An eight game winning streak and a full game lead in the Big XII will be on the line in Lubbock this afternoon. #5 Texas (24-4, 11-2) will visit Texas Tech (15-12, 6-7) for their final true road game of the season. Game will tip at 3 pm and be televised by CBS. The Longhorns dominated the first meeting in Austin, 73-47, behind an outstanding overall performance from DJ Augustin, a hot shooting second half from AJ Abrams, and strong team defense throughout. While Tech still does not have the athletes to match up with Texas, today’s contest could be much closer.
Since the last meeting, Bobby Knight has resigned as head coach of the Red Raiders and son, Pat Knight, has taken over. Pat is 3-4 overall but is coming off a 44 point loss in College Station on Wednesday. One of the few reasons to give Tech a chance today is the fact that this one is in Lubbock. Tech is 5-1 in conference play at home with their lone defeat only coming after a 30 foot heave by Sooner David Godbolt in the final seconds.
What is at stake for Texas?
A lot. The Horns currently stand one full game up on the Jayhawks (10-3) for the conference lead with just three games to play. That means that Texas has a magic number of two for a share of the Big XII title and a magic number of three for an outright title. Any combination of three Texas wins or Kansas losses over the next eight days will bring Rick Barnes his third conference title in ten seasons in Austin. Also at stake in each of the next three regular season games is a shot at a #1 seed. With Duke and Carolina continuing to dominate the ACC, Memphis and Kansas unlikely to lose again, Tennessee as the top ranked team in RPI, and UCLA playing well out west, Texas cannot afford to drop even a single game and still feel confident about a #1 seed. However, the Longhorns could drop this one or one of their two remaining home games and still be in good position for a #2 seed, possibly in Houston, but if the goal is a #1, then they must be perfect down the stretch.
Keys to the Game:
In the game in Austin, both Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams sat out almost the entire first half with two fouls each. Not surprisingly, the Texas offense struggled. The same thing happened in Manhattan on Monday, and not surprisingly, the Texas offense struggled. While DJ Augustin is surely the catalyst of this team, it has been proven in multiple games that the Texas offense is not nearly as effective without AJ and Connor on the floor. AJ’s presence creates driving angles for DJ and gives the ‘Horns a legitimate three-point threat, while Connor also stretches the defense with his ability to hit the long jumper and sets excellent high screens to give DJ the small advantage he needs to turn the corner. The ability of the Longhorns to stay out of foul trouble will be severely tested. Texas Tech gets to the free throw line on over a third of their possessions, good for ninth best in the country. The Longhorns must do a good job of not biting on pump fakes and keeping their hands straight up to have any chance of keeping the Red Raiders off the line.
I can’t believe that I’m writing that one of the keys to the game is limiting the scoring of a slow 6-3 guard, but it is. Voskuil scored 30 points in the upset win over Kansas State and 20 and 21 in their wins over Colorado and Iowa State last week. He is the only really scary deep threat and the only player capable of keeping the Red Raiders close, if Texas executes their top rated offense like they are capable of doing.
The Longhorns were +14 on the glass in their first game. The Red Raiders aren’t going to be any more physical or any taller in this one. Connor Atchley, Damion James, and Gary Johnson should all approach double figures in rebounding if this game goes the way of the good guys.
Augustin had 19 points, five assists, and three rebounds in the last game. After a strong performance in Manhattan and four days off, there is no reason to expect anything different this afternoon.
This one is simple: if Texas executes, they win. The Longhorns have advantages at all five starting spots, in depth, and in coaching. But if Texas reverts to lazy defense, gets into foul trouble, or allows Voskuil to torch them from three, then this one could be very close. Pomeroy has the Longhorns winning by six points and Vegas has Texas has 5.5 point favorites.