Has Jarrett Culver Hit The Freshman Wall?

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Jarrett Culver
LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Jarrett Culver /

After a stellar beginning to his college basketball career, Texas Tech true freshman forward Jarrett Culver has struggled in his last four games making some wonder if he’s hit the freshman wall.

The Big 12 regular season is an absolute grind.  Eighteen games in two months against some of the most physical teams in the nation is bound to take a toll on any player.  One Texas Tech Red Raider that seems to be struggling as the regular season winds down is true freshman Jarrett Culver.

The Lubbock native has surpassed all expectations and put together one of the most impressive freshman campaigns in program history.  However, his recent struggles make some wonder if he has hit the metaphorical freshman wall .  

Over the past four games, Culver has had perhaps his worst sustained stretch of the season.  While it is fair to expect true freshmen to have their ups and downs, Culver has not seen such a long streak of sub par play all season as he has in the last two weeks.

Because of his fantastic play, Culver has become a crucial part of the Texas Tech offense.  He and fellow true freshman Zhaire Smith have been neck-in-neck all year when it comes to which player is the team’s second-leading scorer behind senior Keenan Evans.

Culver is averaging 10.9 points per game (Smith is putting up 11.1) and over the past four games he has come close to that average by scoring 10.2 per game.  However, a deeper look at the stats show that he’s struggling to get his points.

Culver has seen his shooting percentage drop from his season average of 45% all the way down to 28%.  He’s shot just 18-46 from the field during this stretch meaning he is having to be a volume shooter in order to maintain his production.

He’s attempted double-figure shots in three of the last four games after doing so just three other times in Big 12 play.  Obviously, some of the increased shot totals are a direct result of the toe injury to Keenan Evans, which has made the offense run through other players.  However, Tech needs Culver to be a more efficient scorer, especially if Evans’ production is limited by his injury.

Another area of Culver’s game that has slipped is his three-point shooting.  Since the February 10th game against Kansas State, Culver is 5-16 from deep which is just 31.5%.  On the season, he is shooting 37.5% from deep and that number was nearing 40% before his recent downturn.

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The key for any shooter is his legs.  If the heavy Big 12 minutes load is finally taking a toll on Culver, his legs could be suffering and impacting his jumper.

Speaking of minutes, Culver has had a huge workload as the conference season has unfolded.  Since Texas Tech’s January 23rd game against Oklahoma State, Culver has averaged 32.4 minutes per game and played fewer than 30 minutes just once (29 minutes at TCU).

That is a huge increase from his 25.6 minute average on the season.  And those minutes are taxing because Culver has become Texas Tech’s best on-ball defender.  That means he is tasked with guarding the opposition’s best scorer causing him to work especially hard on defense.

Another extra strain put on the young star has been ball handling.  As teams have focused their defensive efforts on keeping the ball out of Evans’ hands, Culver has been tasked with handling the ball and getting the team into its offense.  Aside from putting another physical burden on Culver, this has also caused him to be more of a focus of opponents’ defensive game plans.

So naturally, his turnovers have also been on the rise.  He has committed nine turnovers in the past four games (2.25 per game) up from his season average of 1.3 per game.  His five turnovers against Baylor a week ago were a season high.

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Texas Tech needs Jarrett Culver to regain his form.  His all-around game, on both ends of the floor, is crucial to the Red Raiders’ success.  Chris Beard demands quite a bit from his players and the intensity with which the team plays can be draining.  However, with Keenan Evans’ slowed by injury and two games against two of the Big 12’s best teams in the next three days, there is no time for Culver to rest right now as the Red Raiders try to bring home the Big 12 title.