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Texas Tech Preview

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

Kansas opens up Big 12 play in Lubbock where they finished Big 12 play last season, and just like everyone in Lubbock I am sure they are tired of that place.

On the court, the Red Raiders have had a somewhat typical season, absolutely blasting most of an uninspiring nonconference schedule while struggling a bit against the tougher opponents. They have played just two top-250 opponents according to KenPom, and lost to their only top-100 opponent.

Offense has been the weaker side of the ball, with Tech ranking as one of the top-10 Power-5 teams in terms of percentage of shots taken from the midrange, which makes the fact that they’re shooting under 50 percent from two make a little more sense. The Red Raiders also don’t take many threes (just 31.6 percent of their shots), although they have done a very good job at getting their own misses (15th nationally) and getting to the free throw line (9th nationally).

It’s worth highlighting the fact that a lot of those numbers are influenced by the fact Tech has played five teams ranked lower than 250 in the KenPom ratings (for comparison’s sake, Kansas has played zero). Imagine if Kansas got to play Omaha five times; KU’s numbers would look a lot better. Still, though, Kansas will want to not foul to avoid getting some key guys in foul trouble and also to keep a team that can struggle to score from getting free points at the line.

Defensively, Texas Tech ranks 1st in adjusted defensive efficiency. Even though it is “adjusted” I think that is still somewhat influenced by the opponents to date as well in that it’s easier to beat a horrible team by 30 (or to flat out keep them from scoring) than it is to keep a mediocre team from scoring a reasonable amount of points, just due to the sheer talent difference.

Nevertheless, Tech’s defense has been legitimately good for a couple years now so I think we can consider it legit again this season. It’s fair to say they’re getting a bit lucky in terms of opponent 3-point percentage, with teams being able to take a roughly average amount of threes but shooting just 25 percent behind the arc. That said, the rest of their numbers look great.

The Red Raiders rank 7th nationally at forcing turnovers, don’t send people to the line often, and teams shoot just under 42 percent against them on twos. Kansas has succeeded against Texas Tech in the past by getting to the middle and into the paint that way, but without a guy like Devon Dotson who can beat his man at will, the Jayhawks will probably have to find an alternate route to solving this defense.

Players to Watch

Kyler Edwards, 6-4 junior guard

Edwards has probably been Tech’s best offensive player this season, although he’s only shooting 40 percent on twos. He is shooting 38 percent from three, however, and is a really underrated passer.

Marcus Santos-Silva, 6-7 senior forward

The VCU transfer has an unsightly 26 percent turnover rate, but other than that his numbers across the board are solid, shooting 65 percent and leading the team in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.

Mac McClung, 6-2 junior guard

The Georgetown transfer has lit up the weaker opponents on Tech’s schedule, but struggled against the better ones. After being mostly a volume scorer his first couple years in college, he’s raised his assist rate by roughly 10 percent this year.

The Pick

The Red Raiders are favored by 3 in this one. I probably harp on this too much, but I think playing a bunch of nobodies in the nonconference really skews their numbers (not necessarily their overall KenPom rank because that is schedule adjusted as well as it can be, but their underlying numbers). I do think KU’s small ball lineup matches up pretty well with Tech’s. If the Jayhawks can keep them off the offensive glass and limit their turnovers (no small task but certainly doable), I think they’ll open Big 12 play with a win. So give me the Jayhawks 63-57.

2020-21 Record ATS: 5-1