The Big 12 season is coming to a close, and much is to still be decided for a conference that currently has eight teams projected to make the field of 68 when Selection Sunday rolls around.
One team on the outside looking in is Texas Tech. After dropping its first eight games in conference play, Tech has won five of its last seven.
The success has been the culmination of a Texas Tech roster finally at full strength. The Red Raiders have been a completely different team on both ends of the floor with the return of center Fardaws Aimaq and guard Pop Isaacs.
On the other side, TCU has been dealing with its own injury issues. The Frogs have dropped five of its last six games due to star Mike Miles Jr. being absent for five games and Eddie Lampkin for two.
While Miles has picked up where he left off pre-injury, Lampkin is taking some time to find his stride. He won’t quite care as long as the Frogs keep winning.
The importance of both Mike and Eddie was put on full display in TCU’s 100-75 domination of Oklahoma State, the first game in which both were in the starting rotation since its Jan. 21 victory over Kansas.
Although Miles has returned to form, the same can’t be said for Lampkin, who’s averaged just 2.3 points and 20 minutes in the Horned Frogs’ last three games.
In what I expect to be a bounce-back today for the Horned Frogs, I also expect a progression in Lampkin’s performance, particularly on the glass. A solid performance on the boards will be critical against a Texas Tech team grabbing offensive rebounds at a 31.9% clip, good for the 75th-highest rate in the country.
In addition to this step-up in defensive rebounding, TCU will create havoc defensively, translating directly into offense.
The Frogs rank ninth nationally in points off breakaway steals, which may be emphasized against a Texas Tech team that struggles when it comes to dealing with pressure. The Red Raiders average 14 turnovers per game with opponents snag the ball on 10.4% of their possessions (303rd nationally).
TCU ranks 23rd in the nation in defensive turnover percentage, so look for the Frogs to make the Red Raiders earn everything on the offensive end.
Preview: Texas Tech
Red Raider head coach Mark Adams has Texas Tech playing its best basketball at just the right time. The Red Raiders have strung together four straight wins, somehow placing Tech firmly on the bubble, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. A fifth win in a row over the Frogs will go a long way in continuing their momentum toward a postseason berth.
Defensively, Tech matches up well against a TCU offense which thrives on the interior. The Horned Frogs are scoring 60.3% of their points from 2-point range, the seventh-highest rate in all of college basketball.
TCU’s better-than-average interior offense will be met by a Texas Tech defense that allows opponents to score only 46.9% of their points from inside the 3-point line. This 13.4% difference means TCU will have to earn its baskets on the offensive end.
And - the Horned Frogs will hope to supplement its offense through the offensive glass, as TCU grabs offensive rebounds at a 32.2% clip, resulting in a top-10 rank in second-chance conversion percentage.
In order to combat the Frogs’ success on the glass, Tech will lean on Aimaq, who’s been an absolute spark for the Red Raiders since returning from injury, and the team’s clear best player.
Yet, I don’t think Aimaq will be enough for the Red Raiders tonight. Even at home.
Lampkin will get back in the swing of things, Miles Jr. will knock some rust off, and the Frogs will win a close one at Lubbock.
The Frogs’ rebounding prowess will be a major advantage, and TCU will be able to get out on the break whenever needed.
Two-point win for the Frogs today. TCU gets back on track.
TCU 71, Texas Tech 69