Tech Tech Big Men Must Contribute More Against Purdue

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 15: Tommy Hamilton IV
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 15: Tommy Hamilton IV /

During the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, Texas Tech went with a small lineup relegating its big men to the bench.  But against Purdue, the Red Raider post players must be ready for huge minutes.

One of the best traits of the Texas Tech basketball team is its versatility.  Throughout the season, head coach Chris Beard has had the luxury of playing multiple lineups capable of playing different styles depending on the opponent.

Now, the NCAA Tournament is forcing Texas Tech to test its versatility on the biggest stage yet.  After using primarily a small lineup, with forward Zach Smith being the biggest player on the floor, for the majority of the first two tournament games, Texas Tech will need its big men Norense Odiase and Tommy Hamilton against Purdue.

Despite the fact that Purdue’s star 7-foot-2 star center Isaac Haas is likely out with a broken elbow, the Boilermakers still have plenty of size inside.  Backup center Matt Haarms is a 7-foot-3 freshman who put up 7 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in the round of 32 against Butler.  In 17 minutes per game this season, the native of the Netherlands has averaged 4.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

Additionally, Purdue has 6-foot-10 Jacquil Taylor ready to come off the bench to provide more size inside.  That means Hamilton and Odiase will be asked to contribute much more than they have thus far in the tournament.

Against Florida, the big men combined for just five minutes, two points and zero rebounds.  In round one versus SFA, Odiase and Hamilton combined for just two points and three rebounds in 20 minutes of action.  In fact, Odiase is yet to score a basket in the NCAA Tournament.

That must change in the Sweet 16.  Of course, Tech does not ask either big man to be the focal point of the offense but they must prove capable of occupying Haarms so that he is not free to roam the paint and protect the rim.

How they occupy the Purdue big man will look different.  Odiase must use his wide frame and his muscle to pin Haarms below the basket (whether Odiase has the ball or not).  He must keep his broad shoulders planted squarely in Haarms torso and force the freshman to go through or over him to get rebounds.

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Hamilton will employ the opposite approach.  The 6-foot-11 Hamilton must be a threat away from the basket.  Everyone knows that Hamilton can hit shots from deep and doing so will force Haarms to guard him 25 feet away from the hoop thus opening the lane for Keenan Evans and company to attack off the drive.

But Hamilton can also be a weapon if his shots not falling.  He is a skilled passer and can hit cutting teammates on their way to the rim.  Look no further than Texas Tech’s game against West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament as an example.  Playing against WVU shot blocker Sag Konate, Hamilton had just five points but dished out seven assists, almost all of them from the top of the offensive set. If he is able to draw the Purdue big men out of the paint, Texas Tech’s motion offense will be hard to stop.

Also look close at the rebounding statistics tomorrow night.  The season totals show a surprising advantage for the Red Raiders on the boards.

Tech is ranked No. 51 in the nation with a rebound margin of +4.2 per game. Meanwhile, Purdue ranks No. 84 with a +2.8 margin.  So despite the fact that Purdue has featured two 7-foot-tall centers this year, they do not rebound as well as many might think.  Now that Haas and his 5.7 rebounds per game are sidelined, Tech must exploit this advantage.

Odiase, Hamilton, Zach Smith and the rest of the Red Raiders must make rebounding as a team a priority.  The duo of Odiase and Hamilton average 9.5 boards a game and that number needs to be north of 10 against Purdue.

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Though the tandem might have been relegated to spectators for the first part of the NCAA Tournament, if Texas Tech is to stay alive, Hamilton and Odiase will be needed to provide an inside presence.  That will certainly be the case Friday night in the Sweet 16.