Texas Tech @ Kansas State (-2, 120.5)
The Red Raiders find themselves in the middle of a two-game losing streak heading into Manhattan, Kansas for a matchup with a tough and very experienced Kansas State team.
Since Chris Beard took over at Texas Tech for the 2016-2017 season, the Red Raiders are 4-1 straight up against Bruce Weber and the Wildcats, with the only loss being in the season finale at Kansas State in spring of 2017. Since then, Texas Tech has won three straight games against this Kansas State team that went to the Elite Eight last year (Tech went to the Elite Eight as well).
These teams are somewhat similar, so I expect this to be a relatively close game throughout. However, I do see an edge in this particular matchup that favors the Red Raiders, and it involves the two-point offense and defense of these two teams.
Texas Tech is susceptible to defeat against teams that score effectively from inside the three-point line. Tech’s three losses have each come to teams that rank in the Top 125 in two-point field goal percentage – one loss at home, one on the road, and one on a neutral court. However, Tech is undefeated against teams that rank outside of the Top 125 in two-point field goal percentage, with an average margin of victory of 21.62 points in 13 contests. Now, I understand that most of those games came against teams that do not deserve to be on the same floor as the Red Raiders. So, just for your curiosity – Texas Tech’s margin of victory against Power Five teams who rank outside the Top 125 in two-point field goal percentage is 7.4 points per game in five total contests.
Kansas State ranks 231st in two-point field goal percentage, shooting 48.6%. Because of their struggles inside the arc, they are at a disadvantage against teams who thrive defensively in that same space. The Wildcats’ four losses have all come to teams that rank in the Top 50 in opponent two-point field goal percentage. Texas Tech ranks 2nd overall in opponent two-point field goal percentage, allowing their opponents to shoot only 40.5% in and around the paint. Tech holds a true advantage inside, as they themselves shoot 53.6%, which ranks 87th overall.
Kansas State does not have the offensive tools outside of the paint to help them either. They do not shoot well from the three-point line (31.4%, 286th) or the free throw line (64.6%, 322nd) to make up for the mismatch inside. The Red Raiders are average three-point shooters (34.1%, 180th) and free throw shooters (70.5%, 167th), so when it comes to these aspects of the game, Texas Tech holds the advantage as well.
The Texas Tech offense, however, does have its own set of struggles and matchup problems. The Red Raiders’ offense tends to be tested against teams that are elite shot blockers. Their three losses have all come to teams that rank in the Top 50 in block percentage. I think this goes hand in hand with the stat that I mentioned earlier about Tech struggling with teams who shoot well inside. Essentially, what I have found here is that Tech thrives in matchups where they own the paint, and struggle in matchups where they do not.
These teams are very similar in that they are slow and work hard to find the best shot possible. They both rank in the bottom 100 in field goal attempts per game and in the bottom 150 in adjusted tempo. In matchups that appear even like this, I try to dive deep and find a mismatch somewhere. I think I have found that mismatch in this game. Texas Tech should own the interior in this game and, in turn, should control the game. I consider Texas Tech the better team in this matchup and the fact that they are on a two game losing streak adds fuel to the fire. Coach Beard will have his guys ready for this one. While I love the experience and the minutes continuity of the Wildcats, I do not think they have the ability to slow down Jarrett Culver and Tariq Owens inside. Look for a 6-10 point win for the Red Raiders. I am confident enough that I am passing on the opportunity to take the points and am going with the Moneyline.
The Pick: Texas Tech ML (+110)
Best of luck to us!