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Texas Tech doesn't have the shooters to bomb away against KU

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Kansas center Jeff Withey gets up to block a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets up to block a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

Team: Texas Tech
Record: 8-5
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 253

3 Strengths

• Forcing turnovers: Texas Tech has done a great job of pressuring defensively, creating turnovers on 24.1 percent of opponents' possessions (31st nationally). The Red Raiders get most of those turnovers off steals, as 13.1 percent of their defensive possessions end in steals (26th nationally). Josh Gray (No. 5) and Daylen Robinson (No. 10) are the two best swipers, as both rank in the top 65 nationally in steal percentage. Kansas has done a good job of avoiding turnovers this year (89th nationally), but it is of note that the Jayhawks' worst turnover contest came in its only true road game of the year against Ohio State.

Offensive rebounding: Like Iowa State, Texas Tech has excelled on the offensive glass this season, grabbing 38 percent of its missed shots (32 percent). Some of that strength has fallen off in Big 12 play, where the Red Raiders are pulling down just 31 percent of their misses. This strength matches up with another KU strength, as the Jayhawks rank 53rd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.

Interior scoring: Tech has shot a great percentage from two-point range, making 52.4 percent of its inside shots (33rd nationally). Nine of the Red Raiders' 11 rotation players are shooting 50 percent or better from two-point range, including Jaye Crockett (No. 30), who has made 65 of 105 twos (61.9 percent). Once again, though, this lines up directly with a KU strength, as the Jayhawks lead the nation in two-point percentage defense (37.3 percent).

3 Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: The Red Raiders have been dreadful from long range, making just 67 of 247 threes (331st nationally). Only one player — reserve Dusty Hannahs (No. 2) — has made more than 32 percent of his three-point tries this year. Texas Tech doesn't shoot a lot of threes, but it doesn't avoid them, either; thirty-two percent of the Red Raiders' field-goal attempts have been threes (217th-highest split nationally).

• Turning it over: While playing at a fast tempo, Texas Tech has a tendency to be careless, giving it away on 21.4 percent of its possessions (217th nationally). Tech averages 15.3 turnovers per game, with the highest turnover rates coming from guards Gray and Robinson. KU's guards haven't shown much ability to turn people over in the last few games (Fun stat: In the last five games, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Jamari Traylor [nine] have more combined steals than Elijah Johnson, Naadir Tharpe and Travis Releford [eight]), but they should be able to pick up at least a few Saturday afternoon.

Competition: Texas Tech has faced one of the worst schedules in the nation so far, with its slate ranking 346th (out of 347 teams) according to KenPom.com. The Red Raiders have only played one road game (at TCU) and have taken on five teams ranked 313th or worst in KenPom's standings. Tech hasn't played well when it has faced top competition at home, losing by 28 to Arizona and 34 to Baylor.

3 Players to Watch

• As mentioned earlier, 6-foot-1 guard Josh Gray (No. 5) has been great on the defensive end, coming away with steals on 4.8 percent of opponents' possessions (32nd nationally). Offensively, though, he's been a huge liability, taking on a lot of offensive responsibility while producing an inefficient line. The freshman is extremely turnover-prone, giving it away on 28.6 percent of the possessions he ends. He's also a miserable three-point shooter, going 9-for-41 (22 percent). Gray takes a team-high 25.9 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game, but KU shouldn't be too worried when he has the ball in his hands.

• Six-foot-7 forward Jaye Crockett (No. 30) is Tech's best scoring option, but for some reason, he doesn't start. He's a great finisher at the rim and also can get to the free throw line, drawing five fouls per game while shooting a team-high 53 free throws. The junior also is a gifted rebounder, bringing down 23.9 percent of the available defensive rebounds (67th nationally) and 13 percent of the available offensive rebounds (95th nationally). Crockett takes 24.4 percent of Tech's shots when he's in, and he's the main guy that the Jayhawks should key on defensively.

Six-foot-11 forward Dejan Kravic (No. 11) has performed well when he's out there, though he's played less than half of Tech's minutes. The junior has three main strengths: inside shooting, where he's made 56 of 98 shots (57.1 percent); offensive rebounding, where he's grabbed 11.9 percent of his team's misses when he's in (156th nationally); and shot-blocking, as he's swatted 8.8 percent of opponent twos (56th nationally).

Prediction

The biggest challenge for KU in Lubbock usually is bringing its own energy. Typically, United Spirit Arena is the emptiest gym that the Jayhawks play in front of all year.

Other than that, there's really not many reasons to think KU will struggle. Tech's strength offensively is inside, and KU has center Jeff Withey to clean that up. Another strength for Tech is offensive rebounding, and the Jayhawks do a nice job on the defensive glass.

If KU can somehow find a way to get turnovers, this one could get ugly quickly. Even if the Jayhawks don't, though, I still don't think they'll be challenged against one of the Big 12's two worst teams.

Kansas 86, Texas Tech 56

Hawk to Rock

After his 33-point game against Iowa State, guard Ben McLemore said KU coach Bill Self talked to him about working harder without the ball while also looking for his shot more. This game should be the perfect test run to see if McLemore can start to be more aggressive.

I think he will be. Put me down for 20-plus points with at least four three-pointers from the talented freshman.

Predictions tally
13-1 record, 180 points off (12.9 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

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