The Jayhawks welcome in a Texas Tech team that should be feeling pretty good about itself after a narrow loss against Kentucky and a comfortable win against West Virginia. The Red Raiders struggled to start the season but have been a top-15 team via Torvik in the month of January, despite going just 4-4 this month. Kansas, meanwhile, has righted the ship after an ugly 8 minutes against Baylor and is one point away from having 5 double digit victories in its last six games.
Texas Tech’s offense has rounded in to form nicely in Big 12 play, with the Raiders ranking 2nd in the league in both 2 and 3-point percentage, resulting in a league leading effective field goal percentage (EFG). They have, however, finished under .85 points per possession in three of their seven conference games.
For the season, Tech has scored over 1 point per trip against Torvik top-50 teams just twice in nine tries. One major problem has been the turnovers. Texas Tech turns it over on more than 20 percent of its possessions, and while Kansas doesn’t force a ton of turnovers, they have been relatively opportunistic on that end and may put more of a focus on forcing them tomorrow in an effort to score in transition rather than against a set defense.
Speaking of scoring against a set defense, even though Texas Tech ranks 15-ish spots lower defensively this year via Torvik than they did last year, I think one could make the argument last year’s defense was a bit overrated while this year’s defense is a bit underrated. Last year, opponents took over 40 percent of their shots from three against Tech, and it almost seemed like part of their strategy was to allow open threes (given how many they allowed). Yet, opponents shot just 29.7 percent from deep against the Red Raiders. This year’s team isn’t allowing a super high percentage either, just 32 percent, but they are allowing teams to shoot just 36 percent of their shots from three, and have been especially stingy as of late. That doesn’t necessarily effect Kansas, who has one of the most efficient 2-point attacks in the country, but it is something to watch going forward.
Another place Tech excels is at forcing turnovers. The Raiders rank 12th nationally, and while Kansas is 3rd in the Big 12 at not turning it over, the Jayhawks have struggled against the better teams on its schedule. Although (and this is admittedly more memory based than anything), a bulk of those turnovers seemed to come with the 2-big lineup in the game, and specifically came against teams whose big men were adept at forcing turnovers. Texas Tech doesn’t really do that, and I think Kansas will be able to take care of the ball a little better against them than they did against Duke and Colorado and Stanford, all teams with athletic bigs who are good defensively.
Players to Watch
Jahmi’us Ramsey, 6-4 freshman guard
Ramsey is close to the team lead in shots at the rim, which is an impressive feat for a freshman who has missed four games. He’s also good from three, shooting over 40 percent. His lone weaknesses are falling in love with the mid range a bit too much and being a relatively poor shooter at the line. I suspect he is likely to draw Marcus Garrett duties.
Davide Moretti, 6-3 junior guard
Moretti reminds me a lot of former Baylor guard Brady Heslip - a guy who will constantly work to get open and someone who is deadly from three. He’s probably not as good at coming off screens as Heslip was, but he has seemingly unlimited range and is shooting almost 40 percent from three on 113 attempts. He won’t venture inside the arc much, but provides valuable spacing for the rest of the Red Raiders.
Chris Clarke, 6-6 senior wing
The other candidate for Marcus Garrett duties, Clarke actually leads the team in assist rate at 35.4 percent, but has a high turnover rate to go with it. He’s also been the team’s best defensive rebounder, and good on the offensive glass as well. Even though Ramsey is Tech’s best player, Clarke’s ability to initiate the offense from anywhere might mean Self will have Garrett attempt to shut him down and force Tech to plan B.
Fun fact, Chris Beard has never held Bill Self to under a point per possession. Kansas has struggled offensively at times this year, and Tech’s defense is underrated a bit, so this might be the time.
Unfortunately for Texas Tech, Kansas has the ability to be absolutely suffocating at times defensively this year. The Red Raiders will need both Moretti and Ramsey to catch fire from deep, and probably will need some unexpected contributions from three as well. Given how dependent they are on Clarke and Ramsey to create offense (and Garrett’s ability to neutralize seemingly anyone he guards) it’s tough to see Tech having the offense to pull the upset. I do think it’s closer than Torvik, KenPom, et al predict, but I think the Jayhawks will win. I’ll say 72-66.
2019-20 Record ATS 9-9