The third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders will travel to Dallas to face the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Red Raiders have officially made it into the NCAA tournament after not making it into a tournament last season. They will be facing a team that has not only made it to the NCAA tournament 3 of the last 4 years but have also won games in said tournaments.
The Red Raiders are looking to get their first NCAA tournament win since 2005 when they won 2 games in the tournament on their way to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Tech leads the all-time series against SFA 8-1. In the last meeting of these teams, the Red Raiders won by a score of 66-54.
The Lumberjacks, led by coach Kyle Keller, play nine men in their rotation. They play a fast-paced style of play that gets out and tries to score in transition. They want to speed Tech up and get them to make mistakes with the basketball. Not only are they a fast team, but they are a big team. All five starters are over 6’4 and they are anchored by junior forward Ty Holyfield. At 6’8, Holyfield is the center of this SFA team and can do everything. He is a scorer, as he averages 13 points per game while shooting 55% from the field and 40% from the line. Holyfield usually plays the 5 or center position in the Lumberjack’s offense. He likes to post up smaller defenders but will also use the pick and pop play to hit open jump shots. One thing everyone on this team does a good job of is moving the ball. Their ball movement is something that must be giving Coach Beard and the Texas Tech defense nightmares.
Defensively, the Red Raiders will also have to worry about Kevon Harris, a 6’6 Sophomore that in my opinion is their best overall player. Harris is averaging 14.6 points and 5 rebounds per game for the team and is also very athletic. He is one of the players that will beat you up the floor if you let him. The Red Raiders will have to work on transition defense if they are to win this game. The Lumberjacks’ leading scorer is 6th man Shannon Bogues, who averages 15 points per game. Bogues is a guy that can shoot from anywhere. He can create his own shot and can take over a game is he gets hot.
Leon Gilmore III is their fourth starter that is versatile as at 6’7, usually plays the 4 or power forward position for the Lumberjacks. Gilmore is left handed and is very good at knocking down contested mid-range jump shots. The offense SFA runs includes a ton of high screens and drives, often leaving the short corner shot open if Gilmore finds himself there. 6’4 senior Ivan Canete tends to be a spot-up shooter on the year as he averages 9 points per game shooting 41% from behind the arc.
Ty Charles rounds out the starting lineup for the Lumberjacks. At 6’5, this senior is averaging 8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Charles can heat up as in the Southland Conference semifinal against Nicholls State, Charles hit two quick three-pointers to give the Lumberjacks a 6-0 lead. Off the bench, two smaller guards Aaron Augustin and John Comeaux, run the second team offense. Both guards are 5’11 sophomores but don’t let their size fool you as they are both blazing fast. Augustin leads the team in assists with 111 on the season and averages 23 minutes per game off the bench, Comeaux is third on the team with 54 assists this season. Samuli Nieminen, a 6’7 sophomore, will come off into the game if Keller wants to go big with his lineup.
Defensively, the Lumberjacks play a man to man with lots of help defense. They switch on all screens (kind of like Tech) and rely on each other to get the job done. They have tons of good athletes on their team which makes them even more hectic to plan for offensively. Ty Holyfield is a huge paint presence as he averages 1.3 blocks per game. If Tech can drive the ball at Holyfield and get him to foul, that opens up more opportunities on the offensive end as no one else on SFA has the frame and ability of Holyfield on the defensive end.
The Red Raiders have a great chance to win this game on Thursday. With the game in Dallas, a ton of Red Raider fans will be able to make it cheer on the team. This gives the Red Raiders a home-court like advantage for this game. The Red Raiders will also have the upper hand in athleticism and overall talent level. The Red Raiders were given a great seed but, we know how many times upsets have happened in the NCAA tournament. I think it’ll be a great game in Lubbock and I also see the Red Raiders coming out on top. What do you think of these Red Raiders getting a bid to the NCAA tournament? How far do you think they will go? Please let us know in the comment section below!