The NCAA Tournament is a beautiful time of the year for so many different reasons. One of those reasons is, of course, that it provides casual fans or fans of a certain team or conference an opportunity to see different styles, teams and conferences around the country.
Because of this, fans may not always know what to expect as their team advances beyond each round. Not to worry, though, we’ve got you covered with a bit of a team profile of the Texas Tech Red Raiders ahead of the Friday night meeting with the Purdue Boilermakers.
What are the Red Raiders strengths?
1. Keenan Evans
They have always said that guard play is what wins in the NCAA Tournament. Make no mistake that while there may be more publicized, trendy picks for the best players remaining in the tournament that Keenan Evans absolutely is on that list.
The 6’3”, 190 pound senior guard for the Red Raiders simply would not be denied during the first two rounds of the tournament, scoring 23 against Stephen F. Austin and 22 against the Florida Gators. Time after time, Evans came up with clutch buckets for his team to get them here.
He draws fouls at an incredible rate, placing second in the Big 12 in free throw rate at 59.9%. He’s taken double digit free throws in 8 games this year, including a game where he went 18-20(!!) against Texas. If he’s able to drive and draw contact, he almost always manages to get the foul call. The Boilermakers should certainly be cautious and do everything possible to keep him on the perimeter.
2. They’re very good defensively
For the season, the Texas Tech defense ranks fourth in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency at 91.7 points per 100 possessions. Of course, they’ll face one of their toughest challenges of the season against the Boilermakers, even without Isaac Haas in the middle.
Texas Tech has a handful of impressive athletes, headlined by freshman Zhaire Smith, that allows them to be good on the defensive end of the floor. Along with the athleticism, they also keep fresh bodies on the floor at all times. They have ten guys who play at least 30% of the teams minutes.
This was the best defensive team in the Big 12 for the entire season, finishing first in the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Chris Beard is one of the best rising coaches in the country in his second year at Texas Tech. Surely, for Boilermaker fans, that name is depressingly familiar. You may remember that it was his Arkansas Little Rock team who ended the careers of Raphael Davis and A.J. Hammons in the first round only a few years ago in an overtime upset.
Now at Texas Tech, Beard is looking to advance his team to their first Elite Eight in school history.
Where are the weaknesses?
1. Vulnerable to foul trouble
Despite their impressive defensive ratings, they actually commit a dangerous amount of fouls. On the season, they rank 272nd out of 351 D-I teams in defensive free throw rate. For Purdue, this should absolutely be a green light for guys like Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards to try to drive and initiate some contact to get easy points at the free throw line.
While the Red Raiders do have an abundance of depth, a lot of that is by necessity. If the Boilermakers can get the Red Raiders into foul trouble early, it should certainly help them put some points on the board and dig deep into the bench.
2. They don’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line
Yes, it can often times seem overplayed. But how many times have we seen an NCAA Tournament game come down to an overwhelming disparity at the free throw line?
Strangely enough, free throw shooting could be one of the biggest advantages for the Purdue Boilermakers. While not having Isaac Haas in the lineup would change things with Haarms being a poor free throw shooter, they still have four guys at over 80% from the free throw line. For Texas Tech, of their eight players who have attempted 25 or more free throws this season, only three shoot above 70% from the free throw line.
Keenan Evans, Zhaire Smith and Justin Gray each shoot over 70% from the stripe, but then there’s a fair drop off in productivity from the line. For the Boilermakers, it’ll be key to keep those guys off the line and if need be, try to send the less reliable options for the Red Raiders to the charity stripe.
3. They can be careless at times offensively
Even for having a senior leader like Evans at the guard position, this team has at times been careless on the offensive side of the ball. They turn the ball over on 18.1% of their possessions, which places them at 148th in the country and ninth in the Big 12.
While the Boilermakers don’t exactly force a ton of turnovers at 17.8% turnover rate on the defensive end, this could certainly come down to a game of possessions between two fairly evenly matched teams. In that scenario, the Boilermakers turn the ball over on 15.6% of their possessions, which places them at 22nd in the country.
When you look at the Red Raiders, you see a team led by a phenomenal guard in Keenan Evans with plenty of guys who fit well into their roles being coached by one of the best up and coming coaches in the business. They’re a feisty defensive team, but it comes with a price of foul trouble at times.
This game should certainly be tightly contested, with a line of Purdue by 1.5 with the KenPom line at Purdue by 3 as of Tuesday evening.
Now armed with a bit of background on this Texas Tech team, you’ll be ready to watch this hopeful Sweet Sixteen classic.