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The TCU basketball player who can make a difference

AmricNot that any of you - maybe less than that - are aware but the local men's basketball team at TCU is winning. In Trent Johnson's second season, his team is 9-3 as it begins its second season in the Big 12.

(granted, this record includes a loss to something called Longwood) ... included are road wins at Washington State and Mississippi State.

After winning two games in the Big 12 last season - massive upsets against Kansas and Oklahoma - Johnson has a team that maybe can win seven conference games. Maybe. That's if everything goes right, up to and including the continued good health and steady improvement from freshmen Brandon Parrish and Karviar Shepherd. It would be nice if point guard Kyan Anderson could play 53 minutes a night, too.

No player on this roster can make a bigger difference than Amric Fields. He suffered a torn ACL that wiped out all of last season, and then broke his hand earlier this season. Fields is back and will play on Saturday when TCU hosts West Virginia in the Big 12 opener.

He is averaging 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds. Combining height, skill and experience, he is TCU's best player. He is 6-foot-9, 220 pounds and skilled enough to play overseas, at least.

The question he must answer is can he remain healthy.

"I don't see him being tentative," Johnson said.

8198601The other question is how will he react when he takes a punch to the face (not literally)? The knock on Fields is that he can be soft, and easily taken out of his game when the other team pushes him around.

"The jury is still out on that in that regard," Johnson said. "That's what I am curious to see. West Virginia is going to be physical. His spirits are good. But competition is competition - how is a guy going to play who knows he's going to get popped and then gets popped? I'd be disappointed if he doesn't play well."

The second season into the Trent Johnson era merely needs to show improvement, which it has. The team was 11-21 last season, and 2-16 in conference.

This team is not deep and is leaning on a lot of quality freshmen, but they are freshmen. There is no Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle here.

How well Amric Fields plays could ultimately determine how much progress TCU enjoys in Johnson's second season.

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pony up

Whatever TCU does for its basketball is pointless. We need to tear a page from SMU and buy some talent. Until that happens; who cares.

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