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Next up for KU: Texas Tech, whose inconsistencies lead to questions

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Two-thirds of the way through the college basketball season, the Big 12 has had a few unexpected developments.

Texas, not too long after a disastrous last season, looks like a national title contender.

Kansas State, after the league's coaches selected the Wildcats to win the Big 12, look disorganized and undisciplined. KSU's current standing in the conference: tied for 10th. One of the biggest surprises, though — perhaps as startling as the first two — is how poorly Texas Tech began Big 12 play.

The Red Raiders (11-11, 3-4 Big 12), who will play host to Kansas (20-1, 5-1) on Tuesday in Lubbock, Texas, started conference play 0-4, losing by an average of 21.5 points per game. It just didn't make sense.

Entering the season, Tech had upper-half-of-the-league aspirations. The Red Raiders returned five of their top six scorers from a year ago, including point guard John Roberson and forward Mike Singletary. Both are seniors.

I remember attending Big 12 media day in Kansas City, Mo. before the season, when third-year coach Pat Knight candidly addressed reporters, saying he was entering a "get-an-extension or get-fired kind of year."

At the time, it wasn't too big a stretch to think Knight could turn the program around. Tech was 14-19 in his first season in 2008-2009, and 19-16 last season. I came away from media day thinking Knight, who typically speaks what's on his mind, meant business this year. That's why it was somewhat surprising when Tech appeared to be spiraling its season down the tubes at 0-4 in league play.

A sudden burst of life has seemed to re-energize the Red Raiders, however. Tech has won its last three league games, giving Knight his first three-game Big 12 win streak as a head coach.

It's part of the mission of this blog to occasionally offer insight into KU's Big 12 opposition, but the Red Raiders and their Six Flags over Texas roller-coaster rides into the land of inconsistency are making that rather difficult.

Which bunch will Kansas run into on Tuesday, the 0-4 Red Raiders or the 3-0 Red Raiders?

Two telling stats with Texas Tech that could decide the outcome: how well TTU is shooting, and how well it's rebounding.

In Tech's four conference losses, it shot an average of .387 from the field. In their three conference wins, the Red Raiders are shooting at a .501 clip.

In TTU's four Big 12 losses, it was outrebounded by an average of 34-25 per game. In three conference wins, Tech is holding a 33-30 average rebounding advantage.

Kansas is vastly more athletic and talented on paper, but Tuesday's venue (United Spirit Arena) might alter that advantage a bit.

Something has happened to KU the last few times it has visited Lubbock. Not sure what exactly that is, but KU hasn't won at Tech since March of 2003. The Jayhawks were more talented than the Red Raiders in 2009, 2007 and 2005 as well, but were upended each of those years in Lubbock. That means Kansas coach Bill Self has never won at the United Spirit Arena since taking over in Lawrence, surely one of the oddest KU stats out there.

The guess here is Kansas ends that streak on Tuesday. The Jayhawks are simply too good offensively, ranking first in the country in effective field goal percentage (57.9 percent). The Red Raiders, conversely, have played porous defense this season, sitting last in the Big 12 in scoring defense with a hefty 75.6 points allowed per game (that's also 311th of 335 teams in the country).

Tech's been able to squeeze out some victories against middle-of-the-pack Big 12 teams (Nebraska, Oklahoma State) and Iowa State. When it's come time to play the big boys (Texas, Baylor), however, the Red Raiders have been taken out rather handily.

We'll find out just how good TTU is in the next few weeks. Brutal upcoming schedule: vs. Kansas, at Texas, vs. Texas A&M, at Missouri, at Baylor.

As for Tuesday, mismatch city, even with KU on the road.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.

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