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BYU-Texas Tech Preview: Cougars Open as Slight Road Underdog

Two ranked, 14-3 teams battle it out Saturday in Lubbock.

Kansas State v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

BYU heads to Lubbock for another top 25 matchup when #20 BYU takes on #25 Texas Tech Saturday at 4 MT on ESPN2. BYU is coming off a home win over #24 Iowa State while the Red Raiders suffered their first Big 12 loss in 23-point setback at Houston. As of this publishing, oddsmakers have BYU anywhere between a 1.5 to 2.5 point underdog.

BYU and Texas Tech by the Numbers

TTU Record: 14-3

KenPom: 34

NET: 41

Best Wins: Michigan (N), Texas (A), Kansas State(H), Oklahoma State (H)

Losses: Villanova (N), Butler (A), Houston (A)

BYU KenPom: 9

Net: 4

Record: 14-3

Best Wins: San Diego State (H), NC State (N), Arizona State (N), UCF (A), Iowa State (H)

Losses: Utah (A), Cincinnati (H), Baylor (A)

KenPom Prediction: BYU 74, TTU 71 — BYU 58% win probability

Texas Tech Overview

The Red Raiders are 10-0 at home this season and boast one of the best home court advantages in college basketball. They are the second-slowest tempo team in the Big 12, although they can and will push at times in transition. They are one of the smallest teams in the league but limit three pointers attempts and assists, two of BYU’s biggest strengths. TTU starts 7-footer Warren Washington at center and doesn’t start anyone else taller than 6-foot-6. They have 6 players that play the bulk of the minutes and two other players that have averaged less than 8 minutes per game in conference play. Tech is solid on both sides of the ball, although offense has been the better side for much of the season. In Big 12 only games, TTU is top 3 in offensive turnover percentage, 3P%, and eFG%. Rebounding hasn’t been a consistent issue for them, but the offensive glass isn’t a big part of their formula and their have been a handful of games where teams have had success versus them on the offensive glass.

Texas Tech Players to Watch

Pop Isaacs, Guard — A member of the Big 12 All-Freshman Team last season, Isaacs lead the Red Raiders with 16.1 ppg. Isaacs is a high volume shooter that will shoot from all areas of the court. The key for him is his efficiency — he is a 36% shooter from the floor and 31% from three. He had over 20 points in his first two Big 12 games on 50% shooting, but is just 23% from the floor in his last two, both games where TTU struggled on offense.

Warren Washington, Center —Washington is the only big man part of the rotation. The 7-footer is an athletic rim runner that leads TTU with averages of 7.8 boards and 1.8 blocks. Washington averages 9.8 points per game on 62% shooting. There’s not much depth behind him and he’s played 33+ minutes in each of the last three games.

Joe Toussaint — Isaac’s back court mate, the 6-foot guard averages 13.8 points and 4 assists on 45% shooting. A capable three-point shooter at 33%, Toussaint excels at getting to the line and makes his free throws at an 85% clip.

Darrion Williams, Forward — At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Williams is the de facto 4 man. Williams averages 9.4 points and is on active on the glass with an average of 6.7 rpg. Williams versus Noah Waterman will be a matchup to watch.

Kerwin Williams, Guard — Kerwin averages 8 points and shoots a blistering 53% from three. He averages the least points among the starters but is the best shooter on the team.

Chance McMillian, Guard — TTU’s sixth man, the 6-foot-3 guard averages 8.6 points and shoots 40% from three.

Prediction

Texas Tech reminds me some of Baylor, just a little less talented. That’s no knock on them, they are a very good team and tied atop the Big 12. Like Baylor, the strength of TTU is their guard line, I just think Baylor’s is a little better. Texas Tech is better on offense than UCF and Iowa State but not as long or disruptive on defense.

I can play out multiple scenarios in my mind. I can see Texas Tech riding a strong home crowd, an athletic 5 man that BYU has trouble matching up with, and too many scoring options at guard to a win versus a BYU team that may be without Trevin Knell again.

On the flip side, I can see BYU taking advantage of the offensive glass and being able to get some layups with Aly Khalifa on the floor versus an Texas Team that doesn’t have a ton of length to disrupt BYU at the rim when Khalifa draws Warren Washington out to the perimeter. Texas Tech is coming off two subpar offensive outings will be in trouble if Pop Isaacs doesn’t come out of his two-game rut.

This is the lone regular season game and it’s one where either home team would be favored and BYU would likely be a small favorite on a neutral floor. I’ll defer to the home team here in what should be a raucous crowd on a Saturday afternoon/evening.

Prediction: Texas Tech 78, BYU 76