Tale of Two Seasons
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Red Raiders (9-8, 2-4 Big 12). First, in conference play, Texas Tech went 7-4 while scoring a respectable 76.5 points per game and playing at one of the Big 12's fastest tempos.
But once league play started, Texas Tech faltered, going 2-4 through the first six games and slowing the game down while holding the ball until late in the shot clock. Tech's scoring plummeted to 53.3 points per game, more than 23 points per contest less than in non-conference play.
Tech has one of the Big 12's least efficient offenses, ranking 248th in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. The Red Raiders shoot the ball well on two-point attempts, making 50.4 percent of those shots (68th), but are abysmal from behind the arc, shooting 26.5 percent, one of the worst marks in the country (339th). Not surprisingly, the bulk of Tech's points come from inside the arc, with the Red Raiders getting 58.6 percent of their points on two-point shots (43rd). Texas Tech is also a good offensive rebounding team, grabbing 35.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds (70th).
Turnovers are essentially a wash because Texas Tech turns the ball over but has also succeeded at turning opponents over at a slightly higher rate.
Turnovers are important, because otherwise, teams are likely to get clean looks. Tech ranks 260th nationally in effective field goal percentage defense, with opponents shooting an especially high rate from three-point land. In fact, opposing shooters can 36.3 percent of their three-point attempts against the Red Raiders, a mark that puts Tech 271st in the nation.
Big Win Over Iowa State
Of course that would seem to make Iowa State a terrible matchup for Texas Tech, with the way the Cyclones hunt the three-point shot. But instead, the Red Raiders grabbed an airtight 56-51 win over the 'Clones in Lubbock.
The game never really belonged to anyone, with neither team ever holding a lead over five points. Josh Gray hit a jumper to make the game a three-point margin with 36 seconds left before Iowa State's Will Clyburn missed the potential game-tying three. The Red Raiders then hit two free throws to clinch it.
How big was the victory? Put it this way: it was the first time Texas Tech had beaten a team ranked in the KenPom Top 200 all year. The previous best win was a home victory over North Carolina A&T. Iowa State is currently ranked 43rd, per KenPom.
There wasn't really a secret to victory, other than the fact that the Red Raiders slowed the game to a halt, Iowa State missed shots and Texas Tech cleaned up the glass. The Cyclones made just 35.3 percent of their shots, including a meager 26.1 percent of their three-point attempts. And while Iowa State usually gets a bevy of second-chance opportunities, the Cyclones only grabbed three offensive boards to the Red Raiders' 31 defensive rebounds.
Looking at the Individual Red Raiders
It's pretty much impossible to look at Texas Tech statistically because there are two completely different sets of stats. For instance, Tech's best offensive player, Jaye Crockett, has a respectable scoring average of 13.1 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game.
But the bulk of that was put up against an inferior non-conference slate, and Crockett is scoring just 9.3 points per game in conference play, which is still the top mark on the team.
Extending the above comparison between conference play and non-conference play further, and adding in the Red Raiders' three games against major conference teams in the non-con, Texas Tech averaged 82.5 points per game against minor competition (no team in the KenPom top 200) with a low score of 70 points (in a 14-point win over Florida A&M) in eight contests.
A year ago, Jordan Tolbert (6-7 225) was one of the better freshmen in the Big 12, scoring 11.5 points per game and grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game. His rebounding average has stayed steady, but he's now scoring three-points less per contest. Still, he's a guy that is capable of scoring, as he had five games of 20-plus points a year ago.
Tolbert teams with center Dejan Kravic (6-11 240), who adds the only real size to the front line as the only regular player over 6-8. Kravic is the team's second-leading scorer overall, averaging a little under 10 points per game while grabbing 5.4 boards and blocking about a shot per contest.*
* Tolbert is the team's second-leading scorer in conference play and one of only two Red Raiders averaging more than eight points per contest in Big 12 games.
Josh Gray (6-1 175) is fresh off a 16-point, five-rebound, four-assist, two-steal outing against the Cyclones, though that game also showed what Gray has to work on. The team's point guard, Gray actually has more turnovers than assists this year (he had five turnovers against Iowa State). Still, he's another capable scorer at times.
Dusty Hannahs (6-4 210) provides the only real long-range shooter in the lineup. He's making 39.4 percent of his three-point shots. Glue guy Jamal Williams (6-4 190) steadies the ship a bit with his ball-handling.
Crockett (6-7 200) makes his living coming off the bench, though he plays starter minutes. He's shooting 52.5 percent from the field, but just 38.9 percent in conference play. He's needed to come off the bench as the Red Raiders don't have another healthy everyday player above 6-4.
Ty Nurse (6-1 185) is a ball-handler who has the team's best assist-to-turnover ratio. He's the lone senior in the lineup. Toddrick Gotcher (6-4 195) does a little bit of everything. Daylen Robinson (6-0 175) has taken 84 shots, the sixth-most on the team, but he's shooting just 31 percent and 15.6 percent from three on the year.
Injuries to starting guard Trency Jackson and big man Kader Tapsoba have hamstrung the Red Raiders a bit.
Simply put, this is a must-win game for the Longhorns. And it's a should-win game. True, the Red Raiders have two conference wins, two more than the Longhorns have. But the main weak spot for the Longhorns is their offense, and Texas is still slightly better offensively than Texas Tech is; per Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, the Longhorns are 243rd nationally to Texas Tech's 248th. And the Red Raiders don't have the Longhorns' elite defense. Texas ranks 13th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and is still the nation's top defense in effective field goal percentage.
It sounds like an obvious cliché, but the Longhorns have to execute offensively. Getting some run-outs and points in transition before Texas Tech is set would really help, but even without that, if Texas can be calm and get (and knock down) good shots in the halfcourt, they'll find themselves in a good spot against a team that doesn't have much offensive firepower.