After three relatively easy wins at home, Texas Tech basketball will face a difficult challenge to kick off the Maui Invitational today in the form of a top-ten Creighton team. The Bluejays enter the contest 4-0, although they have not faced difficult competition to start the year either. With both teams searching for a signature quad-one win to start building their resume, today’s game has a lot of significance, especially considering the possibility of facing teams such as Arkansas, Arizona, and San Diego State depending on the outcome of games in the tournament. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect in today’s contest.
Where: Lahaina Civic Center (Lahaina, Maui)
When: 1:30 CST
Odds: Creighton -3.5, O/U: 137
Three players to watch
A 7’1 center with phenomenal inside touch, Kalkbrenner was one of the best two-way centers in high-major basketball last season. The junior averaged 2.6 blocks and was an integral part of the Bluejays’ offensive plans, and so far that looks to be no different in the 2022-23 campaign. Kalkbrenner is 25-29 at the rim this season, has hit two threes already and is a very capable offensive rebounder. Daniel Batcho will have his hands full with this matchup.
The younger brother of former Gonzaga and Florida star Andrew Nembhard, Ryan had a productive freshman season for the Bluejays last year. The 6’ tall guard is an exceptional playmaker (27 assists to two turnovers on the year) and has shown to at least be competent as a driver. Nembhard is the engine that drives this offense and is a key reason why the Bluejays only turn the ball over on 11.7 percent of possessions, which is a top-five rank nationally.
The South Dakota State transfer was probably the best shooter in the portal this past offseason and was a big pickup for the Bluejays, who were abysmal from three-point range last season at only 30%. Scheierman has good size for a wing, can create off-the-dribble to some degree, and is lethal in the catch-and-shoot. He’s already taken 24 shots from deep this season, so getting the 6’7 sharpshooter good looks is a focal point of this offense that emphasizes player movement, off-ball screening, and quick, efficient passes.
What They’re Good At
Not turning the ball over: As previously stated- the Bluejays are exceptionally good at not committing turnovers. They have one of the best turnover rates in all of college basketball and have yet to have more than 11 turnovers in a game. They do not beat themselves.
Avoiding foul trouble: No team lets opponents shoot fewer free throws than Creighton. In the entire country. They’re allergic to committing fouls.
Getting good looks at the rim: Creighton is known for their three-point shooting and tempo, but the reality is this team is arguably better playing at a slower pace in the halfcourt, and their ability to generate good looks from two-point range is very impressive. Having Kalkbrenner inside makes life a lot easier in that sense, but the off-ball cutting from Crieghton’s wings and unselfish passing give them a lot of open looks.
Keys for Texas Tech:
Don’t turn the ball over: If Tech turns it over 20 times again, they lose and my TV is probably getting shattered. The second part probably will not happen because I am a broke college student, but the first point still stands. Creighton does not beat themselves, so turning it over against them creates a possession disparity that you probably will not overcome.
Communicate well defensively: Tech has not been great off-ball defensively on rotations and switches, but it has not cost them too much so far because the on-ball tenacity has made up for that and the opponents have not been great. That will have to change against a Creighton team that lives off off-ball movement and schematic masterpieces from Greg McDermott. Figuring out lineups that mesh well together defensively will also be a critical part of this tournament, and today is the first opportunity to learn in that sense.
Generate open perimeter looks: This sounds kind of obvious, but getting good three-point looks will give you a better chance of winning the game! In all seriousness, Creighton has allowed opponents to shoot over 38% from deep. That, combined with the fact that their rim protection is very good thanks to Kalkbrenner being an elite drop center, makes it incredibly important to utilize the plethora of shooters that Tech has.
Final Prediction: Texas Tech 72-67 Creighton