After a pair of blowout wins facing outmatched opponents, Texas Tech heads to Fort Worth to face a very solid Houston team. This is usually a matchup that takes place as a “secret scrimmage” before the college basketball season gets underway, but with the impact of Coronavirus this year, the matchup was brought in to make up for Tech being unable to participate in the Preseason NIT tournament. Houston is a top 20 team, so this will easily be the toughest game on Tech’s nonconference slate.
Houston Cougars (2-0) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0)
Location: Dickies Arena (Fort Worth, Texas)
Game time: 4:30 CST
Odds: Texas Tech -3
Kenpom Ranking: 17th
Stats and Storylines
- Houston is one of the toughest defensive teams in the nation. They are ranked top three in defensive Adj. Efficiency, and the tape matches up with that. They are quick on the perimeter, play very aggressive POA defense, and have a lot of positional versatility. They are probably not quite as good at stopping penetration as Tech is, but their three point defense is phenomenal. Through two games Houston has only allowed two makes from downtown on 29 attempts. That is what length, athleticism, and good discipline can give you.
- With that said, the Cougar defense does commit a lot of fouls, and as such their opponents have gone to the foul line quite a lot in the first two games. Among 228 qualifiers, they are 196th in defensive free throw rate. With Tech having a few aggressive ball handlers, expect to see the Red Raiders taking advantage of that. Also, there may be a space to use PnR sets to really force the issue on the on-ball defense for Houston.
- Houston has a ton of shot makers on the roster. Quentin Grimes is a name familiar to Red Raider fans due to his one year at Kansas, and he is probably the best three-level scorer for Kelvin Sampson’s team. He is not much of a facilitator, and he is not a good active defender, but his scoring alone presents a lot of value.
- Beyond Grimes, Marcus Sasser (nephew of Tech great Jason Sasser) is an absolute flamethrower at guard. He has nine of Houston’s 18 threes this year, and is very good at making tough shots from deep. His skillset is similar to a Tyrell Terry type of guard, and I expect to see him in a variety of on/off ball looks. DeJon Jarreau is a very versatile guard, but he is limited in shooting the ball. Still, his playmaking as a 6’5 guard and length provides a unique challenge for Tech on both ends of the court.
- Caleb Mills might be Houston’s best player, but he has been limited in both games so far due to an ankle injury. He looked to have tweaked it late in the Boise State game, but we will have to see how it impacts him. He is another great three level scorer, and his defense is very underrated due to his positioning and instincts.
- Houston has a plethora of lengthy 6’7 or 6’8 wings and bigs. J’Wan Roberts has been exceptionally active defensively as a freshman, but Justin Gorham and Brishon Gresham are also threats due to their rebounding. Reggie Chaney was a highly touted teammate of Kyler Edwards at Findlay Prep, but his career at Arkansas was underwhelming and he seems a little bit buried behind all the great talent on this roster.
- Tramon Mark is a very talented freshman, though his defense could use some work. He had 22 points in the win over Lamar, but struggled against a much better Boise State team.
- Houston had 19 stocks against Lamar, but only eight against Boise State. Regardless, this is a very active and athletic team on both ends of the court.
About Texas Tech:
Kenpom Ranking: 5th
Stats and Storylines:
- Mac McClung has been the story of this Texas Tech squad so far. The internet sensation is averaging 19 points per game, and he has done so on remarkable efficiency, with a true shooting percentage north of 76%. Beyond that, he has been extremely patient offensively, and on defense his activity has been a welcome sight for Tech fans that were worried about his performance on that end.
- Kyler Edwards was a little shaky against Sam Houston State, but his game versus Northwestern State was probably the best of his memorable career. Terrence Shannon has been a consistent threat so far this year, and his on-ball defense has looked even better this year. Expect both of those guys to lead the team in minutes in this game.
- Micah Peavy had a rough game versus Sam Houston State, which was unfortunate given his strong start to the year. With that said, none of the issues from that game are cause for major concern, and I expect a bounceback game from him on both ends of the court.
- Nimari Burnett has struggled mightily as a primary ball handler so far. Coach Beard used him more in an off-ball way in the SHSU game, and it allowed him to not be a complete negative on that end. His defense is still tremendous, and will keep him in the eight-nine man rotation.
- Tech does not block a lot of shots, but Tyreek Smith has quietly been a revelation on that end. He could have an opportunity to crack the rotation down the line, or at least play spot minutes in relief of Marcus Santos-Silva.
- I expect Tech to roll with an eight man rotation in this game, with Smith getting a couple minutes when MSS needs a break. Chibuzo Agbo, Clarence Nadolny, and Avery Benson look to be completely out of the rotation at this point. `