Texas Tech is no doubt the surprise of the Big 12, and has climbed all the way up to 7th in KenPom after a beatdown of Baylor on Saturday (though it should be mentioned Baylor was without Jo Lual Acuil). I think it’s fair to say, though, that KenPom is overrating Tech a little bit due to the Raiders beating the hell out of bad teams. KenPom has consistently struggled with how to handle giant beatdowns of bad teams, and Tech has played more games against sub-300 teams (4) than top 50 teams (3).
The offense, currently ranked 32nd nationally, is probably legit. The Red Raiders finished 7th in the league in offense last year, but with virtually everyone back, things were bound to improve on that end. Tech is only taking about a third of its shots from three, a sort of throw back offense that Bill Self would love, but they have done a fairly good job at taking the ball to the rim, taking around 40 percent of their shots at there.
Tech could give Kansas some problems on the glass, given that they rank 36th in offensive rebounding, but grabbed just 34 percent of their misses in Allen Fieldhouse last year (granted it was 40 percent in Lubbock).
The big key for Tech this year, though, has been its defense. They currently rank 4th in KenPom, and also rank 4th in effective field goal percentage allowed and turnover percentage forced. Some of it is certainly due to opponent, and the good news for Kansas is Tech hasn’t faced a team with a point guard as good as Devonte Graham yet, or a team with a big man as good as Udoka Azubuike yet, and now they have to face both.
The other good news is Tech opponents have shot under 30 percent from three this year, but have taken 41.5 percent of their attempts from deep. If Tech allows that many threes against the Jayhawks, it’s over. It’s also worth noting Tech is 224th nationally at allowing opponents shots at the rim (despite the lack of competition) but 7th nationally in FG% allowed at the rim. Certainly that could be real, but I think we are due for some regression there as we get into Big 12 play.
Players to Watch
Zach Smith, 6-8 senior forward
My favorite non Jayhawk in the league, Smith will likely have a thunderous dunk or two. That’s about where his effectiveness has ended this year, though, as he hasn’t passed well or contributed on the glass. You’d certainly expect that to change going forward, however.
Keenan Evans, 6-3 senior guard
It speaks to how good the Big 12 is that Evans isn’t really brought up as a great guard despite sporting a nifty 125 offensive rating, an assist rate that is 13 percent higher than his turnover rate, and a 60 percent effective field goal percentage. He probably won’t outplay Devonte Graham, but it will probably be closer than people give it credit for.
Norense Odiase, 6-9 junior forward
Odiase hasn’t gotten a ton of playing time this year due to his penchant for committing fouls (6.6 per 40 minutes) and turning the ball over, but he’s Tech’s best rebounder and is the only real size off the bench. He will likely wreak some havoc on the glass if he gets the chance.
Keys to the Game
- Threes - Again, Tech is going to give up a lot. Despite their gaudy 2-point defense, I think Kansas will have some more success in there than people think, but if they don’t those 3s are going to come in handy.
- PG play - Tech has won a lot of games by virtue of their point guard being the best player on the floor. That is almost guaranteed to not happen tonight, so we’ll see how they adjust.
- Turnovers - Tech has built a lot of its defense on forcing turnovers, over a fourth of opponent possessions. Kansas has mostly taken care of the ball so far this year, and if that continues it will be tough for Tech to force enough missed shots to pull off the upset.
In famous last words that never come back to bite anyone, I don’t buy Tech’s record or KenPom rank. I think they have inflated their turnovers forced and FG% allowed based on playing some horrible opponents, and got to play Baylor without its best player. Kansas matches up really well with Tech, and I think that will come to fruition tonight. Give me Kansas 83-70.