Looking ahead: TCU Horned Frogs

It's never too early to start looking ahead to next season. Over the coming weeks, we will examine what comes next for each team in the Power 5 conferences and also those outside the Power 5 who could make noise on the national stage. Today: the TCU Horned Frogs

Is there any job among Power 5 conferences tougher than TCU basketball? The Northwestern Wildcats? The Washington State Cougars, maybe? The argument may just be splitting hairs. Truth is, the Horned Frogs compare to all the other programs trying to get over the proverbial hump that have never established any real traction to build a consistent program.

Trent Johnson is trying his best to change that. And they showed some progress last season. The Horned Frogs completed their nonconference schedule undefeated and even made a cameo in The Associated Press Top 25 poll on Dec. 22. Their ranking only lasted for one week, but it was the first time the program had made it this century. Think about that for a second, TCU was last ranked in January of 1999. Its last NCAA tournament appearance came in 1998. This is the kind of history, or lack thereof, that Johnson is trying to combat.

TCU is equipping him with some of the resources to do it. Basketball facilities had been an afterthought at the school, but now they should be an asset. Last season the Horned Frogs played their home games at a high school arena about 15 minutes from campus while $45 million renovations began on Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, their home arena of 53 years. Johnson, who is entering his fourth season at the helm, hopes a transformation can take place on the court as well. At best, the new digs can help motivate the fanbase like the Moody Coliseum renovations helped the SMU Mustangs. At the least, the new confines will show a tangible commitment to basketball that could help Johnson bring in recruits.

The Horned Frogs had their first winning season under Trent Johnson last season and, with an upgraded nonconference schedule, hope to take the next step in 2015-16. They did not receive an invite to the NIT and declined to compete in the CBI postseason. Part of the reason they didn't get more respect for going undefeated in nonconference play last season was due to the quality of their opponents. That won't be a question this season with games against Big Ten favorite Maryland and rival SMU on the schedule.

What the immediate future holds:

TCU's strength last season was in its defense, where it held opponents to 44.1 effective field goal percentage according to Ken Pomeroy. That ranked 13th nationally and kept them in games like overtime losses to Baylor and West Virginia. The Frogs also dropped three games to Kansas by 3, 5 and 9 points. If Johnson can continue to make that a staple of the program they'll have a shot at moving up in the Big 12 standings.

But they'll also need scorers. TCU lost three of its top four scorers from last season led by point guard Kyan Anderson. Kenrich Williams, a 6-foot-7 junior forward, is the leading returning scorer on the team with an 8.6-point average. Players like Chris Washburn and Chauncey Collins will now be asked to take on bigger roles offensively. Incoming recruits Malique Trent, a 6-2 junior college transfer, and Lyrik Shreiner, a 6-4 shooting guard, should help improve the Horned Frogs from the perimeter where they lacked a lights out 3-point shooter.

Maybe outside scoring can open things up for Karviar Shepherd again. The 6-10 center was one of the prized recruits Johnson brought in two years ago. But he seemed to regress offensively last season, managing just 6.1 points per game as a sophomore. Shepherd, named one of three captains with Washburn and Williams, still has the potential to be the do-it-all big man TCU needs. He can alter shots defensively and rebound, but the Horned Frogs need him to be more of a scoring threat in the post.

As a team, TCU will also have to improve its free throw shooting after a historically bad year. Collins is the only player returning who shot more than 70 percent from the stripe. Last season the Horned Frogs were close to ranking dead last in Division I in team free throw percentage at 61.5 percent. And something as simple as free throws could have been the difference between winning one of those overtime games and getting a valuable NIT bid for a program that's trying to build.