Where to Watch: ESPN2 8:30pm CT
Money Line: Texas Tech -7.5, O/U 125.5
We’re finally here ladies and gentlemen. After a rough last three games of the season, Texas Tech finds itself with a third place finish in conference play and a matchup against the Iowa State Cyclones. These teams split the regular season series, but it was very clear that Tech was the better team. The first matchup saw Tech with seven players eligible to play and still wind up only losing by four against the former 11th ranked Cyclones. The next matchup took place in Lubbock and the Red Raiders cruised to a 72-60 victory.
Iowa State is not to be overlooked, but this is a favorable matchup for the first game of the conference tournament. TJ Otzelberger is an outstanding coach and has turned around that Cyclone program in just one season, but Texas Tech has higher aspirations than a second round exit in the Big 12 tournament and needs to come out with a fire that exemplifies that.
One of the keys to victory for Tech is going to obviously be stopping first team All-Big 12 guard Izaiah Brockington. He hasn’t dominated Tech in either of the previous matchups, but he’s more than capable and he’s not a guy that we want to see get on a hot streak because there’s no telling when it would end.
Iowa State is also one of the best defensive teams in the nation, but they play in the Big 12 so that’s to be expected. There will be no easy baskets, but Kevin Obanor needs to unlock that March madness that’s inside of him and start to contribute at a much higher level. He needs to find his rhythm from three at attack because without his consistent production I don’t know how far we can go. TJ Shannon was amazing handling the ball against Oklahoma State, so maybe that’s something to build off of. The pick-and-roll with Bryson Williams as well as his drive and kick ability are going to help Tech become much more dangerous with the attention that defenses need to give him.
This game is a must win in my opinion. If we go into the NCAA tournament having lost the regular season finale against Oklahoma State and then losing our first game in the Big 12 tournament, we will have nothing to build off of and will likely drop down to a four-seed. This team is capable of reaching the top of the mountain, they just need to play like it because all of that talk and hype earlier on in the season doesn’t matter now.
My prediction for this game is a 73-68 victory for Texas Tech. Our stars will take over and we will hold Brockington to under 15 points and force somebody else to beat us. This will be the start of a championship run in the Big 12.