Who: Texas Tech (16-8, 4-7) vs. Kansas (21-3, 9-2)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, United Supermarkets Arena
When: Saturday, February 11, 1:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Considering only conference games, Texas Tech doesn’t have a player in the Big 12’s top 15 for assists, and top 16 for steals.
Quotable: "I thought we were dialed in. I thought we came to play tonight. I thought we represented Tech well and gave ourselves a chance. My opinion, that game should go to overtime and let the players decide who wins the game. That being said, I have a lot of respect for the Big 12 officials. It's frustrating as a coach because I love our team. I love our guys, I love Texas Tech and I would do anything possible to get these guys over the hump of these one possession games."—Chris Beard following Texas Tech’s one-point loss at TCU
Expect a momentous game when Kansas comes to town to take on Texas Tech. The Jayhawks are in a nip-and-tuck battle with Baylor (possibly among others) for the Big 12 title as they attempt to win their thirteenth straight conference crown. The Red Raiders, after three straight close road losses, are in danger of falling entirely out of NCAA tournament competition. A win over No. 3 Kansas before what figures to be the season’s first capacity crowd, would help Tech’s cause on that score tremendously. Whoever wins this game will earn it.
KU is typical KU, which means very, very talented and very, very good. The Jayhawks have two players—Frank Mason and Josh Jackson—who are on the list of 20 for the Wooden Award, and the list of 30 for the Naismith Award, both of which go to the nation’s best player.
Mason, in particular, has been little short of stupendous. He scores 20 points, and averages five assists and four rebounds per contest, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 51 percent from 3-point range. Mason is that rare guard who can completely dominate a game, and has done so on multiple occasions.
Jackson, one of Kansas’ one-and-done specials, averages 16 points and seven rebounds per game while leading the Jayhawks in both blocks and steals. One wonders if, in Kansas’ storied basketball history, a player has ever finished the season as leader in the incongruous categories of steals and blocked shots. Needless to say, Jackson is a special talent.
This sort of talent, which is augmented by several other noteworthy players, naturally produces a formidable overall team. In conference play, KU leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage (47), scoring offense (81), and 3-point field goal percentage (43). Clearly, they are an offensive machine.
However, there are vulnerabilities on defense. The Jayhawks are No. 9 in points per game allowed, No. 7 in 3-point field goal percentage defense, and No. 8 in blocked shots. If a team slows down the Kansas attack, it will be in the ballgame. West Virginia defeated KU soundly by holding them to 69 points in Morgantown.
Texas Tech is a classic Jeckyll-and-Hyde team. At home, where the Red Raiders have lost only once, they are very tough indeed. But on the road they have been unable to summon the consistency necessary to win.
Texas Tech does not boast of a royal duo such as Frank Mason and Josh Jackson, but in Keenan Evans and Zach Smith at least have claimants to the throne.
Evans leads Tech in scoring at 14 points per game, is second on the team in assists and steals, and shoots at a 49-percent clip from the floor and at a 44-percent rate from distance.
Smith leads the club in rebounding with eight per game, and blocked shots with 37. He also connects on 54 percent of his shots from the field.
Overall, the Red Raiders are a solid defensive team, and a unit that values the basketball on offense. In conference play, Tech is No. 2 in scoring defense, No. 4 in turnover margin, and No. 5 in assist/turnover ratio. The Red Raiders are also No. 3 in free throw shooting percentage.
However, they are last in scoring, No. 9 in field goal shooting percentage, and No. 9 in rebounding margin. To beat Kansas, even in Lubbock, the Red Raiders cannot play down to that level in terms of scoring and rebounding.