I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the No. 7 Texas Tech Red Raiders (20-4, 8-3) basketball team is on a roll. The Red Raiders are currently on a five game winning streak and sitting atop the Big 12 standings along with No. 10 Kansas.
It appears the team is adjusting to life without senior leader Zach Smith and they are ready to make the closeout run to win the Big 12. The final seven games pose a serious challenge to any conference championship hopes. Three of the final seven are home games but they bring a couple of serious championship contenders in Kansas and No. 17 Oklahoma. Three of the four road games will feature Baylor, No. 19 West Virginia, and the upcoming game at Kansas State.
Texas Tech travels to Manhattan, KS for a Saturday evening date with the Kansas State Wildcats (17-7, 6-5). The Wildcats have struggled as of late winning just one of their last three conference games. One of those losses was a 37 point shellacking at the hands of West Virginia in Morgantown. Let’s take a closer look at Texas Tech’s next opponent.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats are 6-5 in conference and tied with Oklahoma in fourth place. Their conference home record is 3-2 with their losses coming against Kansas and West Virginia.
The team leaders continue to be 6’10 junior forward Dean Wade and 6’3 junior guard Barry Brown. Wade is averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game on the season with conference averages of 19 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He has great size, is very athletic, and is more than a decent shooter. In conference games he is shooting 56 percent from the field including 52 percent from three. He is also leading the team in blocks in conference games with 12 and is second in assists with 29. Against Tech the first time he had 14 points, five rebounds, and fouled out in 24 minutes of court time.
Brown runs the show from the point, averaging 18 points and 37.5 minutes per game in conference play. He’s the team leader with 48 assists and 24 steals. He’s a very active point guard on both ends. He’s a solid shooter, converting 47 percent from the field including 36 percent from three.
Brown did everything he could in the first game against Tech with 24 points on 6-12 shooting and going 10-13 from the free throw line in 39 minutes. However, his recent performances have not been very impressive. He has only managed 7 points per game in the last three conference games.
The next two scoring leaders in league play are 6’4 redshirt freshman guard Cartier Diarra and 6’5 sophomore forward Xavier Sneed. Both of these guys are averaging about 10 points per game. Sneed is also second on the team with five rebounds per game and 20 steals.
Diarra stepped into the starting roll when 6’ junior guard Kamau Stokes went out with an injury in the first game against Tech. As a starter he is averaging 12 points and 32 minutes per game. Stokes returned for the West Virginia game last Saturday but has played very sparingly.
The final starter will be 6’9 sophomore forward Makol Mawien. Mawien has started every game this year and is averaging five points per game in league play. He is a decent shooter who doesn’t take enough shots. He is second with nine blocks in conference games.
Something has happened to Kansas State over the last three games. Their record was mentioned earlier but what stands out is the lack of offensive production.
If you just look at Big 12 games, the Wildcats average 72.7 points per game while allowing their opponents 74.9 points per game. Over the last three games the scoring output has dipped to 58 points while they are still giving up 74 points per game. More importantly, in the lone home game over the last three, they only managed 56 points against a Kansas team that had given up an average of 80 points per game in four conference road games. That’s not good.
The Red Raiders need to impose their will in this game. Kansas State is the type of team Tech should dominate; skilled, athletic, not too big at any position. The rest of the conference is waiting for Tech to stub their toe again in a road game.
On Saturday, February 10 at 7:00 p.m. Texas Tech will serve notice to the rest of the country the Big 12 regular season championship will run through Lubbock this year.
Prediction: Tech 78, K State 58