Monday, January 30, 2006

Preview: Texas Tech at Kansas

(FYI, Both Pomeroy and webprince have updated their player statistics through the Iowa State game.)

The weekend’s theme seems to be that Kansas plays better on the road than they do at home. The writers and columnists on the Kansas beat will most likely have to find another hook on which to hang their stories for the rest of the week. Why? Texas Tech is 1-8 away from Lubbock. They’ve lost all three of their conference road games (at Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma), scoring no more than 0.91 points per possession in any of them, shooting no better than 47.4 eFG% in any of the games, and turning the ball over on at least 29.5% of their possessions in each game.

The loss of both Terry Martin and Drew Coffman, who both attempted just under 3 three-point shots per game, has pretty much removed the three-point shot from the Texas Tech offensive arsenal. Texas Tech is attempting very few three-pointers (19.5% of field goal attempts) in conference play. Over two-thirds of those attempts come from Jarrius Jackson (13-28) and Darryl Dora (5-12). LucQuente White is the only other Texas Tech player attempting even one three-pointer per game in conference play.

In addition to the team-wide reliance on two-point shots and free throws, two players combine to provide the bulk of Texas Tech’s scoring. Jackson and Martin Zeno have combined to take just over half of the team’s shots in conference play and 63% of the team’s free throws. Jackson (54.7 eFG%, 79.5 FT%) and Zeno (51.4 eFG%, 71.1 FT%) both shoot the ball well though Zeno has limited his efficiency slightly by committing almost four turnovers per game in Big 12 play.

Zeno should be a tough matchup for the Jayhawk defenders tonight. His size will all allow him to shoot over smaller defenders and his quickness could give Brandon Rush some problems. To Rush’s credit, he did a fine job on Curtis Stinson in the second half Saturday after Russell Robinson picked up his third foul. To the entire team’s credit they did a good job of rotating into and out of the double teams for most of the game. Expect a similar defensive strategy from the Jayhawks tonight as none of Texas Tech’s supporting players approach the all-around contributions of Jackson and Zeno (or even those of the solid offensive players who surround Blalock and Stinson at Iowa State).

Darryl Dora has struggled shooting the ball but leads the team in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Dior Lowhorn has been effective on the glass and made over half the shots he’s taken, but like everyone on the team other than Jackson and Dora, Lowhorn is turnover prone. The other three players in Texas Tech’s rotation, Jonathan Plefka, Martin Prince, and White, do little positive that shows up in the boxscore.

Texas Tech’s defense has struggled comprehensively in conference play. Their field goal defense (they’ve only held Baylor and Oklahoma below 50 eFG%), defensive rebounding (62.8 DR%), and ability to create turnovers (21.4 TO%) has all been sub-standard. Further exaggerating their turnover deficit, only 28 of the 86 turnovers Texas Tech has forced have been the result of a steal. The entire Texas Tech team has managed only 5 more steals than Mario Chalmers in conference play.

The one thing that Texas Tech has done well defensively, keeping their opponents off the free throw line, hasn’t been much help either as their opponents have made 74.7% of the free throws they get to attempt in conference play.

As Kansas continues to lead the nation in two-point field goal defense, features a rotation wherein eight of the nine players have shot over 50% from the floor in conference play, and whose four best free throw shooters are getting to the line often, it would take an atypically strong performance from Texas Tech and an unexpectedly poor performance from Kansas for Texas Tech to win tonight.

Prediction: Kansas 80 Texas Tech 65

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