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Preview: Texas Tech should get an easy win against South Alabama to start season

The game is part of the regional round of the 2017 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament.

It’s almost time. Time to start playing games that count. The highly anticipated 2017-2018 season for Texas Tech men’s basketball is about to begin.

The Red Raiders open their season on Friday night as they host the South Alabama Jaguars. The game is part of the regional round of the 2017 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament.

South Alabama Jaguars

South Alabama competes in the Sun Belt Conference. They are led by fifth year head coach Matthew Graves. The Jaguars finished the 2016-17 season at 14-18 overall and 4-10 on the road. They are 51-78 overall under Graves.

Ten players return from last years team. The returners are led by Josh Ajayi, a 6’7” redshirt sophomore forward from El Monte, CA. Ajayi averaged 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 31 games last season. He also led the team in rebounds and was second in points in a two point exhibition loss to North Alabama.

Other players to watch are Rodrick Sikes, Trhae Mitchell, and Rozelle Nix. Sikes is a 6’1” junior guard transfer from Southwest Mississippi Community College. He led the team in scoring against North Alabama with 25 points on 7 of 15 shooting, including 5 of 8 from three point range. He’s a shooter. He averaged 49 percent from the field including 39 percent from three point range in junior college.

Mitchell is a 6’6” redshirt sophomore forward. Long and lean and another drop dead shooter. He averaged 62 percent from the field including 64 percent from three point range. He only scored six points against North Alabama on only 3-6 shooting. I would look for the Jaguars to get Mitchell more involved in the game plan.

Nix is the other player to watch for me based on size alone. He is a 6’11”, 330 pound mountain. Nix is a graduate transfer from Pitt. Honestly, he’s never contributed much on the court except to eat up space. He started the North Alabama game and contributed only three rebounds and 4 fouls. Honestly, he might not see much court time in this game. It will just be fun to see a man that size get up and down the floor.

The game

South Alabama lost to North Alabama by two and Tech dismantled a solid New Mexico State team in their respective final exhibition games. South Alabama appears to have some solid, athletic players. The problem is, so does Tech. The bigger problem is Tech can go quite a bit taller and longer than the Jaguars.

The Jaguars will compete hard. They are well coached and scrappy. They’ll put up some points if they are offered good, open looks. In the end they are over matched. Last year the Jaguars were a poor road team at 4-10 and the Red Raiders were 16-3 at home. This will be a decent test for the Red Raiders but one they should win easily.

Tip off for this game is 8 pm CT at the United Supermarkets Arena. The game will be televised on FOX College Sports and the FOX Sports Go app. The radio broadcast also will be available on the Texas Tech Sports Network radio affiliates, online at www.TexasTech.com and the Tune-In Radio app.