If you have been a follower of mine or know me whatsoever, then you would know I hate the phrase “no one wants to see this team in March”. While that saying still makes my blood boil, I can’t help but play that phrase in my head as I look at the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Since the return of Fardaws Aimaq, TTU has transformed into a formidable interior unit. They have won four of their last five and need to continue to find success in a late season push. Can they get the big win on the road against Kansas?
Texas Tech Vs. Kansas Odds
Oddsmakers don’t think so as they opened the Jayhawks as an astonishing 10 point favorite on their home court. Bettors are backing the red hot Raiders as they have taken them down to as low as +9 as of writing. They played them tight throughout a majority of their first contest, now finding themselves in a desperation spot for their postseason hopes. Kansas has been on a heater themselves, putting together an impressive string of wins as they look to make a run as the reigning champions.
As for the total, oddsmakers believe points will be scored at a quick pace as they opened the number at 146. Bettors were quick to hit the under before the number was widely available, taking it down to as low as 145 in some shops. While the metrics don’t show it over the course of a whole season, the Red Raiders have been very impressive on defense in their recent stint of wins. Kansas has been a dominant defensive unit throughout the course of the season, ranking ninth in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
Texas Tech Vs. Kansas Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Under 145.5
With that being said, I will take the under at 145.5 as I believe we are in for a defensive slugfest. Kansas has quietly been one of the most consistent defensive units in the nation, mainly overshadowed by their offensive performances. They have maintained an AdjD metric worthy of a National Champion, hovering around top-10 throughout the course of the season. The Red Raiders lack the necessary explosive offense to scramble the Jayhawks, giving the possibility of scoring lulls to play towards our under ticket.
Scoring lulls may happen at both ends which bodes well for us as Texas Tech’s defense has found life since the return of Aimaq. Standing at 6’11” and 245lbs, Aimaq has been a game changer in the interior. His low block total of 0.4 blockers per game is concerning, but he is still very physical and active by altering shots for low quality looks near the rim. This is an issue for the Jayhawks as they base a brunt of their offense in the interior with an inside-out style approach.
Forcing the Jayhawks to rely heavier on perimeter production has been a proven way to beat them as they have lacked consistency from deep. They have improved as a whole lately, currently averaging 35.4% from three, but a majority of that is based off of halfcourt sets to get shooters open through motion and screens. By locking down the interior and allowing the Red Raiders to stretch out more towards the perimeter, this newfound defensive look will help cover the perimeter for lower quality looks from deep.
Texas Tech Vs. Kansas Key Matchups
Can the Red Raiders limit the Jayhawks transitional points?
Kansas fast break scoring opportunities vs Texas Tech transitional defense
One of the many benefits of fielding an elite defense is that any havoc opportunity can be turned into fast break points. Kansas exemplifies this, capable of putting up points in a hurry.
This puts an added emphasis on Texas Tech to take care of the ball, especially from their guards at the perimeter. This is a slight concern as Texas Tech currently averages 13.9 turnovers per game.
Lucky for us, the Red Raiders scheme going into this matchup may limit the turnovers as they will look to go conservative by attacking the interior. Should hiccups happen down low instead of the perimeter, then this gives TTU a better chance at halting the fast break opportunity with their guards sprinting back.
Take the under at no lower than 154 in what will be a defensive slugfest between two good defenses. The return of Aimaq will be on full display as he will look to limit the Jayhawks interior production and force them to beat them from deep. An inconsistent style of scoring, prone to stalling out.