To make its dream of an NIT championship a reality, TCU must find a way to overcome college basketball’s tallest challenge. Literally.
The Horned Frogs (22-15) face Central Florida (24-11) in Tuesday’s semifinal matchup at Madison Square Garden in New York (8:30 p.m., ESPN). The Knights’ defense is anchored by Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6 sophomore who is the tallest player in major-college basketball and the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year.
Fall has averaged 11.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game this season. He stands seven inches taller than TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky, a 6-11 junior who leads the team in scoring (13.8 avg.) and blocked shots (2.2 avg.).
“I’m trying not to let that affect me, but 7-6 is kind of tall. This guy is six inches taller than the tallest guy I’ve ever played before,” said TCU point guard Alex Robinson, the team’s primary penetrator from the perimeter. “You can shoot floaters and still set up other guys. Make some pull-ups in the lane. I can’t let somebody like that affect the way I play.”
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Although he smiled when he mentioned it, TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon raised the possibility of having defenders hold raised broomsticks during practices to simulate Fall’s incredible wingspan.
“Obviously, he changes the game inside defensively,” Dixon said. “But then, there’s some other things that you hope that we can take advantage of in transition or bring him out on the perimeter to guard some ball screens or create some matchups more to our liking. With strengths come some weaknesses and as we go, we look at those and we attack those.”
Brodziansky and Karviar Shepherd, also 6-11, are TCU’s tallest players. Brodsiansky, one of the team’s top shooters from 3-point range (37.9 pct.), has the potential to force Fall to guard him on the perimeter in man-to-man defensive matchups. But he readily acknowledges he’s never given away seven inches in a defensive matchup against another college player.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Brodziansky said. “We can stretch the floor. We’ve got good players. Hopefully, we can use some of those things to our advantage.”