Getting to know: Texas Tech basketball
For the first time this season, Texas Tech will play in a true road game when it travels to Kansas for a battle between ranked teams at 8 p.m. Tuesday (TV: ESPN).
The 18th-ranked Red Raiders opened Big 12 play with a 24-point victory over then-ranked Baylor. Returning a large group of seniors, Tech (12-1) is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Tech’s formula for success this season is its dominant defense. In 13 games, only two teams have scored more than 65 points: No. 23 Seton Hall and previously-ranked Nevada. In its last five games, no team has surpassed 54 points. Of course, none of those teams had an offense like the Jayhawks.
“I don’t know if you can ever prepare for Kansas until you actually play them,” TTU coach Chris Beard told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “But I do think we’ve played teams with multiple shooters on the floor at one time. So maybe we can draw a little bit from those experiences. But when you play Kansas, especially in Allen Fieldhouse, it’s a whole ‘nother monster.”
Tech senior forward Zach Smith only played four minutes against Baylor last week because of a left ankle injury. He warmed up at halftime and rode a bicycle behind the bench afterward, so he likely will have a chance to suit up vs. KU.
Fun fact: Texas Tech has started its five seniors in seven games this season. The Red Raiders and Mercer are the only two schools to start five seniors in a game this season.
Series history: Kansas leads 33-4. The Jayhawks have a 17-0 record inside of Allen Fieldhouse against the Red Raiders and have won the last 16 contests, dating back to 2009.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH
No. 12 — G Keenan Evans | 6-3, 190, sr.
Selected third-team All-Big 12 last season, Evans has only improved. He’s averaging a team-best 16.6 points on 37.9 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Evans has dished a team-high 3.6 assists per game.
Evans has scored 10-plus points in 37 of his last 39 games and ranks 26th in Tech history in all-time scoring. He had 41 points and seven assists in two games against KU last year.
His dad, Kenny, was a high jumper at Arkansas and advanced to the finals of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
- “I think what we’re seeing now is a veteran player starting to get to a level where he’s playing with a great consistency,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “No one has ever questioned Keenan’s talent. He’s had huge games all the way back to his freshman year playing for coach (Tubby) Smith. Now, he’s getting himself into a different neighborhood of greatness, and it’s call consistency.”
No. 2— G Zhaire Smith | 6-5, 195, fr.
Playing off of the bench, Smith averages 10.7 points in 22.6 minutes per game. He’s shooting 65 percent from the field, only attempting 11 3-pointers. He grabs 4.1 rebounds each night and is tied for the team lead with 15 blocks.
From Garland, Texas, Smith attempts 68.8 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com. He had 15 points in the team’s Big 12 opener vs. Baylor.
No. 10 — G Niem Stevenson | 6-5, 205, sr.
Averaging 8.7 points and 2.8 rebounds on 46.4 percent shooting. He’s 12 of 30 from the 3-point arc. From Dallas, he transferred to Tech from Seward County CC in Liberal, Kansas.
Against KU last season, Stevenson totaled 24 points and 12 rebounds in 44 minutes.
No. 23 — G Jarrett Culver | 6-5, 190, fr.
Entering off the bench in most games, Culver has made an immediate impact with 10.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line and has grabbed 20 steals.
From Lubbock, he’s one of the top local players to play at Tech since Craig Ehlo. One area that he’s struggled is the free-throw line, where he’s only made 54.8 percent of his 31 attempts.
ONE THING TEXAS TECH DOES WELL
Forcing more than 18 turnovers each night, the Red Raiders lead the Big 12 — and rank second in the country — in scoring defense by allowing only 58.2 points per game. They don’t give up many transition buckets. Opposing teams are only shooting 29.9 percent from the 3-point line against Tech.
ONE AREA TEXAS TECH STRUGGLES
The Red Raiders do have some trouble at the free-throw line, making only 67.2 percent of their attempts as a team. They’ve made 302 trips to the charity stripe, which ranks second in the Big 12 behind West Virginia.
MEET THE COACH
The Red Raiders are ranked for the first time since the 2009-10 season when current coach Chris Beard was an associate head coach under Pat Knight. Beard is in his second season as head coach at Tech after spending one season at Arkansas-Little Rock.
His first head coaching position was at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. Before returning to Tech to become the head coach, he briefly accepted the head coaching position at UNLV.
Kansas by 7. After passing one tough defensive test last week, the Jayhawks will play the top defense in the Big 12. The difference between Texas, which had Mo Bamba in the paint, and Tech is how the Red Raiders play against guards. They suffocate the 3-point line and grab a lot of steals. With Tech’s talented bench, I think this is a much tougher matchup for KU.
My prediction: Kansas 71, Texas Tech 68. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 7-5.