On Saturday night, Texas Tech lost a tough game in Norman to the Oklahoma Sooners, who were coming off a seven game losing streak. Before the win, OU was one of just two winless teams in the Big 12. On the surface, it was a great opportunity for Texas Tech to notch their first Big 12 road win.
Instead, OU’s best player Jordan Woodard returned from injury and Odomes had a career day. Now 0-3 on the road in conference play, Texas Tech needs to find a few wins outside the United Supermarkets Arena if they want to repeat their success from last season.
Last year, with a 9-9 record in Big 12 play, Texas Tech secured a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Red Raiders won a clutch game in Waco in addition to taking advantage of weaker Oklahoma State and TCU squads in Stillwater and Fort Worth, respectively.
With each team in the conference playing nine games at home and nine on the road, unless Tech were to go undefeated at home, it’s imperative that they win a few on the road to give themselves a buffer. That’s why the blown 14-point lead at Iowa State earlier this year and the loss to an apparently inferior Oklahoma unit could haunt Texas Tech at the end of the season. If the Red Raiders only have 7 or 8 conference wins, those two losses will be looked at as difference makers.
But if there’s one thing we know about Big 12 basketball, it’s that anything can happen and every team in the conference has a chance to win every night. Hopefully the team is learning from their mistakes and maturing when enduring these tough losses.
Every week, VTM outlines Texas Tech’s path to the postseason. Below, let’s take a look at the three best opportunities remaining for Texas Tech to win on the road and make their NCAA tournament dreams a reality.
February 1 @ Texas (Austin, TX)
Texas has only won one Big 12 game so far and has noticeably fallen off since last year. But even in some of their losses, they put up a good fight and the score is close. They won’t go down easy, but it’s a solid opportunity for the Red Raiders.
February 7 @ TCU (Fort Worth, TX)
Make no mistake, TCU is no slouch either. They were at or near the bottom of the Big 12 the last few years, but former Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon clearly has this Horned Frogs team headed in the right direction. However, with a large alumni base in Fort Worth, Tech may feel more at home in TCU’s arena than any other Big 12 arena besides the USA. And while they’re improved, TCU is still an easier out on the road than the likes of West Virginia, Baylor, etc. Tech’s schedule leading up to this one is favorable, so maybe the Red Raiders will be riding a wave of momentum after matchups (preferably wins) against LSU, Texas, and Oklahoma.
February 25 @ Oklahoma State (Stillwater, OK)
The Pokes remain winless in Big 12 play despite being thought of as a potential NCAA tournament team to begin the season. If they’re unable to turn things around, they could be completely demoralized by the time Texas Tech comes to town. Again, nothing is given, but this looks like a good opportunity to win on the road late in the season for Texas Tech.
It should also be noted that during last year’s tournament campaign, Texas Tech lost their game in the Big 12-SEC Challenge to Arkansas and was bounced form the Big 12 tournament in the first round by the No. 10 seed Horned Frogs. If Tech can improve in both these areas by beating LSU and winning a game or two in the Big 12 tournament, maybe an 8-10 record in conference play will suffice.
Either way, it’s sure to come down to the wire in a league like the Big 12. I thought from the beginning of the season that the team would get better as time went on and chemistry built, given the newness of a first year head coach in Chris Beard and all the transfers who arrived in Lubbock this offseason.
I hope I’m right, and I hope that manifests itself in the form of road wins. Without them, Tech’s tournament hopes could be in serious jeopardy.