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Pregame notes: Texas Tech vs. Abilene Christian

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Tech looks to win against a tough ACU team in Lubbock

NCAA Basketball: Grambling State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech is facing another low major opponent tonight, but that does not paint an accurate representation of this game. Abilene Christian is a really good team, and as you will find out- there are a lot of similarities between what Joe Golding has built his team around and what Chris Beard institutes at Texas Tech. Let’s dive right into the matchup:

Abilene Christian Wildcats (5-0) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-1)

Location: United Supermarkets Arena (Lubbock, Texas)

Game time: 6:00 CST

TV: ESPN+

Odds: Texas Tech -14.5

NCAA Basketball: Abilene Christian at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

About Abilene Christian:

Kenpom Ranking: 127th

T-Rank: 102nd

Record: 5-0

Stats and Storylines

  • When talking about a matchup between Texas Tech and ACU you must talk about the relationship that ACU coach Joe Golding and Chris Beard have. Beard was an assistant when Golding was playing at Abilene in the late 90’s, and furthermore they had a near overlap in regards to their stint at Seminole State Junior College. The two followed a similar route to becoming a head coach in the state of Texas, and as such have quite a few common relationships. Beyond just the relationship, it is clear that the two instill a similar culture in their two teams. ACU has only been in the Southland Conference for around seven years, and Golding has built them into conference contenders recently. He took over a middling team in Division 2 in 2011 and has taken it to the tournament in 2019 and brought back to back 20 win seasons. This year’s team looks like they could be the third straight squad to hit that benchmark. Golding is probably my favorite coach in the state of Texas outside of Beard, and I really enjoy seeing these two teams play.
  • Abilene Christian is a very balanced team. They grade out as a top 80 defense in the Kenpom ratings, and they are a top 40 defense according to T-Rank. The team is very fundamentally sound, and much like Houston does not give up many open threes. They have a good mixture of quick guards and long wings in their rotation, though Kolton Kohl is probably their best player at seven feet tall.
  • Unlike Houston, ACU really struggles to create on-ball shots. They shoot only 49% at the rim, and none of their guards are great PBH options. With that said- the team can light it up from deep. They shot at least 50% in each of their first three games, and despite cooling off some they are still top ten in three point percentage for the year.
  • ACU plays a lot of motion-based offense, although they do not have the personnel that Tech does to completely optimize cutting opportunities. Much like Tech, they can find themselves flinging the ball around the perimeter at times, although generally ACU’s offense runs at a faster pace than Tech.
  • Kolton Kohl, Immanuel Allen, and Clay Gayman are their three best players, and it really comes down to the offensive value with all three. Kohl is by no means a rim protector or bruiser, but he can space the floor well and is a very efficient player. Allen is a solid positional defender, efficient offensive scorer from all three levels, and can pass as a decent secondary ball handler. Gayman is an absolute sniper from range (shooting 8-12 on threes this year after being a 39% shooter last year), but his steal and block percentages might be the strangest thing. He has a 5.4% steal rate this year, which is insanely high. Last year? That number was at .9, but his block rate was at 5.9% throughout a 27 game schedule. Gayman does not really grade out as a great defender from watching film of this year’s team, but he has great instinct and is definitely worth watching.
  • Abilene Christian is great at forcing turnovers in general. They have been top ten in that category for three years running, and this team is as talented as any for them. They have nine players by my count with at least three years of college basketball experience, which is a lot for a low major school that typically would have high roster turnover.

About Texas Tech:

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kenpom Ranking: 4th

T-Rank: 4th

Record: 2-0

  • With Kevin McCullar still out and Terrence Shannon likely missing this game, it will be interesting to see how Chris Beard handles this game. I would expect one of Jamarius Burton or Nimari Burnett will start, however Chibuzo Agbo could be in play to receive serious minutes tonight.
  • Tech’s ball handler situation is really interesting. Kyler Edwards has been the most efficient PBH all year, but Mac McClung and Jamarius Burton have both been as good as advertised in that role. Nimari Burnett is probably more of an off-ball specialist at this point, which is fine. He played a really controlled game against Grambling.
  • Micah Peavy has been up and down this season, and this is a game I am worried about for him. ACU is great at forcing live-ball turnovers, and Peavy has struggled with some careless plays that lead to said turnovers. He will have to play more minutes if Shannon is out, and we cannot afford to have him turning the ball over tonight.
  • This is the second and last test before we get into Big 12 play. Make no mistake- Abilene Christian is good enough to win this game. It may not be pretty, but these are the types of teams that will make you better going forward. When Tech played ACU two years ago it showed a lot in demonstrating how Jarrett Culver could operate as a primary ball handler, and I anticipate we may see similar types of lessons being learned tonight.