Texas With Big Road Game at Tech

At first glance, Texas shouldn't face much of a challenge when the Longhorns head to cellar-dwelling Texas Tech on Saturday.

But games aren't played on paper, which is how even the Red Raiders (8-19) — a team considered by many to be among the worst in the Big 12's history — aren't winless this year.

The funny thing is that, other than scoring, rebounding and turnover margin, in most categories, Texas Tech is simply below average. Not terrible. Not horrific. Not bottom-of-the-charts bad.

But that's the problem: the Red Raiders are below average in EVERYTHING. There isn't one single thing that they can hang their hat on, and their rebounding and turnover margin rates are among the worst in the league. The Red Raiders are also dead last in the league in three-pointers made per game.

And that non-exceptional trait also stands out in terms of the Red Raiders' individual players. Texas Tech doesn't have anybody in the league's top 20 in scoring, nor does it have anybody in the top 15 in assists. So there isn't anybody great at scoring, nor is there anybody who excels at setting the table for scorers. That's probably a big part of the reason that the Red Raiders are the only Big 12 team to average less than 60 points per game.

Tech does have two players among the league's top 11 rebounders in Jay Crockett and Jordan Tolbert.

Still, this is the Big 12, and Oklahoma found out the hard way that any team can nip you if you aren't paying attention. That shouldn't be a problem with the Longhorns coming off a two-game losing streak, and needing every last win heading into the NCAA Tournament selection process.

That starts Saturday against Texas Tech. The "one-game-at-a-time" mantra of every coaching staff certainly needs to be applied here. But since I neither coach, nor play for, the Texas basketball team, I'll feel free to look ahead a bit.

A realistic expectation of the final three games: at Tech, Oklahoma at home, then at Kansas for senior night, puts Texas at 2-1 over those contests. That has Texas at 19-12 and 9-9 in the Big 12. Alone, that probably wouldn't be enough, but there are two other factors at play here.

First, this season has a terrible bubble, one that has teams seemingly losing on purpose to avoid the NCAA Tournament. And secondly (and more importantly), there's the conference tournament to think about. With the way the format goes, Texas (as the likely No. 6 seed) would start off its tournament by playing Baylor, a team that the Longhorns have twice played closely earlier this year. Baylor is basically the perfect fit of a good team (and a ranked team) that would allow Texas a chance at a high-quality win, and against a team that Texas has shown it can compete with.

But of course, none of that matters if the Longhorns don't take care of business on Saturday. One step at a time.


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