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Suffocating defense should propel Tech to comfortable first-round victory against Montana State

Upsets happen in March, but Tech’s aggressive defense makes the likelihood of lesser teams getting hot decrease significantly.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas Tech vs Oklahoma William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Four years ago today, 16-seeded UMBC defeated 1-seeded Virginia to mark the biggest upset in college basketball history.

Virginia had finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 53.4 points per game. But, as they say, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Yes, Virginia allowed the fewest points per game in the country. They also ranked 353rd (out of 353 teams) in number of possessions per game. They weren’t some super elite defensive juggernaut. They just walked up and down the floor.

Turn to the present day, and Texas Tech is receiving all kinds of recognition for being the No. 1 defense in the country. But the difference between Tech (which has allowed the ninth-fewest points per game in the country) and 2018 Virginia is that this year’s Red Raiders rank pretty much in the middle of the pack in possessions per game nationally.

In plain English: Tech doesn’t give up many buckets, and it’s not because they play slower than turtles on codeine.

That’s why our pal at KenPom has the Red Raiders ranked No. 1 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. Tech gives up 84.9 points per 100 possessions, which is absolutely ridiculous - especially considering the fact the Red Raiders played the 15th-toughest schedule in the nation.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas Tech vs Oklahoma William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

So, the chances Montana State walks into the arena and beats Tech by 20 - let alone at all - are microscopic.

And that’s not to say the Bobcats won’t try. There are a few solid players on this roster that would get some minutes in the Big 12, among them Xavier Bishop (team-leading 13.9 points per game), Jubrile Belo (13 points, team-high 6.8 boards per game), and Big Sky sixth man of the year RaeQuan Battle (8.5 points per game, 35.6 percent from three, 87.5 percent from the line). Amin Adamu is a 6’5 senior from England who’s contributed 11.6 points pe game on 50.7 percent shooting from the field and 39.1 percent from three (an incredible jump from when he shot 20 percent in his first year at MSU).

Bishop runs point for the Bobcats and is undersized even at the mid-major level at 5’8. He can score the basketball in a lot of ways, but it’s unlikely he’s had many opponents like Kevin McCullar guarding him. Getting by McCullar and into the lane is a big ask for Bishop, and he may be forced into more of a distributor role if Tech guards lock him up early.

Like most underdogs, Montana State will look to slow the tempo of the game because it can’t win a shootout against Tech. Meanwhile, Tech will do its best to generate turnovers and convert Bobcat mistakes into Red Raider dunks. If Tech does have to spend more time in the half-court (a weakness at times during conference play), it still shouldn’t experience much difficulty getting to the basket against a less-athletic, not-very-deep MSU team. Tech’s talent is just too abundant to fail in a game like this.

Likely starters

Montana State

F, 6’7 Abdul Mohamed

F, 6’9 Jubrile Belo

G, 6’8 Tyler Patterson

G, 6’5 Amin Adamu

G, 5’8 Xavier Bishop

Texas Tech

F, 6’8 Bryson Williams

F, 6’8 Kevin Obanor

G, 6’6’ Davion Warren

G, 6’5 Adonis Arms

G, 6’6 Kevin McCullar

Odds:

DraftKings Line: Texas Tech -15.5 , O/U 131.5.

(Odds/lines subject to change. Visit DraftKings for more information.)