Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-14, 0-9) at Texas Longhorns (13-9, 3-6)
Austin, TX | Saturday, 6:00 p.m. CT | Longhorn Network
Opponent Blog: Double T Nation
Mercifully, the most brutal six-game gauntlet any team in college basketball will face this year has come to an end, and though Texas came ever-so-close to picking up that huge second win, in the end it was -- as expected -- a 1-5 stretch, leaving Texas at 13-9 overall and 3-6 at the midway point of Big 12 play. Texas has 9 conference games to go, and needs 7 more wins to get to the magic 10-win mark where they can feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. But with two of those games coming versus Baylor and at Kansas... the margin for error is, well, basically zero. Texas likely needs to win all 7 of its games against Tier II and III competition to get to that 10-win mark.
If regrouping from such a difficult six-game stretch presents a daunting challenge, the good news is that Texas gets to try and regain its confidence with the easiest game left on the schedule. Welcome to Austin, Texas Tech. Your timing is exquisite.
The Red Raiders (7-14, 0-9) are in transition this year as they rebuild under the direction of a name Texas fans know well -- Billy Gillispie, who returns to West Texas after a rocky two-year term at Kentucky, followed by two years out of college basketball. Gillispie inherited a team that lost five seniors and returns just a single starter, and the Red Raiders will be the first opponent that are as young and inexperienced as the Longhorns. Among the 9 Red Raiders averaging 15 or more minutes per game, 5 are freshmen while 2 more are sophomores, with just a single junior and senior playing regular minutes.
Texas Tech plays about like you'd expect from a team so young, struggling with turnovers and consistency, and they don't have a J`Covan Brown who can carry the offense on his own if need be. They're a reasonably athletic group, and Gillispie has them playing hard defense, but they've lost every Big 12 game but one by double digits and struggled to score in each of them. Tech does have some solid outside shooters (junior Ty Nurse is their most dangerous scorer and a 38% shooter from beyond the arc), and they do a very good job of attacking the rim to draw fouls (their 44.4% FT Rate ranks 23rd nationally), but without anyone who can consistently break down a defense, if you can keep Tech from the offensive glass the Red Raiders are prone to scoring droughts. In other words, if you can score and clear their misses, a win is assured.
In the end, this game is really about what us and what we're able to do. Honestly, style points don't matter -- we've racked up plenty of those already, but of no benefit to our tournament resume -- and from here on out it's all about wins. Getting hot enough to win 7 of the next 9 is all about consistency, and Texas Tech presents a perfect opponent for us to regroup and rebuild some confidence. Above and beyond everything else, we need Kabongo and McClellan to take a step forward, because we're just not going to get there without getting more from those two than we often have.
Prediction: Style points don't matter, but this team could sure use a confidence-building performance. I'm a little worried that we'll (again) be flat to start, but I'm hopeful that we see this team emerge from the brutal six-game stretch stronger and more capable than before, and -- hopefully -- ready to play with a sense of urgency and maturity. At this point, though, it's all about wins, and I'll take them however they come. Texas 81 Texas Tech 59