The First Time
Texas Tech holds a rare distinction as being one of two Big 12 teams to lose to Texas (14-16, 6-11 Big 12) before Myck Kabongo rejoined the teams. The Longhorns claimed a 73-57 win at the Erwin Center that represented the Longhorns' best pre-Kabongo offensive output. Texas averaged 1.14 Points Per Possession, with the wing trio of Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan and DeMarcus Holland scoring a combined 39 points and Ioannis Papapetrou — playing the stretch four — scoring 15 more.
Tech (10-18, 3-14) had a poor offensive performance, with 0.89 Points Per Possession, though Jordan Tolbert had a nice day, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds (eight offensive).
There isn't any secret why Texas Tech has struggled — the Red Raiders simply aren't very good. They rank 259th nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and 256th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, and their KenPom profile is a motley assortment of reds*.
* KenPom color codes each statistic based on a team's placement nationally. Green is good, with dark green being the best. Teams in the middle are white. Statistics that are on the bottom part nationally are colored red, with dark red being the worst indicator.
There are only two statistics where the Red Raiders even rank in the nation's top 100: steal percentage (39th) and adjusted tempo (85th).
The former statistic can largely be attributed to point guard Josh Gray (6-1 175). The freshman has shown flashes of being a big-time player in the Big 12, and his steal rate ranks 27th nationally. Though he isn't a great shooter, Gray can get to the basket, averaging 9.5 points per game and 3.3 assists per game. Once Gray limits his turnovers and becomes a more consistent shooter, he could be one of the more dynamic point guards in the league.
If steal rate is Texas Tech's best strength, the backcourt is marred by its biggest weakness — the Red Raiders are an abysmal shooting team from distance. Gray hits just 19.2 percent of those attempts, with fellow starter Jamal Williams (6-4 190) making 31.6 percent of his three-point shots. The third starting guard, Dusty Hannahs (6-4 210) is the team's three-point marksman, making 36.6 percent of his attempts.
Sophomore Jordan Tolbert (6-7 225) forms a nice young partner for Gray. Tolbert is averaging double-digit points per game in conference play, the only Red Raider to do so. He's also a top-300 rebounder in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. Dejan Kravic (6-11 240) supplies another rebounder and a decent shot-blocker as well.
To call backup Ty Nurse (6-1 185) a pass-first point guard would be an understatement. Not only has Nurse only taken 59 shots in 26 games, but he's only taken nine shots inside the three-point arc. That's an issue when you're shooting 24.0 percent from three. Jaye Crockett (6-7 200) provides scoring punch off the bench, leading the Red Raiders in scoring this year at 11.8 points per game, though he hasn't quite scored like that in conference play. And he's an outstanding rebounder, ranking 83rd in defensive rebounding rate.
Texas is a tough matchup for Texas Tech because the Longhorns are bigger and deeper. And the one thing the Longhorns have consistently done well — field goal percentage defense — aligns with the Red Raiders' biggest weakness, their inability to make shots. Likewise, so many of the Red Raiders' best shot attempts come at the rim, where Texas has the size and length to make attempts difficult.
At the same time, Tech is bad enough defensively that the Longhorns are able to execute on that end. Add in the fact that Texas has been playing much better offensively since Kabongo returned, and this is a game that Texas should be able to pull out on the road.