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Texas Tech Preview

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

Assuming they can get out of Texas, the Red Raiders travel to Lawrence this weekend to kick off a challenging three-game stretch for the Jayhawks to finish the season.

It’s fair to say the Red Raider offense has gotten better since the game in Lubbock, as Tech has scored under one point per possession just twice since then. They have sort of gone to what I suspect would be an ideal Bill Self offense: getting to the line a bunch (2nd in the league) and not turning it over much (2nd in the league), which will cover up a lot of issues even when considering the Red Raiders rank 8th and 7th in 3 and 2-point shooting respectively.

In aggregate, it has led to Texas Tech scoring 107ish points per 100 possessions, good for third in the Big 12, and they still have a chance to be Chris Beard’s best offense since becoming a Division 1 head coach. (Of course, I would argue needing all of the stuff to go right that they do just in order to be a top 30ish offense nationally is more of an indictment on your offensive system, but I digress.)

Tech won’t shoot a lot of threes either, so if Kansas can hold the Red Raiders anywhere near what they did inside the arc last meeting, that should be a huge boost to their odds of winning. Of course, a lot depends on how many of those few threes the Red Raiders can make, and also whether KU’s newfound turnover forcing defense (relatively speaking anyway) can hold up against a good team.

It hasn’t been a vintage Texas Tech defense, although you probably won’t know it watching them defend against this Kansas team. Tech ranks 6th in the Big 12 in PPP allowed at about 103 points per 100 possessions, and they mostly do it via turnover. Tech forces turnovers on 21.5 percent of opponents’ possessions in Big 12 play, and with KU’s willingness to help out the opponent in the turnover area, this could be a pretty high number for the Jayhawks. In the first meeting Kansas turned it over on a fourth of its possessions, and really anything around Tech’s season average would be pretty good for this team.

After getting the horseshoe from the 3-point luck gods for a couple seasons, that has regressed this year with the Red Raiders allowing opponents to shoot over 41 percent from three in Big 12 play while only allowing right around the national average in terms of attempts. The Red Raiders also send opponents to the line a ton, ranking last in the league, and with KU’s scoring issues, getting to the line a bunch could be incredibly helpful.

Players to Watch

Mac McClung, 6-2 junior guard

McClung has struggled a bit against Tech’s better opponents, but for the season has been pretty good, shooting an even 50 percent on twos and 34 percent from three. His assist rate has gone down during Big 12 play as he has turned into even more of a scorer but that is to be expected with some of the other issues the Red Raiders have had getting off clean looks.

Marcus Santos-Silva, 6-7 senior forward

It was a huge boost last matchup that Santos-Silva had to sit much of the game with foul trouble. He won't shoot a bunch, but has shot over 50 percent in Big 12 play, and ranks 6th in the Big 12 in offensive rebound rate.

Kyler Edwards, 6-4 junior guard

Once pegged for stardom, Edwards has developed into a good role player for Tech, shooting over 37 percent from three this year while ranking 9th in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding which is pretty impressive for a 6-4 guard. He’s also been a deceptively good passer.

The Pick

One of the bad parts of doing these previews for weekend games a day early is the lack of a line. I think Kansas will be favored by a point or two given the fact they are at home and roughly equal to Tech in the KenPom ratings. But for the turnover issue, the numbers all seem to favor Kansas. I also think with Marcus Garrett’s improved defense he will be able to shut McClung down (relatively speaking), and although McClung has been inefficient at times this year, when he’s not going well on offense the Red Raiders don’t seem to have much of a Plan B.

But I keep coming back to the turnover issue. With Texas Tech forcing so many turnovers and the Jayhawks committing a ton against seemingly every semi-decent defense they play, I think that will override a lot and I’ll take Tech in a narrow 65-61 game.

2021 ATS: 16-6