near impotent from the field. When TCU has balance on offense and its defense clicks, they’re hard to deal with. And, while Miles grabs the headlines, the Horned Frogs can go eight or nine deep and not lose much. The rise of center Eddie Lampkin Jr. has been one of the big X-factors for the Horned Frogs. With recent wins over Kansas, Texas and Texas Tech, a No. 1 seed doesn’t intimidate them.

Arizona: First-year head coach Tommy Lloyd has executed one of the best seasons by any team in the country. The departure of Sean Miller was necessary for the program to shed the baggage of the FBI college basketball investigation. Lloyd was a loyal Gonzaga assistant for 22 seasons, learning at the right hand of Mark Few on how to run and build a program. Now, Lloyd wasn’t taking over a bad program. The Wildcats won 17 games last year. But who expected this in Year 1? A Pac-12 regular-season title and Tournament title, the rise of Mathurin as a player of the year candidate and Christian Koloko as a defensive player of the year candidate? The Wildcats are a trendy pick to win it all, and it’s not hard to see why. Along with Mathurin, Koloko (12.2 points), Azuolas Tubelis (14.5) and Kerr Krissa (10.1) average double figures. They also outscore teams by an average of 17 points.

 

Fun Fact

While TCU has never been to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament’s modern era, the Horned Frogs did make it in 1968 when the field was just 23 teams. The Wildcats last reached the Sweet 16 in 2017.

Prediction

Arizona 76, TCU 66. Keep this in mind — the Wildcats have a negative turnover ratio, but not by much. Their KenPom defensive rating is 20. TCU has played a Top 10 schedule this season. Expect it to be close, and then for Mathurin to come up clutch down the stretch.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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