On Wednesday night, the Red Raiders were unable to end a losing streak in Austin that has now spanned two decades. The 58-62 loss to a struggling Longhorns team marks the third defeat in their last four games and could doom the team’s NCAA tournament hopes. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has moved Tech to his “next four out” group and estimates that the Red Raiders will need to jump six teams to make their way back into the tourney field. Here’s a closer look at Tech’s updated resume.
Strength of Schedule
Through one round of the Big 12 gauntlet, the Red Raiders’ overall schedule strength has improved dramatically. Seven of their nine opponents have the inside track to making the tournament, so playing each team again will leave no doubt that they’ve been battle-tested. The nonconference schedule may not prove as costly as previously thought since experts are giving so much weight to the Big 12 games.
Two teams are battling for 1-seeds and six others have legitimate shots at making the tournament. The Big 12 is the toughest league in the country and this will ultimately be what gets the Red Raiders a tournament bid should that happen. At 3-6 in conference, experts are considering Tech for the tourney. Finishing 8-10 in conference with another big upset could be enough, but 9-9 should still be the target.
Peaks and Valleys
Auburn is a bad team in a weak league, so that loss still hurts. However, seemingly bad losses to OU, OSU and Texas aren’t hurting the Red Raiders as much as one would think. Oklahoma State are currently in the tournament field, OU somehow beat West Virginia in Morgantown and Texas was favored in Austin. The win over West Virginia is still huge because of their success against Baylor and Kansas, while these recent losses aren’t as bad as they appear.
At this point in the season, it has become clear that experts rate the Big 12 highly and that the conference will be sending multiple teams to the NCAA tournament. Down the stretch, every game will have huge implications. While a “win and you’re in” mentality is the right way to look at the next nine games, other games across the country will ultimately impact Tech’s relative resume strength. If you’re looking for things to watch before the 6pm tipoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, here are several games involving teams that the Red Raiders are competing against, including where Lunardi has them ranked relative to Tech.
Seton Hall @ Georgetown, 11:00am, FS1
Seton Hall: three spots ahead of TechGeorgia @ #19 South Carolina, 1:00pm, ESPN2
Georgia: one spot behind Tech
Miami @ NC State, 2:00pm, WatchESPN
Miami: six spots ahead of Tech
Georgia Tech @ Wake Forest, 2:00pm, WatchESPN
Georgia Tech: nine spots ahead of Tech
Wake Forest: five spots ahead of Tech
Tennessee @ Mississippi State, 2:30pm, SEC Network
Tennessee: four spots ahead of Tech
Utah @ Stanford, 3:30pm, FS1
Utah: two spots behind Tech
To make the Big Dance, Tech will need to take care of business and have things go their way elsewhere. It was around this time last year that the Red Raiders got hot and played their way into the tournament. The first step toward repeating that is beating the Sooners on Saturday.