Texas Tech vs. Butler game preview: Why the Red Raiders should win

Mar 16, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Tubby Smith looks on from the court during a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men
Mar 16, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Tubby Smith looks on from the court during a practice day before the first round of the NCAA men /

Today, Texas Tech basketball returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years as the Red Raiders face the Butler Bulldogs. Below is a breakdown of the game and an analysis of what Texas Tech must do to prevail.

When I was on the varsity basketball team in high school, we would have open gym nights where community members could come play at the school. A group of men in their 40’s would often show up and though we could move faster, jump higher and were much better athletes, these old men often gave us fits. Texas Tech basketball will face a team today in Butler that plays a game similar to those old men I used to play against in high school.

After watching three Butler games (versus Miami, Xavier and Providence), it is clear that though both teams may appear similar on the surface, Texas Tech and Butler are very different squads.

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The most glaring difference is that Butler is led by upperclassmen. Six of the eight Bulldogs averaging over 10 minutes per game are juniors or seniors.

Similarly, Texas Tech has five upperclassmen paying over 10 minutes per game. However, one is walk-on forward Matthew Temple who has less than one full season of college basketball under his belt and the other is backup guard Devon Thomas, a JUCO transfer.

Butler will feature a group of players that have been through dozens of battles in the rugged Big East Conference. Meanwhile, Texas Tech will rely on four true sophomores and a first-year player (Temple) to be key contributors tomorrow.

Where Texas Tech has the advantage is in athleticism. Aside from sophomore forward/guard Kelan Martin, who has the look of a possible NBA player and is Butler’s second-leading scorer at 16.1 point per game, Butler is a team that plays below the rim.

Martin is the only athlete that stood out to me during the three games I watched and in those games I only remember seeing Butler make a few explosive plays like dunks or incredible blocks. Butler does not have players with the natural athleticism of Texas Tech’s Zach Smith, Justin Gray or Keenan Evans.

Still, the Bulldogs are a team that averages over 80 points per game. They do so by taking quick shots in half court sets, creating turnovers that lead to easy scores and hitting 3-pointers.

At times this year Texas Tech has been bludgeoned by teams that got hot from deep and with leading scorer Kellan Dunham (16.3 ppg.), Martin and sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz the Bulldogs could be a nightmare today if they are on fire from deep.

Fortunately for Texas Tech, Butler does not possess the Red Raiders’ other kryptonite, a small quick scoring guard. All season, players such as Texas’ Isaiah Taylor, TCU’s Chauncey Collins, Iowa State’s Monte Morris and Kansas’ Frank Mason have dominated Texas Tech.

But Butler’s primary ball handler is 6-foot-5, 225-pound Roosevelt Jones. Not quick, fast, or athletic Jones has a way of getting into the lane and making shots from seemingly impossible angles just like the old men at the local rec center.  At times it looks like he deliberately plays as slow as possible to keep the defenders off balance.

One thing Jones does not do well is shoot from outside. In four years, he has made one 3-pointer and it was an end of the half heave.

Texas Tech will need to find a way to keep Jones out of the lane and force him to shoot jump shots. If he gets into the lane, he will be able to rely on his barrage of junk shots or find Butler’s shooters like Dunham who can be absolutely lethal from anywhere on the offensive side of center court.

Offensively, Texas Tech has the ability to hurt Butler with dribble penetration. Being as the Bulldogs are not a particularly athletic team, they often struggle to keep quick slashing guards and forwards out of the lane. Look for Keenan Evans, Devaugntah Williams and Justin Gray to try to break down the Bulldogs off the dribble.

Butler also struggles with defensive rebounds. It is not a very big team.

No rotation player for the Bulldogs is over 6-foot-8 and they have no one with the leaping ability of Zach Smith or Gray. If Texas Tech is to have success, look for Smith, Temple and Odiase to have an advantage in the paint as the Red Raiders must win the rebounding game.

Another player Texas Tech should rely on is forward Aaron Ross. The Bulldogs are not a team equipped to take advantage of Ross’ limited defensive skills and defensively they like to pack the lane or play zone defenses to help stop the dribble penetration, which should provide Ross and forward Toddrick Gotcher open outside shots.

This game is an interesting contrast. Will the team of upperclassmen that plays physical, rough and determined basketball prevail or will the upstart young athletes of Texas Tech rise to the occasion and play at their best?

Texas Tech is the better basketball team. Butler gets the most out of its roster and is capable of winning if it hits from outside but this is not the same type of Butler team that played in the National Title Game in 2010 and 2011.

Next: Butler insider previews the Bulldogs

Texas Tech has played and beaten far better teams this year. If the Red Raiders are able to match Butler’s physicality and intensity and not focus on the fact that they are playing on the game’s biggest stage, I expect Texas Tech and Tubby Smith to move on to round two.

The game needs to be played in the 60’s or 70’s for Texas Tech to win and I see that happening.  Fortunately for Smith, unlike at Minnesota, whether or not his team advances, have no doubt that Smith will still have a job at Texas Tech when he returns to Lubbock.