Well, the game that’s been circled on the No. 14 Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-5, 5-3) calendar for months is finally here. It’s their National Championship game. Their Super Bowl. To the No. 23 Texas Longhorns (16-5, 5-3) and head coach Chris Beard?
“It’s the next game on the schedule,” Beard said during his media availability on Sunday.
Beard’s return to Lubbock, where he spent 15 years as coach, including five as the head coach, didn’t include a warm welcoming. But there certainly was a welcoming.
NSFW: The following video contains vulgar language
In case you weren’t sure how these Texas Tech students feel about Chris Beard.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) February 1, 2022
Yep, that’s him in the front seat of the bus. pic.twitter.com/QOJuzV6EPB
Mark Adams, a former assistant to Beard, has picked up right where he left off and leads another gritty and defensively sound Red Raider team. When asked if the two teams were mirror images of one another, Beard said “I think that’s an accurate assessment.”
Both the Horns and the Red Raiders share the same overall and conference record. Both bolster top-10 defensives per KenPom, and both offensives rank outside the top-40 (Texas currently ranks 44th and Tech ranks 58th).
UTEP and Fresno State transfer Bryson Williams leads the team with 13.5 points per game, shooting an efficient 54 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three.
“[Bryson] is obviously a guy that can play all over the floor,” Beard said about the 6’8” forward. “I think he has a chance to play in the NBA because of his ability to shoot the ball facing the basket and then he’s a load down by the basket.”
Williams, who played for Texas assistant Rodney Terry at Fresno State and UTEP, dropped 33 on the Kansas Jayhawks in their double-overtime loss at the Phog. Tech opened conference play with a 51-47 loss to Iowa State, but bounced back with victories over No. 6 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor in Waco.
The similarities continue, with Tech having also played Gonzaga and Tennessee this season, losing to the Zags and knocking off the Vols in overtime.
Offensively, the Red Raiders play a bit faster than Texas, shoot a better percentage from the floor, and have five players averaging double-figures.
But, I still expect Tuesday night to be a defensive bloodbath — KenPom.com predicts a 61-56 final score in favor of the Red Raiders.
Meanwhile, Beard and Texas are coming off their best win of the season, clutching on for dear life to beat No. 22 Tennessee after it appeared the Horns would roll to a dominant victory.
One thing in favor of the Longhorns is their experience playing in big environments, playing against the largest crowd in TCU history this past week and the sold-out Erwin Center for the Tennessee contest.
Ready or not, Texas will be underdogs against the Red Raiders with most prediction models picking Tech, including ESPN’s BPI that gives the Horns just a 32.7% chance of winning. Too bad we can’t bet on how many Horns Downs we’ll see, but it would probably be impossible to handicap that.
Buckle up. Enjoy the game. And remember, win or lose, at least you don’t live in Lubbock.
How to Watch:
Time: 8:00 p.m. Central
Radio: Texassports.com affiliates
Odds: The Longhorns are 4.5-point underdogs against the Red Raiders, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.