Texas Tech Basketball: Why the Red Raiders Will Beat Villanova

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Jarrett Culver
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Jarrett Culver /

The Texas Tech basketball team has a good chance to build on their historic season by beating Villanova and advancing to their first ever Final Four. Here’s why the Red Raiders will upset the Wildcats.

Locking down shooters

Villanova’s 3-point shooting is a well-documented strength, and if the Red Raiders aren’t able to defend the arc, they could be in for a long night against the Wildcats. If Nova gets out to a big lead with their shooting, it may be tough for Tech to keep up. The Texas Tech basketball team isn’t known for its 3-point shooting, and has struggled to score in big chunks during the tournament. However, it has already proven its ability to efficiently guard the 3-point line.

Both Florida and Purdue rely heavily on 3-point shooting for their offense, and Tech managed to defend them effectively. They both average better than 9 made 3-pointers per game, while Tech averages only 7.

Purdue made 7 and Florida made 6, and both shot well below their season averages against the Red Raiders.  Even more promising is the fact that Texas Tech has not made more 3-pointers than their opponent in any of their three NCAA Tournament games, yet has obviously still managed to win. Tech doesn’t have to make more 3’s than Villanova to win, they just need to limit the Wildcats’ shooting.

The length and athleticism of Tech’s guards allows them to get a hand in the face of every shot attempt. Villanova managed to light up West Virginia’s elite defense, but Tech’s brand of defense is very different from the Mountaineers’.

WVU relies on an intense press and lots of turnovers to be effective. Villanova was able to quickly beat their press many times, often resulting in 2-on-1 situations leaving a lone West Virginia defender to hang back and guard the rim, allowing for a wide open 3. Tech relies on disciplined half-court defense and contesting every shot more than pressure and turnovers. Tech should be able to contest more of Villanova’s 3s than West Virginia, and thereby stymie the Wildcat offense.

Converting at the charity stripe

Free-throws have been a well-documented issue for Texas Tech basketball in the last few weeks. However, the Red Raiders showed promise Friday night against Purdue. They made 17 of 18 attempts from the free-throw line, good for 94%. Most impressive was the 9-10 mark shot by star point guard Keenan Evans. He didn’t attack the rim quite as much as he has in recent games due to Tech’s control of the game, and if he had he likely would have made even more.

In each of Villanova’s four losses this season, the opposing team made at least 14 free-throws and shot at least 70%. That doesn’t bode well for Tech if they can’t make their bonus shots, but I’m confident that they’ve found their rhythm. Against Florida, Tech was in the bonus before the 13:00 mark in the second half. If they can attack the rim with similar ferocity against Villanova and convert on inevitable free-throws, they will put themselves in a great position to win the game.

Depth and versatility

Texas Tech is arguably the deepest and most versatile team left in the tournament, and possibly in the country. Tech has 10 different players that have averaged at least 12 minutes per game this season. Every single one of them has a unique role and brings something crucial to Tech’s gameplan. That depth also means that no player has averaged more than 30 minutes-per-game  this season. Every player is able to get some rest in every game without putting the team in poor matchup situations.

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This depth, combined with the sound team defense Tech plays, rarely leads to anyone getting into foul trouble, meaning head coach Chris Beard typically has full control over how his roster is used. Villanova has only seven players averaging 12 minutes per game, including two who average over 31 minutes per game. If Tech can get Villanova into foul trouble, the Wildcats will have a harder time maintaining their game plan.

Not only is the Texas Tech basketball roster extremely deep, it is also extremely versatile. Justin Gray, Zhaire Smith, and Jarrett Culver can each effectively guard almost any player on the court. Villanova’s largest player is 6’9” Omari Spellman. His size, athleticism, and shooting ability typically make him a matchup nightmare.

However, half of the Red Raiders’ roster is capable of matching up against him. ‘Nova point guard Jalen Brunson is the team’s best player, but Tech has multiple players who will guard him. They’ll be able to move any of their guards onto Brunson for at least a little while without getting burned. We’re all excited to see the Evans-Brunson matchup, but Tech will be able to give Evans a breather now and then.

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Many are picking Villanova to knock of Texas Tech and advance to the Final Four. ESPN’s BPI gives Texas Tech only an 18% chance of winning, but I believe otherwise. Tech’s sound fundamental defense should slow down Nova’s top-ranked offense, keeping the game within reach. Their depth and versatility and ability to get to the free-throw line should put the Wildcats in foul trouble and give Tech a needed offensive boost. I think Keenan Evans will do Keen Evans things at the end of the game to help Texas Tech pull off the upset

Score Prediction: TTU 69 — VILL 65

Here’s hoping I’m right, and Tech plays in front of a rowdy Texas crowd in San Antonio next week!