It (probably) all comes down to this! Texas Tech, once a verbal tournament lock, has sunk from brackets around the country in the wake of a four-game losing streak. Late February failures against Oklahoma and Texas gave little credence to the close-losses against Baylor and Kansas last week. “ LLLL ” is a difficult streak to be optimistic about, but recency bias is a real thing and analysts around the country are still buying the Red Raiders.
I get their resume is hardly intimidating, but trust me: No one wants to see Chris Beard and Texas Tech come NCAA tourney time. pic.twitter.com/pppATSxO7F— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 7, 2020
This quarterfinal match up between the Red Raiders and the Longhorns might be the best story line of the Big 12’s segue to the NCAA Tournament. Texas Tech had every opportunity to secure 20 wins in February (essentially a shoo-in for the tournament) but, much the theme this season, were unable to capitalize on opportunity and now sit at 18-13 with a .500 conference record. Texas, on the other hand, were a joke for a majority of the season. Catching fire after a humiliating loss against Iowa State and going on a five-game winning streak lifted their season to 19-12 on the season with a .500 conference record.
Similar on the record sheet, sure, but for some reason Texas Tech still sits at 22 in the NET and 20 in the BPI while Texas floats much lower at 69 in the NET and 68 in the BPI. If what many are saying about this game being the play-in game for either team then all bets are off on rankings. But if the committee decision is much more convoluted and intricate than we’re imagining/hearing (as it usually is) it seems that Texas has everything to gain from this match up.
If we’re looking statistically at the Red Raiders, they finished the regular season leading the Big 12 in 3-pointer percentage (35.5) and assists per game (15.4). They were close seconds in categories like assist-to-turnover ration (1.13), shooting percentage from the field (45.2), free-throw percentage (75.4), the turnover margin (2.4), and turnovers forced per game (16.03). By all measures Texas Tech should be coming out hot and taking it to the Longhorns early; Sascha Paruk from SBD figures Tech will be favored by 4.5, but the odds are still TBA until gameday. Yet while Texas sits 40 some odd slots lower than Tech in the NET and BPI, the Red Raiders need to obliterate the Vegas line to assure their ascension into Selection Sunday.
In the last match up, Texas outscored Texas Tech 38-21 in the second half to route the Red Raiders by ten in our own United Supermarkets Arena. This isn’t the first or last occasion where Tech has gone cold turkey on scoring buckets - and most of those resulted in unwarranted, ten point or less losses. At the Big 12 tournament the Red Raiders are 14-23 all-time, and are 2-4 all-time against the Longhorns. Last year Tech fell 79-74 to West Virginia in the quarterfinals after receiving a first-round bye. Got you feeling confident yet? Let’s remedy that.
The X-factor for this game is Kevin McCullar. The redshirt freshman is one of, if not the, hardest working players on the court. McCullar willed his way from bench to starter this season which is impressive enough, but in the past six game as a starter he is averaging 10 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. No, McCullar might not be your flashiest player but on the nights where Ramsey scores zero points you have McCullar still churning out baskets to keep the needle moving. For toughness look no further than the team leading 24 steals during conference play and a dominate rebounding presence. Don’t let it slip your mind that 6’6, 185lbs McCullar’s eight rebounds against Kansas were against the 7’0, 260lbs Udoka Azubuike and 6’10, 265lbs David McCormack. It’s all four-to-one in his mind, and that’s the difference maker for shooting variance being an absolute (expletive) at the end of the season.
Beyond McCullar Texas Tech will have to rely on, yes, Jahmius Ramsey to score points. He’s been spotty as of late - like, twenty-two points one night and zero the next - but Ramsey holds all the cards when it comes to scoring from anywhere on the court. Beard and the entirety of Lubbock needs this probable one-and-done to ball out for the team and himself to ensure that his final collegiate days aren’t spent in the NIT. Likewise (another freshman), Terrence Shannon is a player who spent some time on the bench earlier in the year for a streak of lackadaisical and inconsistent play. However, since his return to full-play he’s starting to look more consistent on both sides of the floor; becoming one of our better off ball defenders.
For the gauntlet in March you can’t look past your veterans. For some that may make you think Holyfield and Clarke, by seniority, but this team needs Edwards and Moretti to take charge. These are two players that have valuable championship-caliber tournament experience and rightly so need to be the two players we have play their best. Kyler Edwards has semi-dropped off the map in the past few games, scoring only three against Kansas, but needs to return to fabled “tournament kyler” form and take on the handle of PBH. For Moretti? Make those threes, re.
Here’s the thing. If we do this, if we humiliate Texas with a 10+ victory (which we can), then we’ll have a stronger case to make it to the tourney. Additionally we’ll get another chance against Kansas. Their status as no. 1 only helps our resume under the assumption we play them close. I know plenty of you want the Ws and Ls to be the only thing that matters on Selection Sunday but that’s just not the full story - and it may be to our benefit this year. A win against Texas and a close loss to Kansas should slide us in around the 9 seed. Given the course of this season I would be fine with that. What about you? Where do you think Texas Tech ends up on Selection Sunday?
Texas Tech’s NCAA Tournament seed
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