On Saturday, the Red Raiders will face another non-conference opponent in UT Rio Grande Valley. While the 7-3 record certainly looks like great things have been happening for the Red Raiders, the last time out there were certainly concerns with how the team played. This game is a great opportunity for the Red Raiders to show their improvement.
UT Rio Grande Valley is currently 4-7 on the season and is coming off of a 10 point loss to Omaha and a 30 point beat-down from the hands of Creighton. They are led by Head Coach Lew Hill. He has had many stops of note in his coaching career including South Alabama, Texas A&M, and most recently Oklahoma in the Big 12 where he spent 5 years before landing the UT Rio Grande Valley job.
On the court, they are led by former Red Raider and son of Tech basketball legend Sheryl Swoopes in Jordan Jackson. He is averaging almost 15 points and 3 rebounds per game for the team. He is very quick and can get to the basket with ease against slower defenders. I envision Kyler Edwards or Terrence Shannon Jr. getting the match-up on him early on in the ball game.
Another player to look out for is senior forward Leslie Varner II. AT 6’7, he can do a lot of things on the basketball court that the team likes, he scores efficiently at 13 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game. He is very good at taking it off the dribble and hitting hard mid-range shots. In their last game against Omaha, Varner II dropped 29 points so he is more than able to get it going in any game. I feel like this is an assignment for Chris Clarke or T.J. Holyfield. Varner has size and speed so I anticipate Clarke to get the first crack at him.
The final player to look out for is junior guard Javon Levi. At 5’11, he is not very tall but plays extremely fast. He has been scoring at a nice 12 points per game and can get it done from all areas of the floor as he has made 3 of 6 three-pointers this season. His main role on the team is distributing. Levi is averaging 7.7 assists per game and the entire offense seems to run through him. Davide Moretti will have his hands full but I believe the Italian will get the first chance at stopping Levi.
The first basket of the season belongs to Preseason All-#WAChoops honoree Javon Levi— UTRGV Athletics (@GoUTRGV) November 6, 2019
https://t.co/sPVWBsGMBL#WePlayForYou #UTRGV pic.twitter.com/iHCx4ntwzJ
The Rattlers will mainly play man to man defense throughout the game but they will extend that man defense to the full court and try to press out of it. I anticipate that Coach Hill will press most of the game as the Red Raiders have often struggled with it early on this season. I fully expect the Red Raiders to use their superior talent to slow the pace of the game to where the Red Raiders like compared to pushing it up and down the floor like the Rattlers enjoy doing.
We all know that Davide Moretti will be the main shooter on this team and has the green light to fire when he gets an open look. I want to see him drive the ball more and find open teammates and get more aggressive scoring inside so that he gets more free throw opportunities. The offense also runs much better through Kyler Edwards when Moretti plays more of a shooting guard than a point guard position.
Right now, most projection systems have the Red Raiders as roughly 23-point favorites over the Rattlers. If that is indeed where the point spread opens, UTRGV has a good chance to cover - the NCAAM odds can be verified once they open this evening or tomorrow morning. As bad as Rio Grande Valley has been on the road (0-4 with a -15.5 point difference), it’s just a bit irresponsible to predict that many points with Jahmi’us Ramsey still on the bench. Since he went out with injury. Tech’s offense has fallen 41 spots in the efficiency rankings.
There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that this Texas Tech team should have no issue with UT Rio Grande Valley. After the team’s close call against Southern Mississippi, Coach Beard will surely have his guys ready for the game. I think UTRGV has some good players, but the Red Raiders will be able to counter with too much depth. This game should be over before the 10-minute mark in the second half.
Final: TTU:77 UTRGV:45