Elite Eight Preview: Texas Tech


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Elite Eight Preview: Texas Tech

Mike Keeley

Opponent: Texas Tech

Game Time: 2:20 p.m., Sunday, March 25

Channel: CBS 

Last night, after junior guard Jalen Brunson led the Wildcats to a 90-78 victory against the West Virginia Mountaineers and secured his team a place in the Elite Eight, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Purdue Boilermakers battled to decide the Wildcats’ opponent. After taking the lead at the end of the first half, The Red Raiders maintained a slight advantage throughout most of the second half before finally extending the lead to double-digits with less than four minutes remaining. Texas Tech would go on to win, 78-65, notching the school’s first ever Elite Eight appearance.                                                                                   

As the Red Raiders prepare to try and upset the top-seeded Wildcats, they will look to do so in a similar fashion to how the Mountaineers stifled them for much of the game: a signature defensive mentality. 

“We can’t get into a scoring match with Villanova, they’re such an offensively powerful team,” senior guard Keenan Evans explained. “We just have to defend them really well.”

Although their focus on defensive fortitude has certainly paid off (opponents average just 64.6 PPG), even Red Raiders head coach Chris Beard acknowledges that their coaching staff’s focus on defensive play sometimes leaves the team lacking of offensive firepower.

“We are a defensive culture, which can lead to very ugly offense at times,” Beard stated.

Beard’s team only has three players who average double-digits in scoring: Evans, freshman guard Zhaire Smith (11.4 PPG) and freshman guard Jarrett Culver (11.2 PPG). Against a Wildcats team that has six players who average over ten points per game, the Red Raiders are going to need a Herculean defensive effort, all three of these guards or others to perform, or both. Not that the possibility of a shutdown defensive performance should be counted out. Unlike the Mountaineers’ full-court press opponents, which allows opponents to make 38% of triples, the Red Raiders’ defense thrives by stifling teams from behind the arc, limiting opponents to shooting 32.8% from deep. If ‘Nova’s threes are not falling and the ‘Cats adjust to attacking the paint, Beard’s defense is also ranked 19th in the country in opponent two-point percentage.

In the Red Raiders’ victory against the Boilermakers their upset potential was obvious and on display. Through holding the Boilermakers to only 65 points and finding four players to score double-digits, the Red Raiders soundly upset the East Region’s No. 2 seed.

With Villanova coming off an exhausting game against the Mountaineers, anything could happen when the Red Raiders and Wildcats tip off, something Brunson and the rest of the Wildcats are well aware of.

“We know they are a good team and we are really going to have to lock in and have a quick turnaround to be ready,” Brunson said. “We just have to make sure we are concentrated and focused.” 

Tip-off is set for Sunday at 2:20 p.m. on CBS, with the winner advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio to play the winner of No. 1 seed Kansas vs. No. 2 seed Duke.