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Breaking down Texas Tech’s opponents in the Las Vegas Classic

Here’s what you need to know about the two teams Tech is going to steamroll this weekend.

Eastern Illinois v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

There are no guarantees in sports, but a 5-0 start for the Texas Tech Red Raiders is about as sure a thing as it gets.

Tech won’t find any real competition in the Las Vegas Invitational, which, to some degree, is disappointing for fans who are ready to identify the true makeup of this team. Three games into the season, we don’t really know anything about the Red Raiders, other than the fact they can hit wide open shots and dunk on 5’11 defenders. I’m certainly not complaining about a 3-0 start or the inevitable 5-0 start after this weekend, but the matchup against Iowa at 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day couldn’t come soon enough.

In any case, let’s take a look at the poor souls who have to get stomped on in Lubbock this weekend:

TENNESSEE STATE TIGERS

KEY PLAYERS: Sophomore guard Carlos Marshall, senior forward Jy’Lan Washington

Marshall is the team’s leading scorer at roughly 15 points per contest, while Washington adds a capacity for rebounding with a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game. Marshall and Washington bring some size to the table at 6’6 and 6’9, respectively, and will look to penetrate the lane and generate some contact as the Tigers try and slow down the game and get Tech into foul trouble - a good strategy for any underdog looking to take down a giant.

NOTABLE FACT: The Tigers are a unique team in that they only return two players from last season’s entire roster, but that doesn’t seem to have impacted the group chemistry early in the year. TSU opened the season with a 106-66 beatdown of Alabama A&M before playing Chattanooga close to a 58-56 loss and bouncing back with a dramatic 79-78 win over Lipscomb. Of the 12 Tiger newcomers, six have Division I playing experience, three with Power 5 universities, so while Tech should pull away comfortably in the second half, don’t be surprised if TSU stays competitive in the first 20 minutes.

WHAT THEY DO WELL: Shoot. I mean, they can really shoot the lights out. In the team’s opening win over Alabama A&M, the Tigers knocked down 17 three-pointers at a 50 percent rate. If they have that kind of shooting night, they can beat anyone in the country - just ask UMBC and Virginia how that plays out.

WHERE THEY STRUGGLE: Taking care of the rock. The Tigers are turning the ball over an alarming 18 times per game, for a turnover differential of -4.3. Tech has struggled keeping possession of the ball, too, but the margin for error for TSU is significantly smaller. If Tech’s defense is generating steals and forcing ball-handling errors, this game could get uglier a lot earlier than we’d expect.

LONG ISLAND SHARKS

KEY PLAYERS: Raiquan Clark, Ty Flowers

NOTABLE FACT: The Sharks were picked to win the Northeast Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll, so they shouldn’t be a complete doormat for Tech on Sunday. LIU, which used to be the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, won the conference championship last year and is poised to do it again in 2019-2020.

WHAT THEY DO WELL: They’re good at passing the ball to Clark. The redshirt senior already is averaging 23.5 points per game on a ridiculous 63 percent field goal percentage. The game plan for Chris Beard will be to swarm Clark and force someone else to beat the Red Raiders. The other candidate would be Flowers, who’s averaging a double-double at 17 points and 13 rebounds per game.

WHERE THEY STRUGGLE: Taking care of the rock. The Tigers are turning the ball over an alarming 18 times per game, for a turnover differential of -4.3. Tech has struggled keeping possession of the ball, too, but the margin for error for TSU is significantly smaller. If Tech’s defense is generating steals and forcing ball-handling errors, this game could get uglier a lot earlier than we’d expect.


If Tech overlooks either of these teams, it could be in trouble. But as long as Chris Beard is head coach in Lubbock, I don’t see that happening. The Red Raiders should win both of these games by 20 points each. Tech is just too talented. As formidable as the opponents are, they don’t have any future NBA players on their roster like Tech does. 5-0, here we come.

Poll

Are you remotely worried we might drop one of these games?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Not a chance
    (174 votes)
  • 22%
    These are solid opponents, so, a little!
    (50 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now