Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009, 8:30 PM CST
Frank Erwin Center * Austin, Texas
Radio: 98.1 FM / 1300 AM (Austin)
Las Vegas Line: Texas -15
KenPom Data Prediction: Texas, 83-67
Opponent Blog: Double T Nation
Game One: Texas 71-49
NOTE: KEVIN DURANT'S #35 JERSEY WILL BE RETIRED DURING A HALFTIME CEREMONY
|Texas Tech||Texas||Texas Tech||Texas|
|Overall Record||12-15||18-8||Offensive Efficiency (Rank)||105.1 (113)||110.7 (49)|
||Defensive Efficiency (Rank)||100.2 (157)||90.7 (23)|
||Strength of Schedule Rank||#22||#25|
|Away / Neutral Record||0-9 / 1-1
||4-4 / 3-2||Quality Wins (KenPom Top 50)
|Record Last 5 and 10 Games||1-4 / 2-8
||3-2 / 6-4||Losses||
Stakes and Keys to the Game after the jump.
For Texas Tech, there really isn’t anything at stake other than playing the role of spoiler. Pat Knight will not be in attendance after being suspended by the Big XII conference for complaining about the officiating following Tech’s home loss to A&M on Saturday. Rick Barnes is 20-3 against Texas Tech since arriving in Austin, including a perfect 10-0 mark at the Erwin Center. Additionally, Tech has not won a true road game all season. Last, Texas will be retiring the #35 jersey of superstar and my favorite Longhorn of all time, Kevin Durant, at halftime. So all Tech has to do is win on the road without their coach, in front of a pumped up crowd, and over a team riding a wave of confidence after knocking off the #2 Sooners on Saturday night. And one more thing, Texas defeated these same Red Raiders in Lubbock, 71-49, just a month ago. Needless to say, it won’t be easy.
For the Longhorns, there is a lot to play for. A conference championship is beyond reach this season but a first round bye in the conference tournament remains an outside possibility. Right now, Texas is not an absolute lock for the NCAA tournament but two home wins, beginning with one tonight, should ink their place in the bracket somewhere. The Longhorns are also playing for seeding. Despite another resume building win, Texas is still lying close to the 7-10 seed range in most projections. A few more convincing wins combined with a road win in Stillwater and / or a couple of wins in Oklahoma City should propel Texas toward the 5-7 range and safely away from a second round match up with a real heavyweight.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Limit easy buckets. This may seem like a fairly obvious point but against Tech’s motion offense it is even more important than usual. The Red Raiders are limited athletically and must get baskets on backdoor cuts, open looks from three, and in transition to be efficient of offense. In the first meeting, Texas defenders did an outstanding job of defending with one eye on the ball and the other on their man. Tech’s lay ups and open looks were severely limited, and consequently, the Red Raiders shot just 34% from the floor. Texas also won the rebounding battle in Lubbock 40-33. If the Longhorns defend and rebound in a similar fashion tonight, this game won’t be close.
2. Get James, Mason, and Balbay involved early. One of the best aspects to emerge from Lubbock was the ability of Longhorns not named AJ Abrams to score facing the basket. Abrams took just 10 shots and scored just 11 points in the first meeting while Damion James added 18 points and Gary Johnson and Justin Mason kicked in 15 each. Johnson is questionable for tonight’s game after twisting his ankle against OU. Regardless of whether he plays or not, Texas must continue to look to more than AJ for perimeter points and scoring off the bounce. Balbay has impressed in his new role at point by attacking even sagging defenses and causing havoc in the lane. Mason and James will also have quickness and athletic advantages from the wing and should be able to turn the corner and convert close to the basket.
3. Bring the intensity from the opening tip. This is another nationally televised game and another opportunity for Texas to impress voters and committee members. Avoiding a 7-10 NCAA tournament seed is crucial for this team to have a good shot at playing on the second weekend. The Oklahoma win was incredible but, as the players mentioned after the victory, it won’t mean a thing if they come out tonight at lose at home to Tech. There is a reason the Longhorns are double digit favorites—this game should be out of hand early. Texas has put together stretches of excellent play but we still have not seen a dominant performance for a full 40 minutes. Tonight would be a great time for that inconsistency to end.