|OPPONENT:||Texas Longhorns (17-2, 3-1)|
|LOCATION:||Frank Erwin Center : Austin, TX|
|DATE:||January 27, 2010|
|TIME:||8:00 p.m. CST|
|TV:||ESPNU : ESPN 360|
|GAME CAST:||Fox Sports|
The Season Thus Far: Tough to find much fault here with the Longhorns, but just last week Texas was the #1 ranked team in the nation and two losses to Kansas St. and Connecticut, both on the road, means that I'm pretty sure that the Longhorns will be out for blood. Make no mistake, despite a two game losing streak, the Longhorns are good . . . very good. Prior to last week, the Longhorns had been absolutely unbelievable, and despite these two losses, they are still holding opponents to 66 points a game, while scoring 85. And just like almost every team in the Big 12, the good home teams are going to hold serve, and Texas took one on the road against Iowa St.
The Main Players: UT's startes obviously have talent. James is one of the leaders for the Big 12 player of the year and is averaging a double-double. Bradley is one of the best freshmen in the country, averaging over 12 points a game and shooting 47% from the field. That's pretty good for a true freshman. Balbay is a point guard that sets up his teammates and doesn't look to score, but he really doesn't need to do. I think I'd be remiss in not mentioning Gary Johnson, another guy that I really enjoy watching play, who could be a handful, along with James in the front court for Texas Tech. It will be interesting to see how Pittman handles the Texas Tech motion offense and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see
both Lew and Darko run around and keep Pittman moving everywhere other than the lane for most of the game.
Find the Mismatch: There's no doubt that Texas is a very good team. A very, very, very good team. Maybe not the #1 ranked team, but potentially a #2 or #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think the key for Texas Tech is for the Red Raiders to find the mismatches and exploit them. If we assume that PK goes with a similar or the same starting lineup as the past three or four games, then Brad Reese should have a size advantage over either Bradley or Mason. That's the sort of matchup that Texas Tech will need to exploit to take advantage of UT's relative small starting lineup. And PK may even go even smaller with Pittman in the game in order to draw him out of the paint, although this could prove to be an awful decision if Pittman starts to dominate the post. This obviously isn't ideal for Texas Tech, but I think the Red Raiders are going to have to be unconventional in order to get a win against Texas. The Longhorns are so tough up front with Pittman, James and Johnson, and now that Texas Tech will be without PF Darko Cohadarevic and PF D`Walyn Roberts, this situation is even tougher.
Rely on the Defense: The offense has been hot-and-cold for a good four or five game stretch and if there's one thing to take away from the Oklahoma win, it's that if you play defense for all 40 minutes, you have a much better chance of winning a game than not. DT's Mike Graham talked with SF Brad Reese, who acknowledged that defense must be a huge key for the Red Raiders:
"You’ve got to play defense no matter on the home or road," he said. "You’ve got to play as a team because sometimes you might get in a slump where the other team goes on a 10-0 run, but with solid defense and fighting it out, you’ll have a chance to win it in the end."
Overcoming Pressure Defense: The Longhorns play tremendous pressure defense, and are ranked 5th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. The games that Texas Tech has struggled with are teams that play pressure defense on the perimeter, especially pressuring the wings. The two most recent examples are the Missouri and Kansas loss. Texas plays the same way, and they have the quick perimeter players to make this happen. Texas Tech must make attempts to force the Longhorns to back-off by perhaps forcing double-teams in the post or cutting to the basket.