Texas Tech is coming off a tough 88-87 loss to west Virginia, but now they have to go on the road to face another top 40 team with a potent offense.
I guess that is just life in the Big 12... wait, wrong cliché. Tech is still facing a tough opponent, but this team hails from the SEC. LSU, a team most known in recent years for wasting Ben Simmons and allegedly paying players, has another good team this year. Led by Coach Will Wade, this iteration of the Tigers sport an 11-4 record, have a top ten offense nationally, and are led by a star freshman in Cameron Thomas. With that being said... their defense is horrible, as I will explain later. Anyways- let’s get on to the preview.
LSU Tigers (11-4) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-5)
Location: Pete Maravich Assembly Center (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
Game time: 1:00 CST
Odds: Texas Tech -3
Kenpom Ranking: 37th
Three things to know:
- LSU is a great offense. Top ten in adjusted offensive efficiency according to both Kenpom and Barttorvik. With a variety of versatile scorers, their offense is extremely dangerous at all three levels. With that said- their defense is probably the worst that Tech will face for the rest of the year. They are 150th in adj. defensive efficiency per T-Rank, and that is despite having some positive shooting luck early in the year. They allowed Alabama to make 23! threes and score over 105 points, they allow teams to take more threes than all but three teams nationally, and they struggle to rebound. That is not ideal in modern college basketball.
- Cameron Thomas is an electrifying player. He averages over 22 points and has scored at least 15 in every game but one (against Ole Miss- where he only played four minutes before an injury sidelined him). He can score at every level, plays well on and off the ball, and has shown the ability to take over late in games. With that said- there are two major issues with Thomas. For one- his defense is atrocious. He has a negative DBPM, does not have great instincts, and ball-watches way too much when playing team defense. Additionally, he is not a good playmaker for someone that plays with the ball in his hands as much as he does. He takes 17 shots per game, but only averages 1.5 assists to 2.2 turnovers. That is not what you want from a lead ball handler.
- LSU does not have any major interior presence on their roster. Shareef O’Neal (yes- he is the son of noted Blue Chips star Shaquille O’Neal) is the tallest rotation player at 6’10, but his game is more perimeter oriented at this point. Same deal goes for 6’9 Trendon Watford, who is LSU’s most versatile player. Watford is a great facilitator and initiator for his size, but he is not very athletic and does not play a lot in the paint. This could be a great opportunity for Tyreek Smith and Marcus Santos-Silva to have huge games.
About Texas Tech:
Kenpom Ranking: 13th
Three things to know
- Tech is coming off a heartbreaking loss to West Virginia. They played extremely well offensively- posting an adjusted offensive rating of 135.8 and committing only two turnovers for the entire game... but still lost. Why? Well West Virginia shot 57% percent from the field, 63% from three, and attempted 27 free throws. Teams to meet all of those splits (on a qualified # of attempts) are a combined 34-0 since 2010 in college basketball. Tech’s defense did not play terribly, as West Virginia hit a lot of tough shots and generally found themselves having to play late in the clock to find points, but the result was unacceptable.
- Mac McClung is averaging over 20 points per game since the start of 2021. I have often been critical of McClung, but it is hard to argue against him being the best player on this team so far in Big 12 play. With that said- there are still areas to work on. His defense was constantly being exploited against WVU, and at times he has some egregious tunnel vision. Still, the team needs McClung to continue his hot play to reach their fullest potential.
- Tech played ten guys against West Virginia, and all of them contributed in some way. Expect to see that again, as Chris Beard has been complimenting the improvements made by guys like Clarence Nadolny and Chibuzo Agbo.
Three stats to watch:
- Three point shooting for Texas Tech. LSU has allowed teams to hit at least ten threes four times this year. Tech has only hit that mark on one occasion, although they have hit at least 36% of their threes in three of the last four games, which is a positive sign. Hitting perimeter shots is a must against an LSU team that struggles quite a bit with defensive rotations.
- Rebounding. LSU is in the bottom quartile nationally for offensive rebounds allowed, while Texas Tech is in the top 30 nationally in OREB%. Crashing the glass will be essential for Tech to take advantage of LSU’s weakness inside, and limiting second chance opportunities will dictate how successful LSU is in containing Tech’s offense.
- Assists. Tech has had five or less assists in five of their last six halves of basketball. This team is at its best when the ball is moving, and unfortunately that seems to not happen at critical points. I would like to see some more PBH opportunities for Kyler Edwards, who only has two assists in the last three games. For LSU, they are bottom 50 nationally in assist rate and do a lot of their scoring in one-on-one situations, which is traditionally not how you want to face a Mark Adams defense.