Winston Churchill had an array of memorable quotes, but one of his most powerful - and simplest - came from one of his World War II speeches: “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”
Texas Tech has faced its difficulties this year, from injuries to key players to the daily grind of a loaded Big 12 schedule. But some of its toughest challenges were self-inflicted - outside shooting and defending the three.
You’re not making the Final Four if you can’t shoot, and surrendering surplus threes certainly won’t help your case, either.
Yet, what divine providence it was to allow the Red Raiders a couple of chances to ameliorate these flaws in their first two NCAA Tournament matchups. Tech ran up the score against Montana State, registering its highest scoring game of the season. On Sunday, hot-shooting Notre Dame sank nine threes and still Tech found a way to win.
Difficulties mastered, Tech has won an opportunity to run the table from here. The Final Four, which less than a year ago seemed like a dreamland the Red Raiders may never access again, is now just two wins away.
Of course, Tech will have to go through a Duke team fighting to prolong every second of its legendary head coach’s career before likely facing a No. 1 overall-seed Gonzaga on a mission to avenge last year’s championship loss.
Who said making it to New Orleans was easy?
But there’s another way to look at these matchups. Maybe, just maybe, Duke should be worried about facing the nation’s No. 1 defense. Maybe Gonzaga should feel uneasy about sending Chet Holmgren into a frontcourt that features Marcus Santos-Silva and Bryson Williams. Just a thought.
Balanced scoring attack makes Tech hard to plan for
A lot of times, we see star players take over for their teams in March. From Max Abmas to Steph Curry, the most memorable performances often stem from the shoulders of one budding star.
But the teams that win championships have multiple players that can lead the team in scoring. Against Notre Dame, Kevin Obanor led the team with 15 points while Bryson Williams and Kevin McCullar followed with 14 apiece. Two days earlier against Montana State, Terrence Shannon Jr. tied for a team-high 20 points, while Adonis Arms chipped in 15 and Davion Warren added 10. Overall, Tech has six players averaging 8 or more points and no one averages more than 14.
The potential remaining teams in the way of Tech’s path to the Final Four aren’t defensive juggernauts. They’re gifted offensively, but the Red Raiders are comfortable with that and actually prefer leaning on their defense to win games. But a multi-pronged Tech offense should also give problems to the remaining opponents.
Size and athleticism match up well with remaining field
It’s necessary to have athletes who can get out on the break, defend, and rebound to ensure a spot among the tournament’s last four teams. The Red Raiders are uniquely big and athletic, lightyears away from the Tech teams of the early 2000s.
The rebounding advantage we’ve seen in the first two games of the tournament has been considerable. Tech’s outrebounding opponents 75-60 in the Big Dance, which is significant. And 19 of those boards came on the offensive end of the floor, another positive sign.
If the Red Raiders can continue hitting the glass like this, limiting second-chance opportunities on defense while creating their own on offense, they’ll be really tough to overcome when factoring the other strengths Tech brings to the table.
When you consider everything this Red Raider team has been through since the last offseason - the departure of their head coach for Tech’s most hated rival, the proceeding uncertainty regarding the roster makeup and potential of the team, the injuries, the bad losses (remember Kansas State and Oklahoma State?), the great wins (remember beating Kansas, and sweeping Baylor and Texas?) - you’d be hard-pressed to find a team as close as this one.
The Tech motto - “Together We Attack” isn’t just a nod to the team’s aggressive style of play. It’s about unity. Together we attack. Together we win. Together we lose. No matter what happens, we’re doing it as one unit, all on the same wavelength.
That’s rare to find in basketball, a game where individual dominance can outshine teammates, where egos often get in the way of a team’s best interests. But basketball remains a team game, and that’s who wins these tournaments. Rarely is it the team with the unequivocal best roster. It’s the team that plays best together. St. Peter’s isn’t in the Sweet 16 because their starting five turned down offers from Kentucky. The Peacocks play hard and they play together. The Red Raiders do, too, and they have the talent teams like St. Peter’s lack. Another formula for Final Four success.
Last week, we had an article out that stated regardless of what happens, Tech exceeded all expectations for the season and this campaign should be considered a success. We stand by that, but there are only 16 teams remaining in a race that started with 358. By the end of this weekend, there’ll only be four.
Texas Tech will be one of them.
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