Shaka Smart’s beleaguered Texas Longhorns unit will host the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday for a game televised on ESPNU. The stakes? Not particularly high. At 8-13, the ‘Horns could win each of the last 10 games and probably miss the tournament. Even an NIT bid would require a miracle turnaround.
While Texas’ schedule has officially entered the territory of “experience for next year,” the Texas Tech has much more on the line. The Red Raiders played a weak non-conference schedule, so don’t be deceived by the team’s 15-6 record — Chris Beard’s team is squarely on the bubble, currently sitting in the “first four out” column in Joe Lunardi’s bracket.
Tech has looked impressive at times this season. The Red Raiders have two top-25 wins this month, knocking off No.7 West Virginia at home in a 77-76 overtime finish, and defeating No.25 Kansas State 66-65. However, with a 3-5 Big 12 record, a loss to the admittedly lowly ‘Horns would throw a massive wrench in the tourney hopes for the visiting team.
So, Texas may not get to play underdog tomorrow at home against a team also near the bottom of the Big 12, but the ‘Horns do get to play spoiler. To notch a win, the burnt orange will need to first and foremost need to hold Tech’s offense in check. The Red Raiders shoot significantly better than the Longhorns from three (38.4 percent vs. 30.8 percent), and also are averaging a 49.9 percent from the field, good for 13th in the nation.
If Texas wants to emerge victorious, the team will also need to keep the turnover battle close. The ‘Horns are averaging an atrocious 14 turnovers per game, many of which are unforced, untimely errors. Tech isn’t the shining example of ball security either at 11 turnovers per game, so Texas must apply consistent defensive pressure to make up for the mistakes the young ‘Horns will undoubtedly make.
Thankfully for Texas’ depleted big men, Tech isn’t necessarily a team that relies on pounding it inside to a dominant big man. However, the Red Raiders do have a pair of solid 6’8 forwards in Zach Smith and Anthony Livingston. Smith in particular could cause problems for Texas, as the junior from Plano grabs 7.4 rebounds per game to go along with his 13.4 points per game average. He also records 1.6 blocks per game, and his defensive prowess could cause trouble for Texas’ young bigs.