The Red Raiders Will Cap Off 2022 and Launch into Big 12 play in Fort Worth against a surging Horned Frogs Team
The Big 12 Season is finally here. On the last day of 2022, Texas Tech has an opportunity to establish itself as a player in the conference title race, as they face a top-25 TCU team that has been catching fire as of late. The Red Raiders enter conference play at 10-2, although the nature of their non-conference schedule meant that they have no Q1 or Q2 wins. TCU is not much better, having two such wins but also a brutal Q4 loss to Northwestern State. Regardless of what happens in Big 12 play, both of these teams will have to make up for underwhelming non-conference slates (both currently sit outside the top 250 in T-Rank’s SOS). This is a matchup of two good teams with a lot to prove, so even if Horned Frog fans are looking ahead to tonight’s football game, there is still plenty of reason to watch what should be a fun game in Fort Worth.
Where: Schollmaier Arena (Fort Worth, Texas)
When: 11:00 A.M. CST
Odds: TCU -4.5, O/U 140.5
Three Players to Watch
Mike Miles Jr.
Miles feels like he’s been in the Big 12 for a decade, but the junior has actually only played Texas Tech three times over his previous two years in Fort Worth, with the fourth game being canceled due to COVID. Miles has been TCU’s best player ever since he’s been on campus, but his offensive inconsistencies have kept him from being a truly elite college player. A perfect example of these inconsistencies is his career vs. Tech. In his first game (a 69-49 loss), Miles went 1-8 from the field and finished with two points. His next? A pedestrian 14 points in a loss to the Red Raiders in Lubbock last year. The last time those Red Raiders saw Miles it was a different story, though, as Miles went 10-15 from the field, had four assists, and ended with 26 points while also tallying five steals in a narrow win for the Horned Frogs.
Miles has fought through injuries that limited him early in the year, and TCU has yet to lose a game with him in the lineup. His finishing at the rim has improved dramatically (72% on over four attempts per game), and even if his shooting has not been great from an efficiency standpoint since his freshman year, his quick release and aggressiveness off the dribble make him a threat at all three levels.
Baugh is Miles’ running mate in the backcourt for the Horned Frogs, and ever since coming back from a six-game suspension he has brought a calming presence to an offense that struggled to establish a rhythm in early games. Baugh was targeted twice by Texas Tech, once coming out of high school and then again after he decided to transfer from Memphis. The 6’3 guard has great length for the position, and his on-ball defense is as good as anyone in the conference. Baugh also enters this game averaging nearly five assists per game and is typically the primary ball handler for set plays in TCU’s offense, although the usage of said plays has not been as frequent this year (more on that later). Baugh is not a great shooter, hitting just 28% of his career three-point attempts, but he can provide pretty much everything else for TCU.
There are probably three other players for TCU worth mentioning here Emmanuel Miller (a versatile wing/big hybrid who excels on the defensive end), Chuck O’Bannon (TCU’s best floor spacer), and Eddie Lampkin (a big who provides a ton of energy for this squad), but due to his history, I have to bring up Peavy. He plays a similar role on this team to what he did as a freshman at Tech, acting mostly as a complimentary wing that takes on difficult defensive assignments. He still has great on-ball instincts with some bad off-ball lapses. He still is not a shooter or a good ball handler (though the former has gone from atrocious to merely bad), so his offensive role is inherently going to be limited due to those weaknesses. Still, Peavy provides energy and versatility to the Horned Frogs, and with him likely coming back from a lower leg injury for this game, he will be another piece to monitor for the Red Raiders.
What They’re Good At
Attacking in transition: The tempo for TCU has been big so far this season, as they play nearly 71 possessions per game. Furthermore, they play in transition on 18% of all possessions according to Shot Quality. They push the tempo often to mitigate their struggles shooting in the half-court, and it’s done wonders for them. They are top 20 nationally in the quality of shots in transition (also per SQ), which is significantly better than their half-court rate.
Getting to the rim: Around half of TCU’s shots on the season have come from within three feet of the basket. They convert those looks at close to 60%, which isn’t great but it’s still very efficient when you consider the volume of shots in the paint that they are taking. Baugh and Miles are very effective attacking downhill, while guys like JaKobe Coles and Xavier Cork are good finishers off of screens and cuts.
Defending the perimeter: TCU is allowing opponents to shoot only 28.1% from three. They might not be the best at shooting on the offensive end, but they’ve kept that from being a big disadvantage thanks to their prowess on the other end. The length they have in the lineup has a lot to do with that, with Lampkin really being the only guy in the rotation who is a liability on perimeter switches.
Keys for Texas Tech:
Adapt to TCU’s pace: The Horned Frogs are likely to play at a quicker tempo than any other relevant team that Tech has played so far, so being able to match that and play good transition offense and defense will be key. Quite honestly, the offense has looked better at a faster pace throughout the season, and Tech’s tempo has increased dramatically since Maui. Was that due to weak competition or a concerted effort by Steve Green and co. to maximize the talent on this roster? We’ll find out soon.
Work the PnR: While TCU is extremely versatile 1-4, they really don’t have an answer for Batcho other than Lampkin, who has some defensive limitations in switching that I touched on earlier. Forcing Jamie Dixon to either provide Batcho with a mismatch inside or put Lampkin in tough situations will be critical in this game, and playing through the PnR is the best way to get to that situation.
Avoid turnovers: Again, TCU loves to play in transition. They have a ton of length. Texas Tech has thrown the ball away a little too often at times this season. This game will already be challenging, so don’t give TCU more opportunities to play efficient offense.
Final thought: Last year Texas Tech lost in Fort Worth thanks to some questionable offensive action and a career day from Mike Miles. This year, TCU is largely the same team while Texas Tech has a number of new faces. This game is incredibly difficult to predict because of the easy non-conference slates for both teams, but I feel reasonably confident that Tech will at least have a good shot at winning this game. De’Vion Harmon had a career game against the Horned Frogs in 2021, and I think he has another great one today to bring Texas Tech to 1-0 and head into 2023 on a high note.
Final Prediction: Texas Tech 74-70 TCU