Time for the rematch, but this time around on Oklahoma
turf. No fancy introduction, just the cold hard facts. Texas Tech badly needs
a road win. Oklahoma equally needs to defend their home court. This match-up is
shaping up to be the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. After
having a share of the conference lead at 4-1, Tech has suffered two straight
losses, though the loss at Missouri could be attributed not only to the
difficulty of playing on the road but in major part to injuries to two key
players, Jon Plefka and Charles Burgess. Oklahoma was doing OK, but has also
had two losses in a row, though not wholly unpredictable ones on the road to
Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. They are now 3-4 in conference.
There is of course another element involved that every reader will be aware of, unless they spent the last month in the Gobi Desert or some such place. I am of course talking about the severe season- ending injury inflicted on Tech's Esmir Rizvic by Oklahoma Center Longor Longor. Depending on your point of view, it was either a deliberate mugging or else inadvertent contact. The ensuing two game suspension of Longor was predictably viewed as either not nearly enough punishment or unfair treatment. The question is to what degree will this influence the outcome? I do not know, but without a doubt the facial fractures have had a terrible impact on Rizvic and have deprived Tech of a valuable Big.
Regarding the emotional impact, I don't think much love is lost between these two teams under the best of circumstances. Tech may have won the last one by a relatively wide margin, but I predict this one will be a nail biter and I'm about to tell you why I think so.
By the Numbers
In terms of relative strength, my Composite Power Rating indicates that despite having a better CPR, Tech is a narrow two point underdog, solely due to Oklahoma's home advantage. With regard to RPI, it took some damage, even though Texas had a relatively high RPI. This was of course due to the severe home loss penalty interjected in the formula by the NCAA. However, by my numbers Tech is still on solid NCAA Tourney ground, as it is floating in the high 20's.
Not to be repetitious, but while a road loss is not as damaging to the RPI as a home loss, it would do some harm. More critical at this stage than RPI, a conference record of 4-3 does not leave much margin for error. A road win would not only stem any negative momentum, but would greatly help the RPI because of the road win bonus inherent in it. Nevertheless, just because the Raiders won by 14 in Lubbock is no guarantee of victory at Oklahoma. While not brimming with overconfidence, I do have some comfort for Tech fans. As a rule of thumb, I generally expect about a ten point swing from home to home, thus by that rough guesstimate, Tech would squeak by.
|Per Game Statistical Analysis (Rounded Off)|
We can scrutinize these numbers all we want , but it may be more important to examine the first game to see if the dynamics in place there are still in effect or what may have changed. In other words, is this just a favorable matchup for Tech which, absent some untoward occurrence, should result in a Tech victory? Before we get to that, let me say that the biggest change is the fact that the game will be played at Oklahoma and that is quite significant. As I remarked elsewhere, without any other information, that roughly equates to a ten point swing, which would still leave Tech a narrow winner.
Now to Game One, a Tech 68-54 win. These are the comparables:
Predictably Tech was out-rebounded, but managed to overcome this handicap. There is nothing to indicate that this will change. The margin may narrow if Tech rebounds as well as it did against Texas where it was a close 37-41. Also, an improved Plefka with more minutes, may help in this area. On the other side, while Longor has not started since his return from limbo, he has not scored well, but he has still maintained his 7 rebounds per game average In Game One, he had 2.
As an astute observer pointed out (loosely quoted) after reading my last Report, "So we have an opponent that is offensively challenged, but is a good defender, right?" That was my assessment and fortunately that came to pass. While managing to hold Tech to 42% shooting, the Sooners only managed a meager 35%. Hopefully this was in part attributable to a good Tech defense. Individually, Neal was still inconsistent to Tech's benefit scoring only two points.
Longor who had been Oklahoma's best average scorer was ineffective and only scored two points also. Booby Maze, who I was most fearful of coming off the bench had a season 17 point best performance, but fortunately for Tech it went for naught.
With regard to those very unpredictable 3 pointers, this is what I said last time:
"As to 3 point shooting, I will make it short and sweet. From all aspects, shooting percentage, number of shooters, consistency of performance, and even throwing in the kitchen sink, Tech should have an advantage, perhaps a decided advantage against Oklahoma in this department. Austin Johnson and David Godbold are the best Sooners left on this aspect. Their second best, even though on small numbers, is Walker."
Since that time, I have grown more leery of predicting what will happen on 3 point shooting. However, despite a 9/29 performance against Texas, I remain cautiously optimistic for the same reasons as stated previously. In part this is because I believe Tech was firing 3's not necessarily by choice, but because they were having trouble getting the ball inside on Texas. Oklahoma did only manage 3/15 in the first game. At this point their best is Kellen Sampson, though on small numbers, 4/8, and second best on even smaller numbers, Walker. Neal can also have spurts like 4/7 against Baylor.
Prior to playing, Oklahoma had been erratic on TO's, having fewer TO's than opponents on balance, but having many TO's at times against both good and bad opponents. As can be seen, Oklahoma had substantially more than Tech, 16 to 9. Since that time, Oklahoma seems to be consistently taking pretty good care of the ball, only against OSU being in a deficit position, by a narrow margin 13 to 16. Perhaps the biggest eye opener was against A&M, one of the best defensive teams in the conference. Oklahoma had only 7 TO's and they were all in the first half.
Let's look at what has transpired since the Tech game, all but one game being in conference. It seems only correct to narrowly focus on the three games since Longor returned to play, since he is still by average Oklahoma's best scorer and rebounder. In those three games, Oklahoma romped over Baylor, 91-51, and played both OSU and the Aggies very tough. The only statistic of note in the Baylor game is that 8 Sooners scored 5 points or more. In the OSU game, they almost pulled off a sneak upset despite shooting 24 fewer FT's than OSU and being outscored on such, 27 to 13. OSU seemed to have the game well in hand, though not by a huge margin. Suddenly Oklahoma made two 3 pointers back to back, Jameson Curry missed two Ft's, Oklahoma scored another FG, and the score was 62-61, OSU. Johnson had a chance to tie it with less than 10 seconds remaining and the score 61-64, but missed a trey.
In the A&M game, Oklahoma was actually leading at the half 29-28 and led by as many as 7 in that half.
In its three other games since Tech, the Sooners have crushed Colorado, Nebraska and mighty Longwood, all at home. Colorado and Nebraska don't qualify as cupcakes, but prior to playing Tech, Oklahoma had defeated several other opponents by wide margins. Therefore the probative value of those big wins, is speculative at best. However it may be noteworthy that Oklahoma has won by double digits in all eleven wins. As one commentator noted, the jury is still out on whether or not Oklahoma can win a close game.
Coach Capel has changed his pre-Tech usual lineup despite the return of Longor, who is now coming off the bench. The addition to the usual players of Crocker, Griffin, Johnson and Neal is Senior Nate Carter. Tech needs to be wary of this new lineup. Ironically, the suspension of Longor may actually have greatly benefited Oklahoma. Senior Forward Carter is coming on like gang busters and, as David Godbold perceptively commented, "we are looking to pound it inside". and pound it inside they are. In the last five games, Carter has averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game. Even though Longor is only scoring 6 points/game since returning, coupled with his 7 rebounds per game, this becomes an area of concern.
Johnson also seems reenergized, scoring in double digits, 10, and having more than 4 assists, 6, for the first time since December and November respectively, in the game against the Aggies. He also had only one T/O.
I will repeat again for this game that the player coming off the bench who conceivably could be most dangerous is the freshman Maze. I say this of the highly touted recruit even though he has not scored well since the Baylor game when he had 13 points.
While this is a winnable game, it may well prove to be a nail biter. There are too many X Factors on both sides, a number of which have already been mentioned. In addition the Oklahoma home edge rears its ugly head.
On the Tech side of the ledger, the biggest X Factor is the degree to which injuries may take a toll. Before the Missouri and Texas games, I didn't think Jarrius Jackson fully had his hop back after an ankle injury. Well, I don't know about his hop, but he had his stroke going pretty good against Texas with 27 points on 11/22 FG's. Even his 5/15 3's, while seeming paltry, is still equivalent to 50% on 2's. Burgess and Plefka played bravely, 37 and 32 minutes respectively, despite painful bone bruise injuries. Plefka and Burgess both had shooting woes but contributed substantially in other ways. Burgess had an outstanding 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal, and chipped in with 8 points. Plefka made 6/7 FT's and was second high scorer with 14 points. He also had 5 rebounds, an assist and a steal. How much their play was impaired is impossible to tell and their degree of availability is uncertain.
A more serious issue is the degree to which Tech gets some bench support. They only got 2 points and 2 rebounds off this group on 1/5 FG's, 2 assists and 4 rebounds in a total of 39 minutes played. Tech has gotten good support before and it is difficult to tell the degree of impact the Texas defenders had.
Of course there is always the positive Coach Knight impact.
As I have said in virtually every game, even though Plefka is once again becoming a consistent offense contributor, in my estimation Tech must depend primarily on its guard group. In the preseason analysis, it was said that ""the [Oklahoma] guards are a terrific group of defenders". However, irrespective of X Factors, given the depth and quality that Tech has at guard, they can prevail in that head to head.
Lastly, Tech has shown a resilience and toughness that can serve them in good stead. If one can say a team has a personality, this one's is an indomitable one that perseveres through injuries and other misfortunes. It's a tossup, but as I said, a winnable game. I believe it will be relatively low-scoring game. If the Raiders can get close to 70 points, they can win.
#0 Keith Clark F 6-8 240 Freshman Oklahoma City, OK
#1 Chris Walker G 6-3 192 Senior Sacramento, CA
#2 Michael Neal G 6-3 198 Senior Mesquite, TX
#3 Bobby Maze G 6-3 175 Freshman Washington, DC
#5 Tony Crocker G 6-5 187 Freshman San Antonio, TX
#11 Kellen Sampson G 6-1 186 Junior Norman, OK
#15 David Godbold G 6-5 215 Junior Oklahoma City, OK
#20 Austin Johnson G 6-3 160 Sophomore Amarillo, TX
#24 Nate Carter F 6-6 220 Senior San Diego, CA
#30 Longar Longar C 6-11 228 Junior Rochester, MN
#32 Taylor Griffin F 6-7 232 Sophomore Oklahoma City, OK
#45 Beau Gerber F 6-7 204 Freshman Winfield, KS