Today in the Bahamas, the Texas Tech basketball team will take a massive step up in competition when it faces off with Villanova in The Battle 4 Atlantis at 1:30 pm CST on ESPN2. Without question, this will be the biggest test Grant McCasland and his team will have faced thus far in 2023-24.
The Wildcats opened the year at No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the Coaches Poll. However, a loss to the Penn Quakers in a true road game that had to be Penn’s Super Bowl given that it came against an in-city rival dropped the Cats from the rankings. Still, they are a formidable squad as proven by their rebound victory over Maryland on November 17.
Most Red Raider fans remember the last time that these programs met, a 71-59 Villanova win in the 2018 Elite 8. At times, that game was a tight affair in the second half but the Wildcats were able to make the plays down the stretch to reach the Final Four on their way to claiming the National Championship.
This isn’t head coach Jay Wright’s Villanova program anymore, though. Retiring in April of 2022, the two-time National Champion head coach handed the reins over to Kyle Neptune, an assistant under Wright who is just the sixth head coach of the program since 1936.
Still only 38 years old, Neptune led ‘Nova to the first round of last season’s N.I.T. but bowed out to Liberty. Overall, his team was just 17-17 and 10-10 in conference play as there was obviously a retrenching year due to the coaching change.
This year much more is expected from Villanova. Picked fourth in the preseason poll for the rugged Big East Conference, if the Wildcats don’t get back to the Big Dance this year, it will be a massive disappointment.
That’s why this game is so important for the Red Raiders. With Tech also having NCAA Tournament aspirations, being able to boast a win over ‘Nova when Selection Sunday rolls around in March would be massive for McCasland and Co.
In fact, each of the next three days could be huge in terms of resume-building. That’s because Tech could also face the likes of North Carolina, Michigan, Memphis, Arkansas, Stanford, or Northern Illinois.
Don’t forget that the Big 12/SEC Challenge is now defunct meaning that there is one fewer opportunity for Tech to pick up a non-conference win over a major-conference opponent. Thus, this week in the Bahamas as well as the November 30 game at Butler and the game against Vanderbilt in Fort Worth next month will all be critical for the Red Raiders’ eventual R.P.I.
The focus is on getting a win over Villanova today, though. So let’s look more closely at the Wildcats and what the Red Raiders must do in order to come out on top.