Arizona Wildcats face big Texas Tech offense tonight
Four days after defeating then-No. 6 Duke in the preseason NIT championship game, No. 2 Arizona (7-0) returns to McKale Center to face an improving Texas Tech program.
Arizona plays Texas Tech tonight at 7 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Red Raiders (6-2) finished the 2012-13 season with a disappointing 11-20 record, including an 85-57 loss to the Wildcats at home. It was an improvement over the 2011-12 season (8-23), but overall Texas Tech has seen a decline since former head coach Bob Knight left the program following the 2007-08 season.
The Red Raiders haven’t made the postseason NCAA tournament since the 2006-07 season or won a postseason game since 2005.
Three head coaches later and Texas Tech might finally be back on track, with the recent offseason hiring of 1998 NCAA champion head coach Tubby Smith.
Smith has inherited a Texas Tech roster that didn’t have much turnover from last season, but was also one of the nation’s least efficient offenses and worst three-point shooting teams.
With its current roster, Arizona shouldn’t worry too much about the Red Raider shooters. Redshirt sophomore Toddrick Gotcher leads the team with 7-for-18 shooting from three-point range.
Instead, Texas Tech’s wingmen and frontcourt, with fifth-year senior Jaye Crockett and junior Jordan Tolbert, should be the focus.
Crockett currently leads the team with 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Not too far behind is Tolbert, who averages 13.4 and 6.8.
Crockett, a 6-foot-7 small forward, improved the most out of any Red Raider last season. His turnover rate decreased and he became a much better rebounder. While he isn’t an elite rebounder yet, he can crash the boards better than anyone else on his team and could give the Wildcats fits with second chance opportunities.
Crockett led the Red Raiders against Arizona in their matchup last season with 12 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.
Tolbert is 6-foot-7 but is bigger and stronger than Crockett and far less of a jump shooter. He will make most of his money near the basket and on the free throw line. So far this season he has made .778 percent of his free throws.
On the flip side, Tolbert was also a liability, as found himself in a lot of foul trouble last season, though he has yet to foul out in eight games this season.
If Arizona is to put some emphasis on a guard, it should be sophomore shooting guard Dusty Hannahs. The 6-foot-4 Hannahs is a shooting guard in every sense. Hannahs finished last season with 119 three-point attempts and only 10 assists. Now a starter, Hannahs seems to be putting more into assisting, as he already has 10 assists on the season.
With the change in coaches, the Red Raiders didn’t have the strongest of recruiting classes, but maybe their least-talked-about recruit will turn into their strongest.
Point guard Robert Turner is a New Mexico Junior College transfer and has started all eight games at the position for Smith. Turner has averaged 11.4 points per game, but he will need to prove himself to be more than just a scorer if Texas Tech wants to improve. Turner leads the team in assists with just 21.
Player to watch for:
Crockett will definitely be the Texas Tech player to watch for. If Crockett can find a groove in his jump shot, he could help the Red Raiders on stretches. However, he will need an absolute career game to beat the Wildcats. Or he’ll need to receive help from teammates, but his teammates will be looking for him to be their leading score and rebounder.
He said it:
“I think we can be special, no question,” said Arizona head coach Sean Miller following the Wildcats’ 72-66 victory over Duke on Friday. “We have to be an elite defensive team. We have to be able to get stops. We have to be able to use our size rebounding, and we just have to continue to develop and improve.”
Projected starting Red Raiders Lineup:
PG Robert Turner
SG Dusty Hannahs
SF Jaye Crockett
PF Jordan Tolbert
C Dejan Kravic
Who are the Texas Tech Red Raiders?
2012-13 record: 11-20 overall, 3-15 Big 12 Conference
2012-13 notable victories: 56-51 vs. Iowa St.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella