Schollmaier Arena is sold out for the Big 12 basketball opener between TCU and Oklahoma, a Top 12 matchup pitting an unbeaten team against a once-beaten team with a national player of the year candidate.
That’s what Jamie Dixon had in mind when he returned to coach at his alma mater.
“I didn’t come here to hang out with my college buddies,” he said Thursday before practice.
Oklahoma (10-1) comes to Fort Worth for Saturday’s 1 p.m. tip ranked 12th in the country with freshman guard Trae Young leading the nation in scoring and assists.
No. 10 TCU (12-0), with its highest AP Top 25 ranking in school history, carries a school-record 17-game winning streak powered by the second-best shooting in the country.
“It’s Oklahoma, it’s the first league game, it’s two ranked teams,” Dixon said. “It’s obviously a historical game. I think we’re going to hear this a lot — biggest game in TCU history. The atmosphere will be unlike probably any game we’ve ever had here. But we’re probably going to have a few more of these in conference play, just based on the rankings.”
Indeed, TCU follows the Oklahoma game with a visit to No. 18 Baylor on Tuesday then another home game Jan. 6 against No. 11 Kansas.
But first, the Horned Frogs must survive Oklahoma’s Young, averaging 28.7 points and 10.4 assists against a schedule that includes Arkansas, Oregon, USC and Wichita State. He’s scored 20-plus points in 10 consecutive games, been over 30 four times and put in 43 against Oregon on Nov. 26 at a tournament in Portland.
Last week, he tied the NCAA record with 22 assists in a victory against Northwestern State.
The 6-foot-2 guard’s passing, 3-point range and 41.1 percentage from long distance spark comparisons to former Davidson All-American and two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry.
“I remember Steph Curry when he was a freshman, and he wasn’t doing it to this level,” Dixon said. “They were two different players. This kid was a top-20 guy in the country in high school. I picked Oklahoma as being the team making the biggest jump this year. I knew he was the piece they were missing. I can’t say I predicted 28 and 10, but I knew he was going to be a big part of their jump.”
The Frogs’ defensive strategy will be less about limiting Young’s shots as much as contesting them.
“The number of plays he’s involved in with the ball, it’s the highest in the country,” Dixon said. “They run plays, and if they don’t get a shot off, they get it right back to him. So he’s going to get shots, he’s going to get touches. You want to try to keep his percentages down and get deflections on his passes.”
Junior guard Christian James adds 13.3 points, and freshman forward Brady Manek is at 11.3 points for OU. Both are also 40-percent 3-point shooters.
OU has made 124 3-pointers on 38.8 percent shooting and leads the nation in scoring at 95.1 points per game.
TCU has made 99 3-pointers on 42.1 percent shooting. The Frogs’ 52.0 percent overall shooting is second in the country and their 19.7 assists per game ranks fifth.
“Manek’s been a very interesting addition,” Dixon said. “He’s good, but the other guys are all returning guys. The point guard’s the key. Young has made everybody else better.”
No. 10 TCU vs. No. 12 Oklahoma
1 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2