The newly minted Big 12 champs finish out the season in Lubbock facing a Texas Tech team that is on a three game losing streak and may not be 100% safe for NCAA tournament purposes. With the Jayhawks looking obviously tired on Wednesday (and probably a bit hungover - figuratively speaking- from title celebrations that night) Tech won’t have a better opportunity to claim a huge resume boosting win than Saturday.
Tech has been pretty reliable offensively this season, leading the Big 12 in 3-point shooting and ranking 2nd in 2-point shooting. They don’t maximize their possessions well, ranking 6th in turnovers and 8th in offensive rebounding, but when they put up a shot, they’re pretty confident it is going in. They still take far too many mid range jumpers, so I have some doubts as to how sustainable that shotmaking is. But then again, it’s March and they’re still making a reasonable percentage of them, so perhaps they just have a ton of clearly talented shot makers.
In the first matchup, (a 78-75 KU win that Kansas led by 8 with 2 minutes to play), Tech was 9-21 from three, which helped make up for an under 50 percent effort from two and just 50 percent shooting at the rim. They’ll likely need to hit their threes again on Saturday to pull off the upset, but certainly have the shooters to do so.
I repeat this stat every time Kansas and Tech play lately, but Bill Self has never scored fewer than a point per possession against Chris Beard. Given how good of a defensive coach Beard has been thus far, that is a tremendous accomplishment. Facing yet another good defense with a hobbled and below average (for Kansas) offense, this will be the toughest test yet.
In the first matchup, Devon Dotson used his straight line speed to get into the middle and all the way to the basket over and over again, and the Jayhawks turned it over on just 14 percent of their possessions against one of the better turnover forcing teams in America. It’s much tougher to keep from turning it over on the road of course, but two good ways to combat Tech’s no middle defense are to have a lightning quick point guard who doesn’t need ball screens and a dominant big man who, even if he personally gets shut down, takes so much attention away from other guys that he still has a positive impact on the game. Sounds like a couple of guys Kansas has.
Players to Watch
Davide Moretti, 6-3 junior guard
He was held in check in the first matchup, but Moretti is one of the best shooters in America. He’s shooting 39 percent from three, but on high volume and he hasn’t had a clean look from deep since some old Italian reference happened. Needless to say, Kansas will be begging him to dribble the ball inside the 3-point line rather than standing and firing from deep.
Jahmi’us Ramsey, 6-4 freshman guard
After looking like a lottery pick early, a late swoon in production might keep Ramsey in Lubbock another season (although with how good next year’s draft is compared to this one, I think he would be wise to go while he’s still guaranteed to be a first rounder). Ramsey I think tried to win the previous matchup by himself last time, scoring 26 points on 21 shots. He’s not great at getting to or scoring at the rim, but he’s a deadly 3-point shooter who passes it just well enough to keep teams honest.
TJ Holyfield, 6-8 senior forward
A grad transfer who also considered Kansas, Holyfield has been a good but not great defender for the Red Raiders, and also has only shot 36 percent from three, a far cry from the 42 percent he shot last season. A career 38 percent shooter from deep, Holyfield had 3 threes against the Jayhawks in the first meeting. Given the other options, Kansas should try to make him beat them again.
With Kansas wrapping up the Big 12 title, they’re playing for the outright title and potentially a #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. However, they looked so gassed Wednesday that it’s tough to see them being healthy enough to put forth the effort necessary to win on the road in the Big 12, even in a down year for the conference. Despite their record, Tech ranks 22nd in the Torvik rankings and is also 3rd in the Big 12 in point differential, so they’re no pushover. I think they will take advantage of KU’s fatigue, and some of their own desperation, and win 66-61.
2020 Record ATS: 17-12