Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders will be shorthanded to begin Big 12 play

The Texas Tech basketball team faces a daunting task to open Big 12 play with three games against teams in the top 11 of the national polls to open the league portion of the schedule.  And on Monday, we learned that this gauntlet is only going to be more harrowing as head coach Mark Adams revealed that his team will be missing two key pieces for at least the first two of those games.

Most notably is the continued absence of forward Terrence Shannon Jr.  Averaging 14.3 points per game to lead the Red Raiders, the junior has missed the last three games and has not seen the court since appearing to injure his back against Arkansas State on December 14.  Since then, back spasms have held him out of action. And as you can see in the Tweet below from Carlos Silva Jr. of the Avalanche-Journal, Adams expects Shannon to miss the next two games.

Without Shannon in the lineup, Tech’s scoring has dipped.  Over the last three games, the team has averaged just 69.3 points.  That’s down from the 78.1 points per game Tech was averaging with Shannon on the court.

What makes matters worse is that the Red Raiders are about to need all the scoring they can muster.  That’s because two of the next three opponents on the schedule, No. 11 Iowa State and No. 1 Baylor, are allowing below 60 points per game.  Meanwhile, the other team in this three-game gauntlet, No. 6 Kansas, is giving up fewer than 70.

But don’t just pin Tech’s recent scoring downturn on the absence of Shannon.  The prolonged absence of Mylik Wilson, who is trying to work his way back from a knee injury, is also having an impact on the offense.

In eight games this year, the transfer from Louisana is averaging 3.3 assists per game (second-most on the team) as well as 4.1 points.  His ability to distribute the ball has been an important component of this year’s offense as he has given Tech a second shot-creator to complement the play of Kevin McCullar Jr. who leads the team with 3.5 assists per game.  But Wilson has not been in action since Tech’s upset victory over Tennessee on December 7th.

What’s worrisome is that, without these two important pieces to the offense, Tech may not have the firepower needed to compete with the elite teams in the Big 12.  That’s why the play of two other Red Raiders must improve over the next handful of games.

Transfer forwards Bryson Williams and Kevin Obanor were brought to Lubbock to be key components of this year’s team, especially on offense.  But thus far, in the 2021-22 season, that duo has struggled against top-flight teams.

In the three games Tech has played against teams with a pulse, vs. Providence, Tennessee, and Gonzaga, that combo has averaged a disappointing 15.6 points between them.  That total includes just 5.3 points per game from Williams in those contests.

But keep in mind that for his career, Williams has averaged 13.2 p.p.g. while putting up some huge games against big-time opponents.  He once had a 23-point, 13-rebound effort against Kansas in Lawrence and he has hung 22 points on both Arkansas and Arizona State.

Meanwhile, Obanor has also been much more of an offensive threat throughout his career than he’s shown thus far as a Red Raider.  Don’t forget that in last year’s NCAA Tournament, he averaged 23.3 points per game over the course of three games.

But thus far this season, Obanor’s scoring average is just 9.2 points per game, a full five points below his career average.  That’s something that needs to change with Shannon on the shelf.

So keep an eye on Williams and Obanor over the next two games or for as long as Shannon and Wilson are sidelined.  That’s because the Big 12 battle royale is about to begin and Tech will need all of the weapons that are available to be firing at full capacity in order to survive.