Texas Tech has the best shot at ending Kansas’ conference title streak, and it’s happening a year later than I thought it might. Were it not for a Keenan Evans ankle injury, Tech could be looking to repeat at least a share of the Big 12 title after the 70-51 beatdown of the Longhorns. To wit:
Tech's play over the last four weeks has been insane. They were shooting 33.9% behind the arc in their first 22 games. During their 8-game win streak, they've made 42.9% of their threes and won by an average margin of 20.25 points per game (tonight actually hurt the MOV average).— Sydmill Harris Linguistic Academy (@LonghornRdTrip) March 5, 2019
Tech seems like the only Big 12 team I’d consider making a deep run in the tourney this year, and tonight was a good showcase of why. They played stifling defense, hit open shots, and hit some contested shots too. Texas looked to be up for the challenge early and it was a defensive battle for awhile, but Tech’s offense got rolling and the game was out of hand midway through the second half.
Defense is a series of cost/benefit calculations, particularly against a team like Texas who wants to force indecision or poor decisions with the PnR game. Tech’s decision was to prioritize denying the outlet passes the Texas guards make when they drive over keeping the guards out of the lane, hoping that Tech’s bigs could provide enough help defense to offset the lane penetration. This is why Febres (or Ramey, etc.) weren’t open on the pick & slip, why Hayes wasn’t open on the PnR, and why Coleman spent a lot of time driving to the rim. (This would’ve been a great gameplan for Roach to exploit, alas..) Tech basically said they’ll let their guards go straight up against Coleman in exchange for denying the actions that spiral off the guard driving the lane, and it mostly worked. Coleman had a solid night driving the rim, but he is a better facilitator than scorer and Tech was willing to live with him having the ball in his hands over allowing open passes. Coleman’s defense was pretty good as well.
Hands up who here thought Sims would be the best Texas big tonight. Sims prioritizing offensive rebounds led directly to his points, and he played solid defense as well.
In limited minutes, Hepa put on a clinic for any coach who screams about the value of keeping your hands up on defense. He had two blocks and nearly a third (it wasn’t called, but he altered it) early in the game and his lone three attempt was a nice basketball IQ play. He got the ball on the perimeter and faked a pass to Febres which drew a Tech defender out past the three-point line; if he throws that pass, Tech is going the other way with a steal. Instead he’s got a wide-open three attempt. It didn’t connect, but it was the right decision and showed a glimpse of him playing more within the flow of the game instead of making predetermined passes.
Febres came plummeting back to Earth tonight. The Tech defense saw enough of Febres getting catch & shoot threes the last couple of games and made it a point not to let him get his feet set before the ball got to him. Febres - like most college players - is significantly less effective from three on the run and Tech made him get the ball on the run if at all. Febres tried to make chicken salad out of chicken shit by driving the ball, which is something he didn’t do much of last year. Results were mixed at best, but it’s the next piece he needs to show to keep defenses honest.
Heart over height is a catchy slogan; however heart doesn’t block a scoop layup, height does. Long got a couple different shots blocked at the rim on account of him either taking on a guard he couldn’t get around or a big was waiting there for him if he did.
I thought Ramey might shine tonight when I saw him scramble on the floor off the opening tip, but that was probably the high point of the game for him. Ramey spent a good chunk of the first half on the bench after committing a couple of turnovers and showing he wasn’t up to the task of driving on the Tech guards.
The Tech Rims
Every missed shot by both teams sounded like somebody was electrocuting the shocks from a ‘57 Chevy in a Homeland episode. Is Beard’s salary so much that the Tech AD is having to refurbish rims from the Pat Knight era to make ends meet? Can they not redirect a pint of crude from the Permian Basin to lube those poor things?
Texas has one game left on their schedule, senior night against TCU. It remains to be seen if Kerwin Roach II will get to play in this game or if his suspension will make for an extremely awkward jersey ceremony. I say they lean into it and roll him out on a dolly wearing a straight-jacket and a Hannibal Lecter mask. The Horned Frogs will be coming to Austin in desperation mode as their tournament hopes are fading and a win against Texas could keep them on the right side of the bubble. Tip time is 11 AM CT Saturday on ESPN2.
BWG’s writing tunes are the sounds of a snoring dog. He does not have a SoundCloud.