The Texas Tech basketball team could take over second place in the Big 12.
It’s been a crazy season in Big 12 basketball already, and we’ve still got a few weeks left to go. Baylor is running away with it and looks to have a firm grasp on the regular season title, but the standings behind them are wide open. That puts Texas Tech in a good position to emerge as the second-best team in the conference.
The Red Raiders currently sit in fourth place with a 6-4 record in conference play, trailing West Virginia (6-3) and Oklahoma (7-4). Texas Tech is ahead of Texas (5-4), Kansas (6-5), Oklahoma State (5-5), TCU (3-5), Kansas State (1-10) and Iowa State (0-8). That means there’s a group of six teams that still have a viable shot to finish second in the conference.
Texas Tech has already completed season sweeps of Oklahoma and Kansas State, and they have yet to play TCU. There’s also another game against Iowa State that has yet to be rescheduled, so hopefully that will be added to the schedule before the end of the regular season. Those are all very winnable games, and with the Red Raiders playing better of late, they could be in prime position to climb in the standings.
How It Could Shake Out
For the sake of argument, let’s say Texas Tech splits the back-to-back games against TCU on Feb. 15 and 17. A sweep is doable of course, but it’s hard to beat the same team twice in such a short span. Let’s also say the Iowa State game gets rescheduled and the Red Raiders win it easily at home. That gives them an 8-5 conference record with five games left on the schedule.
One of those games is at Baylor (at some point we assume but not on Feb. 13 as originally scheduled). It’s certainly possible that Texas Tech pulls the upset, but I’m not going to bank on that. The remaining four games are against West Virginia (Feb. 9), at Kansas (Feb. 20), at Oklahoma State (Feb. 22), and at home against Texas (Feb. 27). The Red Raiders have already lost to three of those teams, but two of them (Texas and Kansas) are reeling.
The Mountaineers are coming off a big home win against Kansas, and we all remember how close that first matchup was in Morgantown (an 88-87 WVU win). Texas Tech will have the home-court advantage this time, but it’ll be a barn burner nonetheless. The same can be said for the game against Texas, as the Longhorns have some time to get their feet back underneath them.
The two road games at Kansas and Oklahoma State will be tough. It’s always hard to win in Lawrence, with the Jayhawks and the zebras both being hard on visiting teams. The Pokes have proven themselves to be a tough matchup for anyone, so neither of these games will be easy. That’s the thing about these four games — they’re all winnable, but they’re all losable too.
Splitting those four, combined with a split against TCU, a loss to Baylor, and a win against Iowa State, would leave Texas Tech with a 10-8 conference record, which isn’t bad in the Big 12 gauntlet. It might not be enough for second place, though, which ought to be the goal for the time being. The conference crown is all but out of reach, but finishing ahead of everyone but Baylor would be a nice mark on the team’s NCAA tournament resume.
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The Key Games
This home matchup against West Virginia is key. The Mountaineers are sitting pretty in second place, so that’s a key team to beat. The final three regular-season games — at Kansas, at Oklahoma State, and at home against Texas — will be pivotal as well. The standings will likely shift between now and then, but those games are going to be important regardless.
A best-case scenario for Texas Tech might be a 12-6 record in Big 12 play. To do that, they would likely have to sweep TCU and get a win over Iowa State assuming that game gets rescheduled. They would also likely have to win three of those four key games I mentioned unless of course, they can pull off a stunner against Baylor.
That’s all easier said than done, but it is possible. This team is starting to come together, and they’re currently riding the Big 12’s longest non-Baylor winning streak. Other players have started to step up in key situations, and Mac McClung continues to be the driving force behind what has been an improved Texas Tech offense.
The Big 12 has been arguably the nation’s best basketball conference for the past few seasons, and this year is no exception. Texas Tech has been one of its better teams since Chris Beard has taken over, and this team seems to be hitting its stride. If they play to their potential, they can continue to climb in the standings and in tournament seeding.