If I spent time worrying about such things, I probably would have devoted a lot of time this week to worrying about whether or not Kansas was looking past its game this weekend to the coronation that could occur after. Fortunately, this group has seemed as focused as any team in the country over the last month, and fortunately Texas Tech is on a 5 game winning streak, so Kansas knows it can't do any sort of looking ahead.
It is a testament both to Tech's turnaround and how poorly they started the conference season that even at a game over .500 in league play Tech is still being outscored in Big 12 play, giving up 1.095 points per possession while scoring just 1.081 points per trip. While I think the perception of Tech is that they are a tough nosed, defense first team, the results say otherwise, as the Red Raiders currently rank 8th in the league defensively and have let 5 of its previous 6 opponents score more than a point possession (the lone exception, somehow, being Oklahoma). Tech gives up quite a few threes and allows opponents to shoot well from behind the arc, but the best news for Kansas is that they are letting teams shoot nearly 50 percent from two in Big 12 play. Couple that with their general lack of size down low and Perry Ellis should have a nice game in his 2nd to last home game.
Offensively, Texas Tech scores by doing 3 things: not turning the ball over (just 16.7 percent of its possessions, 3rd in the league), getting to the line (43.2 free throw rate, 2nd in the league) and converting at the line (76.2 percent, 1st in the league). The vaunted Allen Fieldhouse refs haven't been in effect much this season, but even a little home court boost will go a long way to neutralizing Tech's offense. Tech shoots just under 47 percent from two, and while they do shoot 37 percent from 3, the Red Raiders don't take many of them, so they'll have to get a lot of help from their friend variance in order to score enough to win Saturday.
Players to Watch
Zach Smith has turned into my favorite player in the Big 12. He is 6th in the Big 12 in block percentage and 4th in getting to the free throw line. He isn't shooting the ball terribly well but he's probably the most athletic player in the conference and is guaranteed to have at least one awesome dunk tomorrow.
Aaron Ross has a chance at sneaking into the 1st team All Big 12 picture. He has a pretty high usage rate (8th in the league) and couples that with a 119.6 offensive rating. Ross leads the league in free throw shooting, is shooting 52.4 percent on twos, and 43 percent from three.
Devaugntah Williams has struggled this year in conference play, shooting just 36 percent from two and 26.7 percent from three, but he'll probably take a lot of shots and if he gets hot tomorrow he'll add another dimension to the Tech attack. Williams also deserves special commendation for what he did last year for Tech and this year providing leadership for a group of guys that looks like they'll make the NCAA tournament.
I don't see Kansas losing at Allen Fieldhouse against a team who has been outscored in league play, and I definitely don't see them doing it when they have a chance to finish off one of the more impressive Big 12 seasons in recent memory. Add in the fact that Tech can't really score inside, needs to get to the line, and isn't very good defensively and I think the Jayhawks will have a (relatively) easy win. Nerves might get them early, but I think they'll pull away and get a 83-68 win.