The Texas Tech Red Raiders parlayed tenacious defense, along with phenomenal halftime adjustments, into a spot in the national championship game last April, as they very nearly toppled Virginia. But like the Cavaliers, they have struggled to assure themselves a spot in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field. Chances are, they are going to be looked upon favorably, but they should – and could – be making a better case for themselves.
And if their Big Dance ticket is yet to be punched, they’ll have to show up and do something meaningful in the Big 12 tournament. Their first game starts on Thursday afternoon at 12:30 PM ET against Texas at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
On that game, and all the others that are taking place in the conference tournaments, BetAnySports customers get reduced juice for better odds, as well as Sports Betting Ultra for the opportunity to place real-time wagers after the tip-off.
It is a “given” that Texas Tech (18-13 SU, 14-17 ATS) is going to defend well. This year they are ninth in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, according to the folks at KenPom.com. Last year they were in the #1 spot, and were better in most areas, especially their ability to defend inside the three-point line. But listen – Chris Beard really earned his stripes last season, and there is reason to believe that this team can rise to the occasion, as long as they can make some shots.
They are, in fact, best in the Big 12 in three-point shooting, hitting 38% from beyond the arc in league play. And they are the only team to hold opponents below 30% from downtown in Big 12 competition. So that’s a good place to start right there.
And they will pressure foes, to the point where they are one of the nation’s top 20 teams in creating turnovers. But there’s not a lot of bulk here, and they are liable to get pushed around on the boards a bit. So they are going to give up more than their share of second shot opportunities.
There has to be a sense of urgency here, as Texas tech comes into the conference tourney on a four-game losing streak. If they lose in the first round, there are going to be some upset teams if they lose a Big Dance berth to a squad that has dropped five straight.
These last two defeats were especially tough, as they lost 71-68 in overtime to Baylor and 66-62 to Kansas. A victory in either of those games may have given them sufficient ammunition to make their case with the Selection Committee.
Texas Tech is priced at +650 with BetAnySports to win the Big 12 tournament. In the game against Texas on Thursday, they are favored:
Texas Tech Red Raiders -5.5
Texas Longhorns +5.5
Over 125 points -110
Under 125 points -110
In point of fact, the Red Raiders have been victims of a little hard luck. They have suffered four overtime losses – to Creighton, Kentucky and a capable DePaul team, as well as Baylor. Could this be the difference between them making and missing the NCAA field?
Texas Tech lost some star power from last year’s team, with Jarrett Culver and Tariq Owens having departed for the NBA. They added some useful talent in the persons of transfers Chris Clarke (Virginia Tech) and TJ Holyfield (from Stephen F. Austin). But the most meaningful addition was freshman Jahm’ius Ramsey, who brought a lot of scoring power – notably 42.6% shooting from beyond the arc.
But there has been some concern that the Red Raiders became too dependent upon him for firepower. This was tested when he was injured during the non-conference slate. But they managed to pull an upset over Louisville, which was atop the polls, while he was injured. And now he’s slumping; during this four-game losing streak he’s shot just 11 of 40 (27.5%). maybe this is the time for Davide Moretti, a quality veteran floor leader who has hit 38.3% of his treys, to take things to a new level.
Beard has shown an ability to make adjustments with the best of them. The first-round game against Texas might be less problematic than usual because of some of the injury problems the Longhorns are going through. We do acknowledge that Shaka Smart’s squad – the reigning NIT champions – did beat Texas Tech during a recent run. And maybe the winner of that game takes an important step toward getting a tournament bid. But the Red Raiders, who could catch fire, loom as a darkhorse to make some noise, and maybe surprise some people once again.
Here are the odds on all the teams in the Big 12 tournament:
Texas Tech +650
West Virginia +700
Oklahoma State +6000
Iowa State +20000
Kansas State +20000
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