LUBBOCK, Texas — They are expecting close to a full house tonight in Lubbock, around 15,000 people in a building that, before this month, hadn’t seen a sellout since 2007. This is one way that Texas Tech basketball feels different.
The Red Raiders, 13-12 and 5-7 in the Big 12, are on their fourth coach in four years. But under first-year coach Tubby Smith, Texas Tech has won three of four. One of those victories was a sellout home win against Oklahoma State on Feb. 8 — the Marcus Smart fan game — and tonight’s matchup with No. 8 Kansas will be the first home game at United Spirit Arena since. So while we wait for tip, here are five things to know before No. 8 Kansas faces Texas Tech on Tuesday night.
1. The tempo: For the most part, Texas Tech plays like a team that has an inherent talent disadvantage. That is to say, Tech plays slow. They rank 318th in the country in average possession length, and 338th in adjusted tempo.
The Red Raiders will try to keep the game in the 60s, and Kansas will have to stay focused for some long possessions on defense. Also: The Jayhawks will have to rebound. Texas Tech ranks 23rd in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (37.6). Jaye Crockett, Jordan Tolbert and Dejan Kravic all hit the offensive glass.
“One of the most demoralizing things you can do is play pretty good defense and give up a second shot, and have to play for 35 more seconds,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “And they are a tremendous offensive rebounding team, so we got to do a great job on the glass.”
2. Three-pointers. If the age-old upset formula is slow tempo (plus) three-pointers, then Texas Tech just does one of those things. The Red Raiders don’t shoot many threes. They make just 32.3 percent of their attempts (255th nationally) and just 20 percent of their points come from outside the arc. (The national average is 26.6 percent).
If any player gets off from deep, though, it’ll likely be sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs. He leads Texas Tech with 37 threes while shooting 39 percent.
3. Freshman records. As mentioned in the preview capsule, Andrew Wiggins is just three points shy of passing Paul Pierce on the freshman points list at Kansas. Wiggins, who has 402 points, could also pass Kerry Boagni, who scored 408 points in 1983. Wiggins is currently averaging 16.1 points per game, just a shade better than Ben McLemore’s freshman record of 15.9 points per game. If Wiggins keeps up his current average, he would need KU to play 12 more games to break McLemore’s record of 589 points, set last season.
Other freshman records of note: Joel Embiid, who has 61 blocks this season, needs two blocked shots to pass Eric Chenowith on KU’s freshman blocks list; Wiggins has already shot more free throws (157) than any KU freshman ever, and he needs to make three more free throws to surpass Ben McLemore’s record of 120 made free throws.
4. Joel Embiid’s effectiveness. Will a week off prove to be a benefit for freshman center Joel Embiid? In the five games since he first sprained his knee at TCU, Embiid is shooting just 42 percent from the floor. (In Kansas’ first 19 games, Embiid was shooting 68 percent.) His offense suffered, and a recent back injury only added to the problem. Embiid returned to practice on Sunday, and Self hopes to play him as many as 25 minutes against Texas Tech.
5. The Big 12 race. If Kansas, 10-2 in Big 12 play, can scratch out another road victory, the Jayhawks could set themselves up to put away the rest of the Big 12 with a victory against Texas, 9-3, on Saturday. KU is a slight favorite tonight at Texas Tech, while the Longhorns travel to Iowa State.
If Kansas wins tonight, and Texas loses, the Jayhawks can push the lead to three games with four to play with a victory on Saturday. But if KU loses tonight, Texas could enter Allen Fieldhouse tied for first with an upset in Ames.