Kansas vs Texas Tech
Kansas is going for their 14th straight Big 12 title. If they win this one, they’ll be two games up on Texas Tech with two Big 12 games remaining for both teams. Texas Tech doesn’t want their successful season to go to waste, but it’s going to be hard for them to make up any ground on Kansas with a banged up Keenan Evans. He struggled mightily in Texas Tech’s last game when he tried to play against Oklahoma State shooting 1-7 from the field. Texas Tech will need him to turn it around today if they hope to secure a win at home against the Jayhawks.
This a position that Kansas has been in before. This isn’t the same dominating team they’ve had in the past, but they are still very talented and definitely know how to play as a cohesive unit. Malik Newman has been an excellent addition to this team and has shown he can score at will, but has been a little streaky at points this season. Udoka Azubuike has proven to be an extremely effective rebounder and one of the least effective free throw shooters I’ve ever seen. He has improved a little bit, after a Kansas fan hung out at his dorm room saying he was going to teach Udoka how to shoot a proper free throw. The Jayhawks will need Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte Graham to continue their season long trends of shooting the basketball well in order to secure a win on the road in Lubbock. Both are shooting over 40% from the field and three point range. Kansas in general is a high percentage shooting team, they average 49.3% from the field in all contests. Kansas will have to figure out a way to get some open shots against a pesky Texas Tech defense.
Texas Tech has played well this season, with the exception of their last two games. I know they played Baylor on the road, and Kansas lost to them too, but Texas Tech had that game won until Keenan Evans got injured. The success that TTU has had this year can be attributed to their defense,. Their offense is good, but their defense is great, especially at home. In general they rank 8th in opponents points per game averaging 63.1. Keenan Evans has been their leading scorer for this season, but his nagging toe injury could make it difficult for him to produce at the high level he is used to this season. They will need other players such as Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver to step up, regardless if Evans is 100% ready to go or not. These two are second and third on the team in scoring and both shoot an extremely high percentage; 57.7% and 45.5% respectively. Kansas is going to get their points one way or another, and if TTU wants to keep up with them they will need contributions from just about everyone on the team.
Keys to the Game
Kansas: Win the game on the glass. Both teams are poor rebounding teams, but if Kansas is looking for an advantage in this game it has to be on the boards. Texas Tech has a defense that is going to swarm the Kansas offense and it may be a little harder for Kansas to shoot at such a high percentage. Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot will have to take over the redounding duties in this one and hope to get some second chance points on offense if the Jayhawks are going to win this one.
Texas Tech: Establish a new go-to scorer. This is easier said than done, especially this late in the season, but Keenan Evans is the only one averaging more than 12 per game. If he is unable to go or as inefficient as he was in his last game, Texas Tech will find themselves in trouble early at home. Chris Beard has done a great job preparing his team for this game though. If they are going to win the Big 12 title outright, it has to start here with a win against the Jayhawks.
I think Texas Tech will turn it around in this one and make it a close game. Kansas will ultimately have too much for the Red Raiders and take a win on the road and all but secure the Big 12 title for themselves. This is a Kansas team that has been in this position before and I don’t think they’re going to let anyone come in between them and a shot at history. 14 conference titles in a row would break the record they tied last season set by UCLA with 13 consecutive conference titles. I think this game will be decided by 3 points, Jayhawks 69 – Red Raiders 66.
Bonus freekarl3’s Lock of the Day: Kansas +2.5