Tonight, the Texas Tech basketball team has a tough task if it hopes to avoid a 3-game losing streak. Going on the road to face No. 13 Baylor, the Red Raiders will try to come away with a road win over a team that suddenly has a distinctive home advantage in their new arena, Foster Pavilion.
Of course, this will also be the first time as Texas Tech head coach that Grant McCasland will face his alma mater. From 1995-1999, he was a walk-on guard for the Bears before coming to Texas Tech as Director of Operations from 1999-2001.
Then, McCasland returned to Baylor as an assistant under Scott Drew from 2011-2016. Thus, tonight's game will certainly have some extra emotion for the Red Raider head coach.
However, nostalgia won't hold a candle to the importance of this game for the Red Raiders. After dropping games at TCU and at home vs. Cincinnati in the past week, Tech is desperate for a win. However, winning in Waco has been something that Tech has struggled to do over the past decade.
Since 2014, Tech is just 2-8 on the road against Baylor. That needs to change tonight if the Red Raiders are going to have any hope of remaining a factor in the Big 12 regular-season race.
Much of this game will come down to the 3-point shot. That's not a great omen for Tech.
Shooting 41.8% as a team, Baylor is the top team in the nation from 3-point range. That's bad news for a Texas Tech team that sits at 227th nationally by allowing opponents to shoot 34.3% from beyond the arc.
How to watch Texas Tech at Baylor
Tip Time 8 P.M.
TV: ESPN RADIO: DOUBLE T 97.3 FM
Texas Tech game notes
Series History: Texas Tech leads 82-64
In Waco: Baylor leads 39-30
The Red Raiders will be playing in Foster Pavilion for the first time and are looking to snap a 2-game losing streak to the Bears who swept the series last season... Tech swept the regular-season series in 2022 but has lost 7 of the last 10 in the series... Tech and Baylor first met on Jan. 2, 1937, with the Red Raiders winning 38-28 in Oklahoma City... The first game in Waco was in 1949.
Texas Tech head coach Grant McCasland has been selected to join the 2024 USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team coaching staff. USA Basketball announced on Feb. 2 that the 2024 USA Men's U18 National Team will be led by Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd who will be assisted by McCasland and Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry.
Texas Tech is currently at No. 23 in the AP Top 25 and USA TODAY Coaches Poll, No. 33 in the NCAA NET Rankings, and 32 overall in Kenpom. Tech ranks 13 in offense and is 86th defensively, according to the Kenpom ratings.
Pop Isaacs leads Tech and the Big 12 with 20.5 points per game in conference games after going for 25 points at TCU and then 22 against Cincinnati. Isaacs comes into the matchup against Baylor having scored in double figures in a career-high 12 straight games. Warren Washington is second in the Big 12 with a 64.5% shooting percentage in conference-only games and in the overall stats is third with 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
Darrion Williams leads Tech with four double-doubles this season and is seventh in the Big 12 overall stats with 7.0 rebounds per game while Chance McMillian is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 12-for-24 on 3-pointers in the last five games as a reserve.
Texas Tech at Baylor prediction
This game doesn't set up well for the Red Raiders. Baylor is one of the hottest-shooting teams in the country, especially from 3-point range, and Tech struggles to defend the 3-point arc.
What's more, the atmosphere in Waco is no longer sleepy as the Bears' new home arena is lively and provides a raucous home advantage despite being only around 7,000 in capacity. However, Tech has won in tough road venues this year such as Austin and Norman.
The key player to watch for Baylor will be true freshman Ja'Kobe Walter. The McKinney, Texas native averages a team-high 14.5 points per game and is expected to be a lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft. He's the caliber of player that Scott Drew has begun to pull in with regularity, a player with the type of potential that overshadows what any player on the Red Raider roster possesses.
Tech could also find life in the paint tough against Yves Missi. The Baylor big man is second in the conference in blocked shots with 1.7 per game. That could be a problem for the smallish Red Raider guards, especially Joe Toussaint, who struggled against Cincinnati's long shot blockers at the rim in Saturday's loss.
Ultimately, styles make fights and Baylor's strengths and style of play don't make for a great fight for the Red Raiders. For Tech to have a shot, the Red Raiders are going to have to muck this game up and try to limit possessions so that Baylor, the highest-scoring team in the Big 12 can't put up enough points to run away and hide. In the end, though, Baylor will have too much talent and shooting for the Red Raiders to handle.
Prediction: Baylor 88 - Tech 79