Texas Tech looks to capture the championship today in the 2017 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament in Uncasville, CT. Tech will face No. 20 Northwestern University Wildcats in the game that tips off at 3:30 p.m. CT.
Texas Tech earned the championship berth by beating Boston College in their semifinal game 75-64. Northwestern advanced by beating LaSalle 82-74.
Northwestern is led by fifth year head coach Chris Collins. The team had a monumental 2016-17 season by winning 24 games and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Northwestern finished the season 24-12 and the team is 73-60 under coach Collins.
The Wildcats return 12 players from last years team. Even with all of the returning players, they are still considered a young group as there are only 3 seniors on the team.
One of the returning seniors is 6’3” guard Bryant McIntosh. McIntosh is the team leader. He was team captain and named to 2016-17 consensus All-Big Ten second team. He has earned selection to all-conference teams all three years at Northwestern. He leads the team this year in per game average in scoring (19.5), minutes (37), and assists (6.5). He also shoots near 50 percent from the field including from three point range.
Northwestern has five solid starters in McIntosh, 6’7” junior forward Vic Law, 6’8” junior center Dererk Pardon, 6’5” senior guard Scottie Lindsey, and 6’8” senior forward Gavin Skelly. Law leads the team in rebounds at 6.8 per game and is tied with Pardon for the team lead in blocks at eight.
A player to watch for is 6’8” sophomore forward Aaron Falzon. Falzon sat out most of last year with an injury and made his 2017-18 debut against La Salle yesterday in the semifinal game in which he scored 11 points in 18 minutes off the bench. I would expect Falzon to take minutes away from Skelly.
Northwestern is 3-1 on the season with the one loss coming at home against Creighton. The Wildcats average 81 points per game while allowing almost 77 and shoot 48 percent from the field and allow opponents to shoot 46 percent.
They are not expected to play with a lot of defensive pressure as their turnover to steal ratio is about five to one. Contrast that to a Tech team which has a turnover to steal ratio of about 1.5 to one.
Northwestern started last year 18-4 and coasted to the NCAA tournament. Something Tech couldn’t do. The No. 20 ranking may be a reward from last year for the Wildcats. While Northwestern has a record so far of 3-1, they have not been overpowering their opponents.
Texas Tech is looking for it’s first win over a ranked non-conference opponent since they beat No. 12 Washington 99-92 on December 3, 2009. Tech will depend on a steady effort from many different players for this victory. A win in this game will turn pre-season anticipation to early season expectation.