TCU returns home to the friendly confines of the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center to host the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Frogs are riding a two-game home winning streak and look to sweep the season series with the Red Raiders tonight. TCU beat Texas Tech 62-42 in Lubbock in January. To preview tonight's rematch, I caught up with Seth C from Staking the Plains. Be sure to check out my responses to his question over on Staking the Plains.
1. The Red Raiders look improved since the first meeting between TCU and Texas Tech, with home wins against Kansas State and then 9th-ranked Iowa State. Would you agree that the Red Raiders have improved? If so, what changes have led to this improvement?
Yes and no. On one hand, I think that there are some reasons to be excited about next year, but that sort of improvement doesn't show up in the record this year. The team has been better because the guards have played better, in part because the offense has centered more around them than around the post players. Rather than the post players initializing the offense, the guards have been better about getting open and the post players have been setting screens. Not only that, but when Texas Tech wins, those guards are hitting shots.
2. The Raiders are one of the youngest teams in the country, with a seasoned veteran as a coach. With the season drawing to a close, what does the future look like for Texas Tech?
I'm actually pretty excited about the team next year because I do think they are making strides. Against Oklahoma, Tubby Smith started four true freshmen and junior and Texas Tech played the Sooners to overtime. With young teams, the problem is consistency and so you see a lot of up-and-down performances. Individually, Zach Smith has been a rock at one of the forward spots, Norense Odiase and Isaiah Manderson are learning how to score inside and Keenan Evans is really starting to figure out the point spot. He has to work on turnovers, but he's got some terrific skills.
3. At this point in the season, who do you think is the MVP of this Texas Tech squad? Which players have impressed you this season and which players do you hope will improve moving into next year?
I'll take Zach Smith. Smith averages only about 5 points and 5 boards, but he was the least heralded freshman heading into the season, but he's been the most consistent. Smith is also averaging 1.5 blocks a game and he plays nearly 30 minutes a game. Tubby is really leaning on Smith and it's baptism by fire for him, but he's not shrinking from the moment. Smith is incredibly raw, but he's got a ton of room to improve.
4. The first meeting between these two teams was a defensive showcase. The Frogs held Texas Tech to just 22.9% shooting from the field. Do you think that was a result of a tough TCU defense, a struggling Texas Tech offense, or a combination of the two?
Texas Tech's offense is really bad. That doesn't mean that TCU didn't play excellent defense, but Texas Tech has really struggled to put the ball in the basket for pretty much all season. Texas Tech is 258th in AdjO, so yeah, there's problems there. Still, TCU is top 20 team defensively, so I think the answer to your question is that TCU should absolutely get credit for their performance last game, but Texas Tech isn't lighting the world on fire either.
5. Finally, how do you see the game playing out tonight? Do the Frogs sweep the season series with the Red Raiders? Or can Texas Tech win their first road game of the season Wednesday night?
I think TCU has too much experience and too much to play for to let this one go. If TCU beats Texas Tech, that's 17 wins with three games to go. I think that's a pretty good NIT resume and teams that have struggled like TCU and Texas Tech to get into any sort of post-season know that getting to just one can breed more tournament opportunities.
Big thanks to Seth C and the team at Staking the Plains. Look for continued coverage of TCU vs. Texas Tech right here leading up to tonight's game.