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Texas Tech Preview

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

Kansas returns to the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse to take on Texas Tech in the “Neither of These Teams can Score Bowl.” Kansas currently sits at 5th in the league in offense with the Red Raiders all the way down in 8th, and with how good Tech has been on the defensive end of the floor, this game should be one of the uglier ones this season.

Texas Tech has had one of the more jump shot heavy teams, not just in the Big 12 but the entire country, over the course of Chris Beard’s tenure. However, this season they are taking roughly 37 percent of their attempts at the rim via Hoop-Math, good for 143rd nationally. They’re also 29th in scoring at the rim, so needless to say the Jayhawks could stand to keep Texas Tech out on the perimeter.

Tech has been quite a bit worse from three in Big 12 play (30.3 percent to 34.7 percent), but that is obviously small sample size noise. (The other guess I suppose would be that Tech is shooting quite a few more threes in Big 12 play, so they are likely taking more bad shots than they did in the nonconference.) In the end, though, if Kansas loses this one I don’t think it will be due to a Texas Tech offensive show; the Red Raiders have scored more than one point per possession just 11 times this season, and only twice in Big 12 play.

On the other hand, Tech has been one of the best defensive teams in the country. I do believe there are ways a team can take advantage of some of the things they do on defense, but this Kansas team certainly isn’t built that way. To wit, Tech is 216th nationally in giving up 3-point attempts, but 3rd nationally in terms of opponents making threes. Obviously they are due for some regression on that front, but I doubt the Jayhawks are the team to make it happen.

Tech currently ranks 39th in the country at keeping teams from getting to the rim, and things don’t go much better once teams get there either, as the Red Raiders rank 9th in the nation in shot blocking. Backwards as it may seem, I think Kansas should attempt a few more threes than they maybe otherwise would. Although, it is worth noting Tech is one of the more foul prone teams in the country, so it could be a big game for Dedric Lawson inside.

Players to Watch

Jarrett Culver, 6-6 sophomore wing

Culver currently leads the conference in usage and has managed to be an efficient scorer despite shooting just 11 percent from three in Big 12 play. He’s an almost 40 percent shooter for his career, however, so regression should be right around the corner. He’s also 2nd in the league in defensive rebound rate and 4th in assist rate. Needless to say, Tech depends on him to do a lot and if Marcus Garrett can even remotely shut him down, Kansas should win.

Davide Moretti, 6-2 sophomore guard

The Italian has been Tech’s best shooter this year, making 41.5 percent of his threes. He also currently leads the Big 12 in steal rate. He and Matt Mooney make up probably the best defensive backcourt in America.

Tariq Owens, 6-10 senior forward

Owens is the backbone of the defense, ranking 9th nationally in shotblocking. He’ll likely be in charge of shutting down Dedric Lawson, and that matchup should go a long way towards determining a victor.

The Pick

Kansas obviously needs a win in the worst way. Texas Tech doesn’t need one quite as badly considering this is a road game for them, but they still don’t want to go to 5-4 in the league. Neither team will be out of it with a loss, but it will be a tough road to the top from 5-4.

With neither team being very good offensively at the moment, this is going to partially come down to (cliche alert) who wants it more. In the past, you could always count on Kansas to win those games. I think this game will go a long way towards determining what this Kansas team ends up being.

Because I think Marcus Garrett can guard Culver just enough, and frankly because I think Kansas is embarrassed about how they played on Monday, I will take the Jayhawks 64-61.