Texas Tech basketball: Saturday vs. Arkansas is perfect time to play Khavon Moore

OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 11: The Texas Tech Red Raiders cheerleaders and mascot during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship at the Ford Center March 11, 2009 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 11: The Texas Tech Red Raiders cheerleaders and mascot during the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship at the Ford Center March 11, 2009 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech basketball team has a perfect opportunity to give highly-regarded freshman Khavon Moore his first significant action this year Saturday against Arkansas.

I generally do not like the Big 12 / S.E.C. Challenge.  More specifically, I don’t care for the timing of the event.  ESPN has made a habit out of creating conference vs conference challenges such as this and they place the Big 12 / S.E.C. Challenge on the weekend between the NFL’s conference championship games and the Super Bowl when sports fans are left with no pigskin to nurse from.

But taking a break from the intensity of Big 12 play to take on a team that elicits little to zero animosity within the fan base feels odd.  For teams that get to take on historically significant programs like Kentucky or Kansas, this event is an opportunity for a great showcase but this year, (as you may have heard during Tech’s game Tuesday night) the two marquee programs in these conferences are facing each other in Lexington.

Thus far, Tech has not faced an opponent in this even that has really juiced the fan base having played LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina in the past five years.  (Not that the Red Raiders’ appearance on any S.E.C. school’s schedule sends their fan base into a frenzy.)

But this year’s challenge comes at a perfect time for the Red Raiders.  Tech has lost three-consecutive games and it feels like the pressure of Big 12 play is beginning to turn into an avalanche for Chris Beard’s team.

Specifically, Tech is in an awful way on offense where it has scored just 57 p.p.g. in its last three games and is coming off a 45-point bed-wetting Tuesday night in Manhattan, Kansas.  And many fans are wondering if true freshman Khavon Moore could help in a limited role.

The national top-50 recruit in the class of 2018 is the highest-rated player to ever suit up for the Red Raiders.  But a nasty broken leg that required surgery back in January of last year has set him back to to the point that he did not play in Tech’s first 16 games.

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Then a week ago, Beard inserted Moore into Tech’s home game against Iowa State for a brief two-minute run.  While he did not accumulate any statistics in that appearance, it was significant because it burned any possibility of a red shirt season while also whetting our appetite to see what the blue-chip recruit can do.

However, Moore is yet to play since.  It could be that the Baylor 1-3-1 zone was not a great matchup for a young player to get just his second look a college basketball defense and the Kansas State lock-down defense is more than he is ready to handle physically.

But Saturday’s opponent, the Arkansas Razorbacks, could be the perfect team for Moore to play significant minutes against.  That’s because, unlike most teams in the Big 12, the Hogs are a terrible defensive team.

The 10-7 Razorbacks are allowing 73.8 p.p.g. this year, good for No. 213 overall in the nation.  That is more than every team in the Big 12 other than West Virginia (73.9) is allowing this season.

They allow teams to score 0.953 points per possession, 71st in the nation and well below the nation’s leader, Texas Tech, which gives up just .806.  Team’s are shooting 40.6% against the Hogs who have allowed an average of 94.6  points to their last three opponents.

This is likely to be a more high-tempo game because Arkansas likes to utilize the full-court press.  That would seem to be perfect for the skill set of the 6-foot-8 Moore as he is known to be an excellent ball-handler that can create opportunities for others.

Additionally, The Hogs might match up well for Moore in terms of size.  As he works to get his footwork to round into form, the freshman may not have 100% of his lateral mobility back at this time meaning he is not going to be able to guard smaller quicker players.

But two of Arkansas’ main substitutes would seem to be right in Moore’s wheelhouse.  6-foot-8 Gabe Osabuohien played 26 minutes off the bench in their last game against Ole Miss and 6-foot-6 Adrio Bailey saw ten minutes of action.

While Tech prefers to switch ball screens meaning players have to guard multiple members of the opposition on any possession, Beard does try to matchup quite a bit which is why Norense Odiase plays far fewer minutes than any other starter.

Since Tech has decided to burn Khavon Moore’s redshirt (which likely would not have come in to play in his career because if he reaches his full potential, he will not exhaust his eligibility in Lubbock anyway), they must start to get him some meaningful time if there is any thought of him helping this team in any way whatsoever.

Saturday will be the best opportunity to work Moore into a regular role.  Though Tech desperately needs a win to end its losing streak, this game is not nearly as weighty because it will not impact the Big 12 race.

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What’s more, the Razorbacks’ style of play seems to fit perfectly with what we have been told Khavon Moore’s strengths are.  And Tech is desperate for anyone to come off the bench and provide some playmaking ability.  Thus, it would not be a shock to see Chris Beard finally give his true freshman an opportunity to make a real impact for the first time as a Red Raider this Saturday.