And now we reach the most important game of the season.
After beginning the year with infinitely more questions than answers - like how would Mac McClung and Marcus Santos-Silva fit in, how much of an impact will the freshmen make, and can Chris Beard turn this group of talented individuals into a championship contending team - we now have a strong grasp of Texas Tech’s identity heading into the NCAA Tournament.
In spite of the personnel turnover from last year, the Red Raiders remain a strong defensive team - obviously a product of Chris Beard’s unrelenting dedication to getting the most out of every player’s abilities on that end of the court. Tech ranks No. 24 in defensive efficiency according to KenPom, but also scores the ball well (No. 33 in offensive efficiency) in spite of the gauntlet of athleticism and length it runs through on a nightly basis in the Big 12.
We’ve got three keys to Tech’s first-round matchup against Utah State, but first:
How to Watch
TIME: 12:45 p.m. CDT
DATE: Friday, March 19, 2021
LOCATION: Assembly Hall (University of Indiana) Bloomington, Ind.
STREAM: NCAA March Madness Live
Keys to the game
1. Don’t worry about Utah State
The Red Raiders are better than the Aggies in every way. If Tech just focuses on itself, playing its game, and doesn’t worry about the score or any modest Utah State runs, this contest will be over midway through the second half. Utah State doesn’t have the firepower to compete with Tech, and in spite of its impressive defensive statistics, its schedule has been less than inspiring. Focus on Tech. and the rest will take care of itself.
2. Take away Queta
Neemias Queta is a good basketball player. To some, like my good friend and colleague Emory, he is the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon. In any case, he’s the only real threat to making this a close game Friday, and Beard is aware of that fact. The formula is simple, collapse on the traditional center in the paint, force him to make extra passes to his mediocre teammates and limit the number of offensive rebounds surrendered. He doesn’t stretch the floor, he’s largely one-dimensional on offense and he isn’t surrounded by the 2015 Golden State Warriors on the perimeter. Limit Queta, take the W and move on.
3. Stay aggressive
One way to take Queta out of the game is to literally take him out of the game by forcing him into foul trouble. Tech’s guards should utilize the pick-and-roll to penetrate the lane and draw contact, finding open shooters on the wings when appropriate. Also, defensively, there’s no reason to shy away from contact and try to avoid foul trouble. Tech is much deeper than Utah State and the Red Raiders should be happy to introduce the Aggies to the physical Big 12 style of play. I’m not saying Tech needs to go full 1989 Detroit Pistons, but it should establish its dominance and not shy away from Queta just because he’s taller than Tech’s frontcourt.
It’s a simple game plan, but should be effective enough to make this a relatively easy win. Everyone wants to make this into some old-fashioned slugfest with a final score in the 40s. It’s not. Tech is a strong offensive team despite its slow pace of play, and it should generate enough turnovers to get out on the break for some easy layups.
Prediction: Texas Tech 72, Utah State 58
This sponsored post was published according to our guiding principles.