Texas Tech Basketball Needs Fast Start Against SFA

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08: Jarrett Culver
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 08: Jarrett Culver /

One way to prevent an upset in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament is for the favored team to jump out to an early lead and quell the hopes of the underdog.  That may be a formula for success for Texas Tech in round one against SFA.

Basketball coaches are fond of telling their teams that a game can’t be won in the first four minutes but a game can be lost in that span.  However, a fast start could be key for Texas Tech as it takes on 14 seed Stephen F. Austin in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Unfortunately, that is an area in which Texas Tech has struggled in recent weeks.  Since the injury to Keenan Evans’ toe, Texas Tech has fallen into a poor habit of allowing its opponents to jump out early to start the game.

In the final five games of the regular season, Texas Tech was outscored by its opponents a combined 47-25 in the first four minutes of each game leading into the first media timeout.  On three occasions (Kansas, West Virginia and TCU) those slow starts led to double-digit first half deficits.  What’s worse, in only one of those games was Tech able to overcome its early troubles and win the game.

It is fair to note that these slow starts came with point guard Keenan Evans trying to play through injury.  What’s more, the 14-0 lead WVU jumped out to was done in a game in which Evans, Zach Smith and Justin Gray all sat out for various injury reasons.

But Texas Tech’s early struggles have been a problem all season.  Tech allowed opponents like Nevada, Rice, Iowa State and Oklahoma to build leads of at least eight points in the first 20 minutes of play.

Against an upstart team like SFA, this could be a dangerous pattern to repeat.  The longer an underdog is able to hang around the more confidence it builds.  And if it jumps out to an early lead, an upset is often in the making as the pressure and momentum turn against the higher ranked team.

The Lumberjacks are a team that feeds off of momentum, chaos and energy.  Like a frenzy of sharks, SFA is deadly when it smells blood in the water from wounded prey.

Thus, it is imperative that Texas Tech finds a way to jump out early and let set a tone of dominance from the opening tip.  Fortunately, in the Big 12 Tournament, Tech did a much better job in the games’ opening minutes.

Against Texas, the Red Raiders led 9-0 at the first timeout.  The next night, Chris Beard saw his team hold a 7-6 lead over West Virginia at the first break.

Playing in Dallas this week, there is no doubt that Texas Tech will come out with plenty of energy to begin the game.  A lethargic performance spurred by an empty arena far from home has been a trap to snare countless top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.  But that will not be the situation Texas Tech faces tomorrow.

If there is any concern, it could be that Texas Tech may be too over-hyped to play in front of the pro-Tech crowd full of family and friends.  This could be just as dangerous.  The Raiders must protect the basketball and make sure to execute, especially on the offensive end to keep the intense SFA half-court trapping defense from causing problems early.

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If Texas Tech can control the action in the opening minutes of the game and establish itself as the better team, the Red Raiders could break SFA’s confidence early and hopefully avoid the madness with which March is synonymous