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Defending the three

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Achilles heel of Texas Tech’s defense

NCAA Basketball: Under Armour Reunion Seton Hall vs Texas Tech Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A month into this college basketball season there is quite the bandwagon following Texas Tech basketball. Rightfully so as the squad is the best that Lubbock has seen in almost a decade—already having beaten two ranked teams, already having cracked the top 25, already having Jarrett Culver garner a Big 12 Newcomer of the Week nod...what isn’t to like?

If I’m not driving that bandwagon, then you can be damn sure I was one of the first to jump on, and I don’t plan on jumping off anytime soon. I have the utmost faith in Coach Beard and the squad that he has put together, but as the non-conference portion of the schedule begins to come to a close, it’s time to get away from all the rainbows and cupcakes and begin to get real with the issues that surround the Red Raiders’ play so far this season.

Surprisingly, the biggest issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor, more specifically defending against the three point shot. The defense was stellar to open the season. In fact, only one of Tech’s first five opponents managed to score more than 60 points, and in reality, the statistical numbers are still impressive. On the season, Tech is only giving up an average of 62.1 points per game and allowing teams to shoot 29.4 percent from beyond the arc. Those figures are both top 50 in the country.

The numbers begin to falter, however, when you account for the level of competition. The best four teams that the Red Raiders have faced so far this season are Boston College, Northwestern, Seton Hall, and Nevada. All four of those teams have the potential to make the NCAA tournament and have talent that is more in line with what Tech will face in Big 12 play.

In those four games, Tech allowed 69.5 points per game, and opponents shot 34.9 percent from three point land. Both of which are significant jumps from their numbers on the overall season. It gets worse when we narrow our analysis down to just the previous two games. Those two games were both statistically and aesthetically the worst defensive performances in the season. Seton Hall and Nevada combined to score 83.5 points per game and shoot for 46 percent on threes. Those are numbers that would put the Red Raiders toward the bottom of national defensive rankings.

Bottom line: Tech needs to be better. Closing out and eliminating a shooter’s free space is a matter of effort. Will teams sometimes get hot and make contested threes? Sure, but those nights won’t happen consistently. The Red Raiders will have four contests upcoming against lower competition in order to make this a focus before Big 12 play starts against Baylor. However, I’ll reserve my judgment as to how effective any adjustments are until the conference season starts.