The Frogs travel to Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders this weekend after falling to Baylor in an overtime contest last time out. Both the Frogs and Red Raiders are looking for their first Big 12 win of the season on Saturday. To preview the match-up, I caught up with Seth C over at Viva The Matadors. You can check out my responses to his questions right here.
1. The Red Raiders jumped out of the starting blocks, beginning the season 9-1. However, Texas Tech has lost six of their last seven contests. Aside from a grueling schedule to open Big 12 play, what changed for the Red Raiders?
Well, the non-conference schedule for Texas Tech was generally littered with from relatively poor teams. Oh, there were some decent teams mixed in there, like LSU or Houston or Loyola-Chicago, but Texas Tech lost to all three of those teams. I think prior to the season, Tubby Smith went out and schedule some very easy non-conference teams with the hopes that he could prop up the play and see what all of the freshmen could do. Playing really tough opponents wouldn't have done much for the team or the team's ego as most fans knew that this wasn't a tournament team that would be looking for a boost in strength of schedule at the end of the year.
2. TCU has not beaten Texas Tech since the Frogs joined the Big 12 Conference. What do the Red Raiders need to do on Saturday to keep their streak alive? What are your "keys to victory" for Texas Tech?
I think the biggest key will be which team is most efficient on offense. Both teams are good to pretty good on defense and the problems have been fielding a team that can consistently put the ball in the basket. Right now, Texas Tech hasn't had a complete game from their guards and forwards, it is usually just one or the other that is performing, so I think the key for Texas Tech is getting a complete performance from the frontcourt and backcourt.
3. TCU and Texas Tech fans can empathize with each other about just how difficult life in the Big 12 is. The Frogs have struggled mightily throughout their first three seasons in the conference, while the Red Raiders have never finished higher than third in the Big 12. How can these two programs compete in the Big 12? Or should we get the Southwest Conference back together?
The key for these teams, and I haven't looked that closely to TCU's roster, is to play and develop players. Neither team is going to get a high profile team, at least not for the foreseeable future, and for either team, they need to consistently build with solid recruiting bases and develop those players. Wichita State doesn't get high profile recruits, but each year, the team needs to have a group of junior or senior players that have progressively improved over the course of three years. I have to believe that when this group of Texas Tech freshmen are juniors and seniors that they'll be able to compete with the one-and-dones that other programs have.
4. Texas Tech turned a lot of heads in 2013 when they hired legendary coach Tubby Smith to engineer the turnaround in Lubbock. Smith has been to the NCAA Tournament 17 times in his 24 years as a head coach. How close do you think he is to returning to the Big Dance, this time with the Red Raiders? Overall, how would you assess Smith's first season and a half at the helm?
Last year was eye-opening in that Texas Tech had a senior laden team and with essentially the same roster from the year before, Tubby Smith won more games than most thought was possible. Most fans can appreciate how young this team actually is and are willing to be patient and bet long-term on this team. For fans that have had to sit through Pat Knight and Billy Gillispie, last year was great because it showed just how much a coach can matter in basketball. For my money, Tubby is a basketball genius and you wonder if a team like Minnesota is wondering if getting younger at that position helped them at all. Every program and team is different, but Smith has been a winner pretty much everywhere he's been. I think next year he'll make that turn.
5. One of these teams will pick up their first conference win on Saturday afternoon. How do you see the contest playing out? Which team will break their losing streak?
I'm picking Texas Tech only because of the home court advantage and when Texas Tech meets TCU in Ft. Worth, I'll pick TCU (unless there's some sort of drastic injury between now and then). I think both teams are pretty even and it's always tougher to play on the road in the Big 12.