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Kansas Jayhawks Basketball vs Texas Tech Red Raiders Preview

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NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech rolls into Lawrence fresh off their biggest win of the season, a one point OT winner over West Virginia. Even with that win, though, this is the third straight opponent where we don’t have a great idea of how good they are because they haven’t played anyone. Tech is just 2-1 against KenPom top 100 opponents, and 1-1 against top 50 opponents, with those two coming in the last two games. Their noncon strength of schedule ranked 351st in the nation, so again, even with the WVU win it is tough to know just how good they are.

Offensively, I was very impressed by how they handled the WVU press. Tech turned it over on fewer than 19 percent of their possessions, and did it mostly by just spreading everyone out and not letting WVU get into any situations where they could trap (something KU will be taking note of I assume).

For the season, Texas Tech is shooting 56 percent on twos, though they have had much less luck in Big 12 play. They’re also shooting roughly 40 percent from three as a team, but don’t take a ton of them so who knows. They also do a really good job taking care of the ball, turning it over on just 16 percent of their possessions. It’s tough to know for sure, but I don’t see Kansas killing them on that side of the ball.

The inverse though...... Tech plays right into Kansas’s hands defensively. The Red Raiders have done a good job at 2-point defense thus far this season (but again much worse in Big 12 play), but they allow teams to shoot 45 percent of their shots from three, which is one of the worst marks in the country. Some of that could be not caring whether the awful teams they played in the nonconference season got open 3-pointers, but Kansas should be able to take quite a few of them.

Tech has mostly hung its hat on defensive rebounding, allowing teams to grab just 20.5 percent of their misses, which at this time is the best mark in the country. Kansas has done a good job on the offensive glass this year, but even if they don’t, they should get enough open threes for it not to matter.

One final note: Tech is incredibly slow. They rank 337th in adjusted tempo, which is pretty smart. Kansas (and most teams Tech will play) will have more talent than Texas Tech, so it makes sense to slow the pace down and reduce the number of possessions as much as possible. I also think (and I probably shouldn’t speculate but don’t want to dig into the numbers before we have a season long sample) Kansas performs better on both ends of the floor when the pace is quicker.

Lastly, the raw point total Kansas gives up Saturday should be fairly low, but remember that doesn’t mean the defense will be improved because of the fewer number of possessions.

Players To Watch

Zach Smith, junior forward

He’s easily my favorite non KU player in the Big 12. Instead of explaining why via words, look at these dunks.

Anthony Livingston, senior forward

The Arkansas State transfer made the game winner against West Virginia, and has been an inside/outside dynamo all season. He is shooting 45 percent from three and 48 percent inside the arc, and he can handle and pass the ball a little bit as well. He’s not a very good rebounder for 6-8, but he’s going to be a tough assignment.

Keenan Evans, junior guard

Evans is shooting 46 percent from deep, 50 percent on twos, and has a very good assist/turnover percentage ratio of 23.5/15.5. I was a little pessimistic on his defending (although I have watched about 10 minutes of Tech basketball this year so I could be very wrong), but offensively he’s going to be a tough matchup for the KU backcourt.

Things to Watch For

  1. Defense - Let’s be honest, it has been awful lately. More on this in a longer post next week, but Kansas needs to shore up its pick and roll and perimeter defense in a major way.
  2. 3-point shooting - Kansas will probably get quite a few open looks, and it would behoove them to cash in as much as possible. Tech, meanwhile, probably won’t shoot that many, but things could get dicey if they do given the shooters they have.
  3. Defense - It’s worth mentioning again. Freaking guard someone guys.

The Pick

Although the first two Big 12 games haven’t exactly filled me with confidence, Tech should give up a lot of threes to Kansas, they don’t really have anyone who can guard Lucas and Bragg, and also don’t really have anyone who can really dominate inside against the KU defense. Assuming the pick and roll coverage isn’t horrendous, I think Kansas will get its first comfortable win of the Big 12 season, 79-64.