Game Plan: How Texas Tech Should Attack Villanova

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts against the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts against the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

For the first time in program history, Texas Tech takes the court today with a spot in the Final Four on the line.  But to get to San Antonio, Tech will have to knock off the No. 1 seed Villanova.  Here is how Texas Tech should attack the Wildcats.

Small Ball

Chris Beard has stuck with the same starting lineup since before conference play began and that means Nonsense Odiase will get the start tomorrow. Likewise, Beard has been very consistent with his early game substitution patterns so we can expect to see Tommy Hamilton get some run early.  But going with the typical lineup against a smaller Villanova team that has shooters at virtually every spot on the floor is dangerous.

Look for Odiase and Hamilton to have short leashes.  Both have struggled in the NCAA Tournament when asked to play against teams like Florida and SFA that spread the floor.  Zach Smith is a much better matchup against Villanova and when he has been on the floor during the tournament, Texas Tech has excelled.

Tech must play a swarming defense tomorrow meaning each player must be capable of switching on ball screens and covering shooters.  That is not what Odiase nor Hamilton is known for.  Look for small ball to be the order of business early and often.

Eliminate Live-Ball Turnovers

Villanova is not a great defensive team but the Wildcats are an opportunistic squad.  They force just 13.1 turnovers per game (good for No 162 in the country) over two fewer per game than Texas Tech forces.

But where the Cats are dangerous is in what they do with turnovers.  Far too often, teams find that Villanova converts turnovers into wide-open threes in transition.

Texas Tech needs to make this game a grind-it-out half-court affair.  If Villanova is able to get open looks in their half-court sets, then so-be-it but Tech can’t allow the Wildcats to have open looks in transition.  If Tech can keep the live-ball turnovers at a minimum, life for the Villanova offense will be much more difficult than usual.

Draw Fouls Early and Often

When a team like Texas Tech, that does not hit many threes per game, wants to beat a lethal three-point shooting team like Villanova, one area where the former team can make up the difference is at the free-throw line.

Texas Tech must be aggressive at all times in this game.  On the season, Tech has shot 805 foul shots (18th in the nation) which averages out to 22.3 per game.  That is almost five more foul shots attempted per game than the 17.7 ‘Nova shoots.

Texas Tech shot 12 more foul shots than Purdue in the Sweet 16 and had an 11-point advantage in that aspect of the game.  To help offset the expected imbalance from deep, Tech needs to repeat this performance today.

Another positive from drawing fouls is that Villanova is not a particularly deep team.  The Cats have only 8 players in their rotation and that number could shrink in such a massive game.  Tech has benefited from getting the opposing point guard in foul trouble in each of the past two games and it would help to do the same to Villanova.

Be The Bully

One of the most underrated aspects of Texas Tech’s win over Purdue on Friday was the way that the Red Raiders bullied the Boilermakers.  Specifically, Tech flustered big man Matt Haarms all night rendering him useless.

Tech needs to do the same to Villanova.  It would behove the Red Raiders to adopt the attitude of their conference brethren West Virginia.  The Mountaineers know that refs will not call a foul on every play so they get in as many bumps, hip checks and forearm shivers as they want.

Doing that to ‘Nova in the half-court will disrupt their precision offensive sets and take them out of rhythm.  Tech’s biggest advantage is in its physicality and Chris Beard’s team must physically impose their will against the Cats.

Drain The Shot Clock

This game is a contrast in styles and the team that dictates the pace of play will win.  If an up-and-down track meet breaks out, Tech won’t be able to keep up.  But if the Raiders can muck up the game and keep the pace just slightly above that of a turtle, they will be in it until the end.

This is the style of play former Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith employed in his first year in Lubbock when he knew he did not have the offensive firepower to keep up with most teams.  Texas Tech does not have the offensive capability that Villanova has so limiting the number of possession the Cats have should be huge.

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Similar to what many teams try to do to the Texas Tech football team, Tech needs to take the air out of the ball by running its motion offense for 25-30 seconds per possession.  What the Raiders can’t do is take early shots from deep.  Even if some of those  shots go in, the pace of that approach is not in Tech’s favor.

Beard is famous for his 4:1 philosophy meaning the mental side of the game is to the physical side as 4:1.  That is also a great ratio of passes to shots Tech should strive for on offense.  Doing so will force Villanova to defend for long periods of time which will hopefully tire their shooting legs as well as slowing the pace of play.


This is a tough game to predict because Texas Tech is facing a team that plays a style it has not seen all year (with the exception of a couple early season mid-major opponents that did not have Villanova’s talent).  The closest comparison is Kansas with which Tech split the regular season series with the Jayhawks. (Note: When Tech beat KU in Lawrence, the Jayhawks were 6-26 from three and 0-12 in the second half.)

But what is concerning is that for Tech to win, they will likely have to get help from ‘Nova in the form of poor shooting and turnovers.  The problem is that Villanova does not usually make such mistakes.

The key number here is 80 points.  In three of Villanova’s four losses, Jay Wright’s team scored fewer than 80 points in regulation.  Tech is holding opponents below 65 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.  Which number wins out?

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Ultimately, I do not think Texas Tech can keep Villanova down and the historic Tech run ends one game short of San Antonio.

Final Score: Villanova: 82 Texas Tech: 76

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.