Breaking Down The Texas Tech NCAA Tournament Draw

LUBBOCK, TX - MARCH 3: Head coach Chris Beard and Keenan Evans
LUBBOCK, TX - MARCH 3: Head coach Chris Beard and Keenan Evans /

Texas Tech has learned its seeding and opponent for the NCAA Tournament.  Here’s a first look at what the Red Raiders face in their draw.

After weeks of speculation from fans, media members and so-called bracketology “experts”, the NCAA Tournament field is finally set.  Texas Tech is the No. 3 seed in the East region and will open with a matchup against Stephen F. Austin Thursday night in Dallas.  Let’s break down the Red Raiders’ draw in the tournament.

Due Respect

For once, Texas Tech fans can’t claim to be disrespected by the powers that be.  The Red Raiders have earned the highest seeding in school history (tied with the 1996 team) despite losing five of the team’s last seven games.

Furthermore, Texas Tech is seeded higher than West Virginia, which beat Texas Tech twice this season, including Friday night in the Big 12 Tournament.  WVU is a No. 5 seed in the East region meaning the two conference rivals could meet again in the Elite 8.  But obviously there is quite a bit of work to be done before that happens.

What is interesting is that the NCAA Tournament selection committee obviously took into consideration the fact that Texas Tech has been struck with key injuries (namely the infamous toe of Keenan Evans) down the stretch.  The committee placed a high value on what the Red Raiders did when healthy, which included a 7-game winning streak from the end of January to the middle of February.

Most “experts” predicted Texas Tech to be a four or five seed but the committee placed a higher value on Texas Tech’s strong wins which included a road win over Kansas, home wins over West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma and season sweeps of TCU and Kansas State.  Tech also beat NCAA Tournament participant Nevada as well.

The high seeding is also a testament to the respect the committee had for the Big 12 as a conference.  Big 12 champion Kansas is a No. 1 seed and the league placed seven teams in the NCAA Tournament and nine of ten teams in the postseason.

Home Away From Home

As we have discussed before, the key for the Red Raiders was to be sent to Dallas for the opening weekend of the tournament and Texas Tech got its wish.  Tech will be playing in its unofficial second home for potentially the first two rounds.

The DFW area is the home to the most Texas Tech alumni of any city outside of Lubbock and the American Airlines Center will look like Lubbock east.  Of course, Texas Tech players were also pumped to find out that they would be playing in front of friends and family.

In all, seven members of the team are from the DFW area.  (Keenan Evans-Richardson, Zhaire Smith-Garland, Zach Smith-Plano, Niem Stevenson-Dallas, Norense Odiase-Ft. Worth, Andrew Sorrells-North Richland Hills and Parker Hicks-Decatur)  Playing at home is obviously a blessing but could also be a bit of a distraction.

Texas Tech must fight the distractions that will come with playing a big event in your home town.  They must also make sure to manage their emotions when the game starts as the crowd will be out of control.  Tech must make sure that they do not try to put on a show or do more than the game requires them to do and treat the game as any other on the schedule.

Still, it will be a huge advantage to have possibly 10,000 or more Red Raider fans in the arena. One thing to consider is that in neutral site events, the lower seed is almost always the crowd favorite and receives immense support from fans of other schools as they try to pull the upset.  That certainly will not be the case for SFA in Dallas.

The Rest of the East

Taking at look at the rest of the East bracket, there are some potentially tough challenges in store for the Red Raiders.  A second round matchup against Florida or UCLA is likely but both programs were not quite as strong this season as they have been in years past.  Both teams will have top-tier athletes and should be a tough out.

In the Sweet 16, Tech could face a slugfest with Purdue.  The Boilermakers are very similar to the Red Raiders in that they are physical and play rock-solid defense.  One problem Purdue could pose is size inside.  They feature two 7-foot centers in Isaac Hawes (7-foot-2, 14.9 points per game) and Matt Harrms (7-foot-3, 4.8 points per game).

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The top half of the East bracket is loaded with any number of teams that could reach the Elite 8.  Villanova, the top seed in the region is the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and an elite offensive team that can be deadly from three.

Wichita State and West Virginia are two tough-minded teams that will not back down from anyone and could upend any team in the bracket.  Then there is the wildcard of the bracket in Alabama, which features point guard Collin Sexton who is the SEC version of Trae Young.  The true freshman averages 19 points per game and is certain to be an NBA lottery pick this summer.  He could go off at any time and should he have a sustained hot streak, the Tide could be as dangerous as anyone.

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Overall, the East region is a solid but manageable bracket.  There is not a team in the draw that Tech should fear.  This looks like a blue-collar bracket short on individual stars (except for Sexton) and long on deep, gritty teams.  Texas Tech fans should have plenty of antacids on head for each game as every round in the East is likely to be a grind.