The second game of the Final Four tips off Saturday night as the Texas Tech Red Raiders face off against the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans are looking for their first national title game appearance since 2009, while Texas Tech is enjoying its best run in school history.
The other matchup in the Final Four is a matchup showcasing a stark difference in styles, but Michigan State and Texas Tech should deliver a tremendous game in its own right. These are two of the best teams in college basketball, and it should be an absolute battle.
Let’s take a look at what Texas Tech does so well, and where Michigan State can try to take advantage.
What Texas Tech Does Well
Any discussion about Texas Tech starts with their defense. The Red Raiders are KenPom’s no. 1 team in adjusted defensive efficiency. Their prowess has destroyed teams throughout the season and the tournament. Just ask Michigan.
Texas Tech achieves this supremacy on defense by using their length and athleticism to disrupt field goal attempts and force turnovers. The Red Raiders are second in the country in field goal percentage defense (Michigan State is fourth), and 11th in turnover percentage defense. 23 percent of opponents’ offensive possessions end up in turnovers.
You could go on and on with the impressive numbers behind Texas Tech’s defense. The Red Raiders are ninth-best in the country in 3PT field goal percentage defense, third-best in 2PT field goal percentage defense, sixth in block percentage, and 34th in the country at steal percentage. Michigan State is going to have its hands full on the offensive end. It will be fun to see how they size up.
Utilize Jarrett Culver
KenPom’s Player of the Year is a master of the mid-range game. Culver is long, athletic, and can score in a myriad of ways both on and off the ball. Take a look at some of his highlights from this year below.
Culver, currently a top-6 pick according to NBA Draft Net, excels at getting the ball off high-ball screens and using his length to get shots off the dribble or drives to the basket. Texas Tech also loves to get him posted up on the side, or in the lane and having him go to work. Michigan State will need to try and deny him the ball in the post and force him to fall in love with the three-point shot. Culver is only a 31 percent shooter from three and tends to shoot too many of them (152 attempts on the year).
Though Culver struggles sometimes from three-point range, many other guys on Texas Tech do not.
The Red Raiders have four players who shoot at least 38 percent from three with a minimum of 49 attempts. This doesn’t count Culver and Brandone Francis (37 percent from three in conference play), who will let it fly as well.
Michigan State will need to be wary of turning it over and allowing Texas Tech to strike quickly on the opposite end. The Red Raiders do not have a fast pace but will kill you on steals and transitional three’s.
Now let’s take a look at what Michigan State can take advantage of in Saturday’s game.
What Michigan State Can Exploit
The Spartans, like usual, as a top-25 offensive rebounding team in the country. Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins present one of the better frontlines Texas Tech will face this season.
The Red Raiders are a pedestrian rebounding team. They are 198th in the country in giving up offensive rebounds, and 188th in getting their own. If the Spartans are shooting a low percentage, a few offensive put backs could be huge in grinding out points or getting an offensive rhythm going.
Here’s where Cassius Winston comes in. The junior point guard is one of the best in the country at pushing the pace of play to get fast break points. Look for Michigan State to push the ball whenever they can to try and get Texas Tech’s defense out of position and uncomfortable. The Red Raiders want to play at a slower pace to get their defense set and force the opponent to work the full shot clock. Michigan State can move the ball up the floor through Winston to find open three’s for Matt McQuaid or driving layups for Aaron Henry.
The worry for the Spartans about playing fast is over-extending themselves and getting sloppy with the ball. Texas Tech will take advantage of that. Wasted possessions against this defense only make things tougher.
Should be a good one from Minneapolis. Michigan State can move one step closer to Tom Izzo’s second title. Texas Tech’s defense, three-point shooting and individual play of Jarrett Culver make them a formidable opponent.