It’s Tuesday, ladies and gents!
And that means we are four days away from the biggest game in Texas Tech basketball history! On Saturday the Red Raiders will face the Spartans of Michigan State, who are riding their own high from an incredible and unexpected upset against Duke.
Michigan State means Tom Izzo, the long-tenured coach who’s going to appear in his eighth Final Four. This year, he led his team to the victory both in the Big Ten regular season and in the Big Ten tournament, despite his team has been heavily hit by injuries this season. With the loss of their leading scorer, guard Joshua Langford, to a foot injury and junior forward Kyle Ahrens, with a left foot sprain, it’s all they can do to maintain their balanced offensive/defensive style. In addition, if we consider players who averaged more than 10 minutes per game we see that only four of them appeared in every game of the season. Their guard Matt McQuaid missed three games and forward Nick Ward missed five. From watching Michigan State regularly it appears they’re only playing with a 6-ish man rotation.
On the other side, the Red Raiders have an 8-man rotation, and all of them still available. Coach Beard’s team played 36 games (the Big 12 Tournament run was short...) and six out of these eights players appeared in all of them.
The starting lineup and our most recent mantra “MorettiMooneyCulverOdiaseOwens” (to be pronounced absolutely without taking a breath) had 179 out of 180 appearances. The only player who missed one game was Norense Odiase, as he didn’t appear against Texas Rio Grande Valley, on December 28th. Also, bench players have stayed healthy all season long. The lone absence was Deshawn Corprew in the loss against Iowa State on January 16th.
It’s hard to say if Michigan State’s smaller rotation will make that much of a difference in the Final Four game, but if Texas Tech can get a turnover-prone Spartan team to make some poor fouls? Coach Beard might gain the edge with a more battle-tested depth chart - and at this level of competition no advantage is too small.