It’s been 364 days since Texas Tech and Texas players were pulled off the court a mere 30 minutes before tipoff of the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. On that day, the two teams were set for a battle to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. As we now know, that tournament never happened, and that game is now merely a footnote in the large book about the impact of COVID-19 in the sports world.
This year, these two teams are fighting for tournament seeding and bragging rights. Tech was able to sweep Texas in the regular season, with Mac McClung’s late game heroics winning the game in Austin and Mark Adams’ signature defense shutting down Texas in the second half for the win in Lubbock. Despite losing the head-to-head series, Texas is still one line ahead of Tech from a seeding standpoint according to most bracketologists, but that status could change if either team has a run in Kansas City.
Texas Longhorns (17-7) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (17-9)
Location: T-Mobile Center (Kansas City, Missouri)
Game time: 8:30 CST
Odds: Tech -1.5
Record: 17-7 (11-6)
Stats and Storylines
- There was a while where Texas looked like a team that was going to be fighting for a #1 seed. They started the season 10-1 and got up to #4 in the country before losing to Tech in Austin. Since then they’ve gone just 7-6, have battled COVID, and have fallen off a cliff on the defensive side of the court.
- Texas has three guards that can play with anyone. Matt Coleman is the best initiator of them all, averaging 4.2 assists to only 2.3 turnovers. He’s probably the worst shooter of the three (though Andrew Jones is technically shooting a worse percentage), but his instincts and defensive ability make him a very valuable piece. Ramey can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, but his ability to shoot, be a decisive passer, and play good defense allow the Longhorns to accept some of the reckless plays that he makes. Andrew Jones is one of the best stories in College Basketball. Not only has he come back from Leukemia to be a competitive D1 player, he has also arguably gotten better. He is still a positive defender, and his ability to drop 25 on any given night is something that this Texas team is missing outside of him. His shot has fallen off a bit as of late, but he is still an extremely valuable weapon for the Longhorns.
- Texas is anchored on the inside by Kai Jones and Jericho Sims. The former was the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year, while the latter has been a Longhorn since Keenan Evans was in Lubbock. Both guys had strong games in the second match between these two teams, so it will be imperative that Tech finds ways to make them more inefficient.
- Greg Brown is probably the most talented player on this Texas roster, but he makes a lot of mistakes and really lacks an identity on the court at this point. He has one of the worst A/TO ratios in America (.4/2.3), and he is only shooting 32% from three. Tech was able to make him a negative player in the most recent game, which follows a trend of them being able to shut down wings who struggle to shoot consistently or drive well.
About Texas Tech
Kenpom Ranking: 20th
- I’m going to keep this pretty short. If you have kept up with this team most of the storylines have been covered extensively throughout the year. If you have not kept up with this team you can check out our section in this article, or read a few of my recent previews to get a good idea of what has been happening.
- Tech is 1-3 in the Big 12 tournament under Chris Beard. They have been favored in every one of those games, with two major upset losses to West Virginia (in 2019) and Texas (in 2017). The lone tournament win was against a seven seed Longhorns squad in 2018, and even that was way closer than it needed to be. For whatever reason Tech just cannot seem to play well in Kansas City. Hopefully that changes this year.
- Kyler Edwards is coming off his best game of the season in my eyes. He had 18 points vs. Baylor, dished out four assists, and played excellent defense. His ability to be an all-around positive player has not been covered enough this year, but consistently being able to score will be critical to Tech having any amount of tournament success.
- I’ll be curious to see if Jamarius Burton plays tonight. The junior has missed the last five games with a toe injury, though he did practice today in Kansas City. Having him back adds another guard to the rotation, and probably eases the load on Mac McClung and Edwards.
- Speaking of McClung- he has been in a funk lately, shooting under 40% and struggling with turnovers in his last nine games. Tech needs him to be efficient in scoring, as so much of the offense comes from him playing isolation ball. McClung will find ways to score regardless of if it is efficient or not, but taking 20 shots to get 15 points probably will not lead to many wins for Tech in March.