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NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech Could Be This Year’s Sleeper Tourney Team

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Every college basketball, there is a team that makes the NCAA Tournament and people yell “How did they make it? There is no way they should be in over [Insert team name here]”. That team then tends to go on a pretty serious tourney run, proving all the doubters wrong and making the committee look like a bunch of geniuses. Syracuse is the most recent example, as they made a Final Four run a season ago after being deemed unworthy of a spot in the field of 68 by 97 percent of college basketball fans.

So who might that team be this season? Well, let me present to you the Texas Tech Red Raiders from the Big 12 Conference!

As things stand right now, Texas Tech appears to be on the outside looking in. And there is certainly reasons for that. For starters, they have only two victories away from the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas this season. Secondly, they played a terrible non-conference schedule. As a result, they have two losses to teams ranked between 100 and 200.

As things currently stand, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them as the eighth team out of the field in his most recent Bracketology report, which came out on February 10th. As for CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, they are not in his bracket and are listed under the “Work to do” column on his bubble watch list.

But all hope is not lost for the Red Raiders! For the team currently ranked seventh in the Big 12, they have seven regular seasons games left. Six of those come against potential tourney teams. The first one, tonight at home against the number three ranked Kansas Jayhawks a 2:00 pm EST today over on ESPN.

They will follow this big game up with matchups against the number six and thirteen teams in the nation. Those two games will see them host Baylor and head to West Virginia. So the possibility to add some big time wins to the resume will certainly be there.

But what exactly makes me think Tech could be a dangerous team if they end up making the tourney? Well, I am glad you asked! As someone who loves to analyze statistics, Texas Tech’s really stood out to me for a team that is not one of the powerhouses of the sport.

For starters, their scoring margin was at 10.3 when I looked at earlier this week. When I am looking for champion quality teams, the benchmark I use is 10. Now, this number is certainly bloated from their weak non-conference schedule, but still, it cannot be discounted completely when looking at their stats as a whole.

They create 7.7 possessions between turnovers and rebounds. Between those two metrics, they are not lopsided either, as they are capable of pulling down boards as well as forcing their opponents to turn the ball over. With those extra possessions, they are rather effective as well, scoring .956 points per shot, which is better than the league average of .89.

Shooting the ball is not an issue either. Their field goal percentage sat at 48.6 percent while they drain threes at a 38.2 percent clip. Their defensive percentages aren’t too shabby either. They allow their opponents to shoot 42.5 percent from the field. Defending the three does fall as one of their weaknesses, however, allowing 36.5 percent, which is just over the benchmark of 36 percent.

They can handle their business in terms of fouls and free throws as well. They do not foul a whole lot, with 17 a game which is below the league average of 19. Then when they get to the line themselves, they hit 74 percent from the charity stripe.

So while their overall numbers certainly benefitted from their early schedule, the Red Raiders did beat number seven West Virginia, as well as number 25 Kansas State. Their first game against Baylor may have resulted in a loss, but considering it was a road game and they only lost by four, that tells me this team has some potential.

The upcoming slate of games is going to be what determines if this club goes dancing. They will have plenty of giants they can knock down in the coming weeks. A few big wins will certainly put them into more serious contention. If they can make a run in the Big 12 tournament as well and this sleeper team could very well set themselves up for an at-large bid.

And if they do manage to show enough to make it, it will only confirm the story their numbers are telling. This team has NCAA Tournament quality numbers, now they just need a chance to shine. Maybe I am crazy for thinking this team could be a sneaky good bet for a tourney run, but I love to listen to the numbers. You can bet I will be keeping a close eye on them as they play their upcoming slate of games, just to see if the eye test can either confirm or deny my hypothesis.

But if my gut is right and they can find a way to win their way into the field of 68, watch out. The Red Raiders could become a dangerous team this March. But first, they gotta get there. Next stop, their game against the Jayhawks!

Ken Magner
A college kid who loves baseball, NCAA basketball, Marvel movies, Game of Thrones and much more.

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