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Red Raider Check-In Halfway Through the Conference Schedule

Coming into the conference slate there were a lot of questions as to what this season could look like for Texas Tech. The first seven games were a true test as to if the Red Raiders could compete at the top of the conference or if they would be on the outside looking in on the Big-12 picture.

So far, Grant McCasland has exceeded expectations as far as early success goes and has found a way to run an offense that accentuates his players strengths and allowing his players to exceed off-script. The one shocking thing about this team would have to be that the offense has carried the load while the defense has taken a step or two back from a usual Texas Tech basketball team. McCasland was a widely-renowned defensive mind, and if anything there were questions about the offense and how it would look as McCasland didn’t have the best offenses during his time at North Texas.

I think that this is a testament to his adaptability and being able to adjust his gameplan based on his personnel. With that comes some downside, most notably being the runs that teams tend to go on that we either can’t stop or can’t match. In quite a few games this season we have seen teams, most commonly towards the end of the first half, go on long runs after we build some momentum. Then right on time the offense starts turning the ball over or just taking bad shots that give all the momentum to the other side and the effort on the defensive side of the balls takes a hit as well.

Even with that the team always ends up clawing back and keeping the game in hand. I don’t think most of the past Tech teams would’ve been capable of shooting their way back into games, but this offense has been one of the best in the nation and we will have to rely on it plenty.

One key piece that I think the better Tech teams in recent memory have had is a big man in the middle with enough depth behind him to be able to take him off the floor and not lose much. Unfortunately for Tech when Warren Washington isn’t on the floor we see a drop-off on the glass and in the paint. On top of his scoring and overall presence on the floor, Washington does a lot of the little things well that help the offense and defense flow smoothly.

When he isn’t on the floor the Red Raiders tend to use a smaller lineup where we see Darrion Williams step up and attack the glass. But he’s 6’6” and besides him there isn’t much height on this team that sees significant minutes. Robert Jennings sees roughly 5-10 minutes a game and we haven’t seen much of KyeRon Lindsay this year who is listed at 6’8” himself, so the small ball lineups have been used more often.

In years past the smaller lineups consisted of 6’6” guards that could defend multiple positions, but this is where losing a guy like Devan Cambridge after only eight games hurts. Our three key contributors in Pop Isaacs, Joe Toussaint and Chance McMillan are each 6’3” or smaller. Even when Washington is on the floor, Darrion is the only other guy out there with him that has the height to consistently attack the glass.

I don’t know if the solution is to attack the glass with more guys and give up some of the fast break opportunities or to just keep rolling with the punches and prevent those second and third chances for the opposition as much as possible. Either way we only have four loss on the year and this team has played great despite their deficiencies. I for one am of the belief that the defense will come along more as the season progresses and the games get more intense.

Going forward, we have two of the next three games against teams at the bottom end of the conference in Cincinnati and UCF. While the Big-12 is a gauntlet, those are two games that we are the significantly better team and should come away with a victory. Baylor is in between those two and even if they have been on a skid they are still dangerous and it will be a fun test to see our guards against theirs.

Following that stretch we have three games in a row against Kansas, Iowa State and TCU with the Iowa State game being the only one on the road. If we can come away from that 2-1 I think we will be in prime position at the end of the season to be in the mix for the regular season conference title with four games in a row against unranked teams and finishing the season hosting Baylor.

I think we can all agree that this team has exceeded our expectations to this point, with only the Houston game as the one true beating we have taken in conference play on the road. If this team can make adjustments as they need to, there’s no doubt we will be playing meaningful basketball with championship aspirations heading into March.

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