Texas Tech has played the giants of the league mostly tough this year, beating West Virginia in overtime, losing by just four at Baylor, and playing Kansas tough through most of the game. But the Red Raiders sit just 4-7 in the league and are getting outscored by about 7 points per 100 possessions in Big 12 play, which is currently the worst mark in league play.
Offense has been a bit of a struggle in most areas, with the Red Raiders shooting 35 percent from deep and just 47.7 percent on twos. They do, curiously, shoot 73 percent from the line, good for 3rd in the league. They are best at not turning the ball over, at 17.3 percent of possessions, but even while getting to attempt a shot on more possessions than nearly everyone in the league, Tech still ranks 8th in offense, scoring just 1.03 points per possession. That should tell you how tough it is for them to score. Of course, it is worth noting they take the third most threes in the league, so with recent history as my guide I am going to assume they shoot 20-30 tomorrow.
Defensively the Red Raiders are almost exactly like their offense. They force quite a few turnovers (21 percent of possessions), but allow more threes than any team in the league (and teams shoot 38 percent from deep against them for what it’s worth), they allow teams to shoot 51ish percent on twos, and they send teams to the line at will. Kansas might help them out by struggling at the line a bit, and they might give them a few turnovers, but with how bad Tech is on the glass (Kansas rebounded 45 percent of its misses in the first meeting, as well as shooting 53 percent on twos and 50 percent on threes) any possession where Kansas can even attempt a shot is likely to be a good one.
Players to Watch
Zach Smith, junior forward
Still my favorite non KU player in the league (though Vlad Brodziansky is closing fast), Smith has added a few more highlight reel dunks to his compilation this year, and is shooting 56 percent inside the arc and 42 percent outside of it. As a 6-8 wing who can shoot a bit and jump out of the gym, I think an NBA team is going to give him a long look when he is done at Tech.
Keenan Evans, junior guard
Evans has just a 14.4 percent turnover rate, and even though his assist rate is pretty low as well I think that’s more about his teammates than him. Evans shoots 44 percent on threes and 51 percent on twos and will be a tough cover all game long. Frank Mason doesn’t figure to get a ton of rest, yet again.
Anthony Livingston, senior forward
He looks 40, flops like he’s 80, but has the game of a 20 year old. Livingston is shooting 42.5 percent from deep this year and while he is only shooting 45 percent on twos, he is the guy who is usually tasked with taking the tough shots for the Red Raiders.
Things to Watch For
- Turnovers - As I mentioned, Tech’s best weapon on defense is turning teams over. If Kansas can keep it to 17ish percent of possessions, I don’t really see a way Tech can win this one.
- Outside shooting - It has to always be mentioned when you have a team that hoists as many as Tech does (comparatively speaking). They took almost half their shots from 3 in Allen Fieldhouse, and shot 39 percent on them, and they’ll need to do it again to have a chance.
- Wing play - KU’s wings did not stop Zach Smith much at all, and Jackson had a good but not great game on the other end. With how Jackson has come along lately, the offense should be fine but Kansas can’t afford off ball lapses.
Even though I picked Tech 9th in the preseason, I am surprised after watching their first couple Big 12 games that they have been so bad so far in Big 12 play. Kansas has had its struggles in Lubbock in the past, but I don’t really see that happening in this one, even if Tech should be up for it and Kansas will be looking ahead to West Virginia and Baylor next week. I’ll take the Jayhawks 79-72.