Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Texas Tech Basketball Preview

Last season, with their backs against the wall, the Colorado Buffaloes went on a 3 game win streak against ISU, Nebraska and Texas Tech to close the season strong and keep hopes of a post-season berth alive.  While that bid to play in the NIT eventually fell short, that 3-game stretch to close out the '09-'10 season filled Buff nation with hope that the basketball program was bringing to turn a corner.
Cory and the guys are looking to avenge last season's opening round loss in the Big XII tournament that ended post season hopes.  From: CBS4
Coming down the stretch of this season, while still clinging to post season hopes, the Buffs look at their final four games only to see those same 3 teams on the schedule, and sandwiched around a home date with #5 Texas.  Should they win those 3 games, as they did last year, it's a passable 8-8 conference season and a definite berth in the NIT (should they throw in a win over Texas.... let's not get crazy).  While I'm sure everyone involved with the program would rather be talking about a legitimate shot at the big dance, any tournament invitation would be a definitive step forward for a program that hasn't tasted post season play in 5 years.

I'll get this out of the way now, I fully expect this team to finish this season with at least 3 more wins.  It's a four game season right now; this is no longer about expectations, NBA prospects, or the bright-ish future of the program.  It's about honoring the 5 seniors (and one sophomore?) playing their final minutes in Buffalo uniforms, and closing the year strong against beatable opponents.  That 4 game journey beings tonight in, of all places, Lubbock, Texas.
I think the Buffs have one more run of good play left in them.  It'd be nice to see the confident smiles again.

The Buffs come into tonight's game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders fresh off of a nationally televised pounding at the hands of the royally pissed off KU Jayhawks.  Losing by 26 is never excusable, but I'm not sure there will be the emotional hangover that many games like that can carry.  The team should be ready to hit the court this evening, with that KU loss far from their minds.

Texas Tech comes in fresh off of their win over Baylor in Waco.  That win, however, is not indicative of the struggles that the Red Raiders have fought through this season.  A 13-18 record, 4-8 in conference, is all the Raiders have to show for their efforts this season.  The days of filled stadiums and the traveling Bobby Knight three-ring circus are long gone, and Raider fans are beginning to realize that coaching is about much more than the coach's last name (that's a burn).  Game time is set for 5:30, so trick the boss into letting you out early so you won't miss any action.  Unfortunately, this game is only available locally on (the tres), so for most it'll be 760AM or bust for this one.

This game will also mark the final time that CU and Texas Tech will meet in the regular season.  So, it's time for me to say goodbye to the Red Raiders from Lubbock.  Tech was certainly more interesting when coaching personalities Bobby Knight and Mike Leach were running the marquee programs on the West Texas plains.  Now it's all about under-performing bland replacements.  

Since Leach and Knight have been run out of their respective positions, the only thing I think when I hear Texas Tech University is the abysmally awful town that it resides in.  Lubbock is, and let's be honest here, a world-class shithole.  I've been all across this blessed country of ours, and no other town reminded me so much of a bombed-out third world country as Lubbock.  Last time I ventured to the Hub City, I saw a group of children playing in the rubble of a torn down brick building on Main Street.  You just don't see that shit outside of Afghanistan and Detroit.

Either way, the Raider faithful seem to enjoy themselves.  Basketball may not be their preferred sport (Afterall, in West Texas football's a way of life), but they've fielded some competitive teams over the last decade.  It was always fun to see them pop up on the schedule, simply from the fact that a Bobby Knight coached team is a blast to watch.  And let's never forget the failed experiment that was "Knight School."  The "please look at us" antics of the 4th Big XII school from Texas were always good for a laugh and a pause, and I'll never forget them for that.
I still believe in you Tyler Hoffmeister.

Click below for my preview

Opponents season so far - In two words: not good.  A solidly sub-.500 record is never a good sign for a Big-6 program, let alone one from a premier basketball conference like the Big XII.  To be sure, the Raiders have earned every one of their 18 losses, and a pair of 4-loss runs in Big XII play has only added to the woes a program struggling to find an identity.

The Raiders have had a rough go of it this season, more often than not falling flat on their faces.  From: Lubbock A-J

The Raiders have simply had a tough time keeping up with higher scoring opponents.  They're 323rd in the nation in points allowed per contest, and have allowed an average of just under 80 points a game in Big XII play.  They can score a little bit (73.5/game) but just not enough to keep up with their porous defense.

The biggest key is a deficiency on the boards.  The Raiders are 11th in the league in both giving up and recording rebounds.  Kenpom even has them as #293 nationally in allowing offensive rebounds.  If there ever was a game to gain a strangle hold on the rebounding battle, it's this one.  Only one Red Raider is listed over 6-8, and CU's athletic guards should have a field day crashing the boards.

Coaching - Nepotism in action has Pat Knight, son of basketball God Bobby Knight, roaming the Raider Sidelines.  CU fans can certainly sympathize, having just completed our own struggles with the nepotistic double-edged sword.  I kind of feel bad reducing the guy's career to his gene pool, but, other than a few late '90s stops in the lowest rungs of minor league basketball, he's been leeching off of his father his entire career, first playing then coaching under Coach Knight at Indiana, before following his father to West Texas in 2001.
That's the pic from his Wikipedia page.  He is honestly only in this job because of his father; no offense, dude, but that's the truth.

After his father retired during the '07-'08 season, Knight was anointed head coach, and has yet to crack the .500 mark.  Other than beating CU to the final NIT slot last season, his Raider teams just haven't done much, and he's lead them to a combined 49-57 record (15-39 in conference) over his 3+ years at the helm.  Now, I don't follow Red Raider basketball too closely, but I have to imagine that level of results won't keep the Knight name on the Raider bench for long.

At least he's predictable.  Following in his father's footsteps he's kept with a motion offense paired with strict man-to-man defense.  (He's also stuck to his father's tenancy of excessively browbeating the refs) You know what you'll get with these guys, which may be precisely the point.  Maybe they could use a change in scheme...

Key Players - The Raiders are lead by a pair of 6-6 senior forwards.  Mike Singletary and Brad Reese compliment each other well, and they combine for 24-10 each night.  Singletary is more comfortable inside, while Reese plays a more perimeter game and can hit his share of 3s.  Both are capable of putting up big games. Singletary had been injured, but expects to play tonight.  He's only a month removed from a big  33-10 performance against lowly ISU.
Singletary is a pretty good player on a bad team.  From the Lubbock A-J

The duo is complimented by the team's leading scorer (13.8/game): 5-11 senior point guard John Roberson, who's been red hot of late.  He's a big threat from downtown, and takes more than 6 shots from behind the arc each night, even hitting a fair number of them (42%).  He's also deadly when looking for his teammates, and averages just under 5 assists per game over his 4 year career.  He is, however, prone to turnovers, giving up over 3 a game this season, with 12 in his last 2 ball games.
Roberson does a good job making a nuisance of himself.  From: the KC Star.

Rounding out the players to watch are 6-3 senior guard David Tairu and 6-10 junior forward Robert Lewandowski (their only true big man).  Lewandowski, especially, is one to watch as he's coming in off of a double-double in Tech's win over Baylor on Saturday.  No sense in guarding him away from the paint, however, as he hasn't attempted a 3 all season.

Prediction - CU hasn't won in Lubbock in just over a decade.  It's time to break that streak.  The Buffs can rebound against this team to key the fast break, allowing CU to score in bunches.  In addition, Nate's slowly healing ankle should allow him to play more than the paltry 6 minutes he saw in Lawrence, and, as I've stated over and over, he makes the offense work.

I really do like the Buffs tonight.  They realize that these are the games that will decide the season, and that they're winnable enough to put a nice coat of fresh paint on the fading white-wash of the 3-0 conference start.  Tech seems real happy with themselves after their win in Waco, and should be ready for another set back.

The only thing that concerns me is the high number of seniors on the Red Raiders roster.  Senior laden teams are usually tough to beat on their home court, and their 4 home conference losses are against Kansas and the 3 other Texas schools (all damn tough teams).  Still, CU should score enough against the porous Tech D to sneak out of Lubbock with a win.  The season still holds a pulse.

CU 81 - TT 78


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