Unranked Texas Tech will play No. 3 Kansas on Saturday and No. 6 Baylor on Monday in a pair of marquee home games for the Red Raiders at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.
“We’re going to try to schedule the (Boston) Celtics on Sunday to get a little bit more competition in that three-day span,” first-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said on Thursday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference.
All kidding aside.…
“I think this is great. We couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to play two of the best teams in the country on our home floor in a three-day period. It’s going to be great for basketball in Lubbock as well. I don’t shy away from it at all,” Beard said.
The Red Raiders (16-8, 4-7 Big 12), who are 14-1 at home this season, may need a strong showing in Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Kansas (21-3, 9-2) and in Monday’s 6 p.m., contest against Baylor (21-3, 8-3) to impress NCAA Tournament committee members. The committee likely won’t be impressed with the Red Raiders’ nonconference schedule, which according to Kenpom.com ranks 350th out of 351 teams.
“I told our guys, Beard said, ‘Years from now we are not going to be sitting around talking about the two nonconference games we played in November, but this is an opportunity we could be years from now sitting around talking about that great run we had the last month of this season.’”
Texas Tech has already played both Baylor and KU tough. The Red Raiders lost to the Bears 65-61 on Jan. 25 in Waco, Texas. Tech trailed Kansas by five points with 8:22 left in an 85-68 loss to the Jayhawks on Jan. 7 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Texas Tech’s Zach Smith and Aaron Ross scored 17 points each, while Keenan Evans had 16 in the first meeting against KU. Frank Mason answered with 26 points for Kansas, while Devonté Graham had 20 and Josh Jackson 17.
“It was a real good game until late,” Kansas’ Graham said. “They are long and athletic,” Graham added. “They’ve got some good guards. It’ll be hard to win down there in Lubbock. It always is.”
Evans, a junior guard from Richardson, Texas, averages a team-leading 14.4 points, while Smith, a junior forward from Plano, Texas, averages 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds. Anthony Livingston, a senior forward from Washington, D.C., and Ross, a senior forward from North Little Rock, Ark., average 11.5 and 10.2 points.
“Obviously they have balance,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Their first shot defense is very good. They are the best defensive rebounding team in our conference hands down. They are sound. You have to beat them. They are not going to help you beat them.
“They are 4-7 in the league now. But that 4-7 could easily be 7-4,” Self added.
The Jayhawks enter Saturday’s game with a one-game lead over Baylor in the Big 12 race. West Virginia, which will play at KU on Monday, is two games back. The Mountaineers play host to Kansas State on Saturday.
“We’ve got a tough stretch coming up right here,” Graham said of Kansas’ schedule. “We go to Texas Tech, then we’ve got West Virginia and Baylor,” Graham said.
“There’s going to be some good, tough games down the stretch. Every game is important, especially to win the league.”
Beard, a former Texas Tech assistant, said he has enjoyed being a head coach in the league.
“One of the first things we mention to recruits, kind of the backbone of everything we do is how proud we are to be in the Big 12. It presents opportunity after opportunity,” Beard said.
“There are a lot of coaches around the country coaching good teams that would like the opportunity to play these kind of games (and) flip the script quickly on their resume. There’s a lot of ways we still control our own future as does everybody in the Big 12 because everybody is so good.
“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to coach here. I want to coach the best players. I want to coach the highest level. The Big 12 gives you the opportunity to do that every night.”
No. 3. Kansas at Texas Tech
- When: 1 p.m. Saturday
- Where: United Supermarkets Arena, Lubbock, Texas.
- Records: KU 21-3, 9-2 Big 12; TT 16-8, 4-7
- Radio: 1240-AM, 98.7-FM
- TV: ESPN
No. 3. Kansas at Texas Tech
Kansas (21-3, 9-2): KU, has won 15 in a row vs. Texas Tech and leads the all-time series 32-4.… Mason has scored 20 or more points in 13 games, including three of the last four. Mason has hit 28 of 50 threes (.560) in Big 12 play.… Lucas has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in nine games, including four of the last six.
Texas Tech (16-8, 4-7): The Red Raiders have dropped four of their last five league games.… Evans has made 25 of his last 38 threes.… Smith has 129 career blocks, which ranks second on the school’s all-time list behind Tony Battie (162).… Stevenson is a two-time NJCAA All America player out of Seward County Community College.
RPIs as of Friday: KU 3, TT 89.