The TCU Horned Frogs have a seemingly easy matchup with the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, but TCU does not shoot the nearly well enough to be favored by this much so take the points.
The home team from the major conference looks like an overlay Thursday night when the Southern Utah Thunderbirds (1-4, 0-2 away) out of the Big Sky Conference pay a visit to the TCU Horned Frogs (5-2, 4-1 home) out of the Big 12 at Daniel Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, TX at 8:00 ET.
The point spread at 5 Dimes has Southern Utah as a double-digit underdog for this contest with a current line of +10 at odds of -109.
TCU is entering its inaugural season in the Big 12 with a new head coach in Trent Johnson, formerly the head man at LSU. Johnson inherited a team that finished 18-15 overall last season and 7-7 in conference play in its final season in the Mountain West Conference.
However, the Horned Frogs lost their top two scorers from last year in J.R. Cadot and Hank Thorns and they did not return one single double-digit scorer. This is also a very young team with its top five contributors through the first seven games all being underclassmen.
Despite that youth, the Horned Frogs are off to a nice start record-wise, although they have not really beaten much and have yet to play a true road game. Only one of the first seven games came against a team in the Pomeroy Top 100, and that was one of the TCU losses vs. 76th ranked Northwestern on a neutral court. The other loss came here at home to 186th ranked SMU, which is not a good omen.
The easy schedule and home cooking has helped disguise the fact that TCU is not a good shooting team this season with Cadot and Thorns moving on. The Horned Frogs rank 283rd in the country in offensive efficiency and they are ranked 264th in effective field goal percentage at a mere 44.6 percent, a figure brought down by their atrocious 24.6 percent three-point shooting.
On top of those shooting difficulties, the team’s youth has also led to loose play resulting in the Horned Frogs turning the ball over 24.0 of the time, putting them 283rd in turnover percentage. Looking at their five wins, four of them were by seven points or less and the only big win came vs. a Division II team in Centenary. In short, it is virtually impossible to give double-digits with this team right now vs. any Division I team with any level of confidence.
Now Southern Utah is hardly a juggernaut by any stretch and the Thunderbirds are also changing conferences, moving to the Big Sky from the Summit League, where they upset Oakland in the Summit League Tournament last season before falling to South Dakota State.
The team returned two senior starters in leading scorer and rebounder from last season Jackson Stevenett and stat sheet filler Damon Heuir, who averaged 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists a year ago. Considering how bad the TCU offense has been, those two senior leaders could be all that Southern Utah needs to hang within single-digits in this game, although another senior in Julian Scott has also chipped in with 9.2 points per game through the early going.
That experience edge the Thunderbirds have over the Horned Frogs is yet another reason to like Southern Utah getting this many points on Thursday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Southern Utah +10 (-109)