Football will be on everybody’s mind throughout the day. Well, that and gluttonous amounts of food. But don’t forget that basketball is still in session on the college side of the ledger with a bunch of early-season tournaments and some really fascinating games.
Somehow, someway, we got there with Oregon yesterday. Now the Ducks have a really tough game against Gonzaga with a mid-afternoon tip-off. Seems like a very bad spot for them. But, it’s early, so our focus will shift to later in the day.
That focus will be on the Texas Tech vs. Iowa game in Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the second-to-last game of the day in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Texas Tech has popped as a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 144.5.
Both teams have mostly taken care of business this season, though Texas Tech has played one of the weakest schedules in the country and Iowa lost to the best team that it faced in the DePaul Blue Demons. Tech has not played an opponent above 183rd in the country per Bart Torvik. The Red Raiders have won every game by at least 15 points, which is all they can do when the schedule is this lackluster.
Texas Tech has scored 1.179, 1.052, 1.234, 1.003, and 1.31 points per possession in their five games without superstar Jarrett Culver and has allowed .832, .586, .886, .794, and .901 PPP. This is something of a reloading year for Chris Beard’s squad. Senior leadership is hard to find for the Red Raiders, who lost to Virginia in the finals last year and made it to the Elite Eight two years ago. Now Beard is relying more on underclassmen, as highly-rated freshmen Jahmi’us Ramsey and Terrence Shannon Jr. are actually in the starting lineup.
Junior Davide Moretti played a big part with last year’s runner-up team and he’s doing the same this year as the team’s most efficient offensive player to date. TJ Holyfield is 26-of-31 from two-point range to start his senior season and has shouldered a big load on a team using a lot of freshmen and sophomores.
It is really hard to fully evaluate what Texas Tech has done to this point. The strength of schedule has been weak and Beard has been able to spread out the playing time. The Red Raiders are sixth in the nation at 43.3% from deep and rank in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency and offensive rebounding percentage against. The schedule, though, has been filled with so many bottom feeders. Furthermore, aside from a “neutral” site game against Houston Baptist, the Red Raiders haven’t left Lubbock and this is their first foray outside of the Lone Star State.
While we can poke holes in Texas Tech’s resume, we can poke a lot of holes in Iowa’s, especially because the Hawkeyes lost to the only top-130 opponent that they have played. That was a home loss against DePaul in which the Hawkeyes allowed 1.129 PPP. They were beaten by 15 and only managed .947 PPP of their own. It wasn’t a particularly poor shooting effort, but it certainly wasn’t a good one.
Iowa has had defensive woes. Games against SIU Edwardsville and Cal Poly saw Iowa hold the opposition to .821 and .825 PPP, respectively, but those two teams rank in the 300s. Against average to above average teams, Iowa has not defended well. That would be a problem heading into this one against Texas Tech.
A lot of different players have worked their way into Fran McCaffery’s rotation so far, including his son, Connor. Luke Garza is the unquestioned star of the show for Iowa. The Hawkeyes didn’t lose a ton from last season, but this was also a team that just went 10-10 in Big Ten play. Players like Joe Wieskamp, one of McCaffery’s highest recruits, are a year older and wiser, but Iowa does seem to be lacking polish early in the year.
Defense travels, as we know. Texas Tech brings defense and a fairly efficient offense. Even though neither one of these teams have been tested much, we know what we’re getting from Texas Tech. We know we’re getting poor defense from Iowa and maybe a good offensive showing, but that’s easier said than done against Beard’s bunch.
It’s Texas Tech laying the number for me here. The total of 144.5 implies that we’ll get a higher-scoring affair, which means that Tech will have some success on offense. We’ll see if it stays, but Tech has been playing a little bit of a higher tempo this season, with at least 72 possessions in each of their first five games. Last season, Tech played one game of 72+ possessions in their first 10 and three such games during the regular season plus one more that went to overtime.
It seems like they’ll slow Iowa down now that they are facing a decent offense.
Pick: Texas Tech -6.5
Lean: Under 144.5