Baylor is already done playing Oklahoma, Kansas, TCU, and Oklahoma State in the regular season. Tonight will be the first time the Bears and Red Raiders face off, only to do so again a couple of weeks later in the season closer. To help us wrap our minds around how funky that is, I had a little back-and-forth with Seth of Viva The Matadors. Check out what he had to ask me right here. Seth had some broader questions, so if you miss my providing general commentary on the Bears as constituted this season, you should definitely check it out.
PC: Let’s begin more generally. How would you characterize Tubby Smith’s 2nd season at Texas Tech? Do you feel confident he can restore the good name of Red Raiders basketball?
Seth: I thought before the year that this would be a rough year, especially after Smith graduated and/or lost to transfer six players, with Texas Tech's losing three seniors off of last year's team, and what would have been two of Texas Tech's best players in Dusty Hannahs and Jordan Tolbert. So expectations for me were a bit different for me. Smith signed five freshmen and two JUCO players, and I think I agree with Smith in taking the longer approach of toughing it out with freshmen playing big minutes rather than a short fix with a ton of JUCO players. For my money, there are few coaches as good as Smith, what he's done after Billy Clyde Gillispie did (i.e. single-handedly ruining this program) has been nothing short of amazing. Give Smith some time and I think Texas Tech is going to be just fine.
PC: Tech has twice demonstrated that no road game in the Big 12 can be taken for granted, upsetting Iowa State and squarely handling a short-handed Kansas State team. (And lest we forget, Baylor took an L in Lubbock last season.) With the Iowa State game particularly in mind, how have the Red Raiders been able to stay frisky despite the talent gap between them and some of their competition, or is that talent gap maybe smaller than perceived?
Seth: Shooting. That's it. The games that Texas Tech has won have been the result of three of Texas Tech guards hitting from outside when they normally haven't all year. That's been the difference in upsetting Iowa State and Kansas State. Against ISU, Texas Tech hits 11 of 24 three-point shots and against Kansas state, Texas Tech 9 of 19. On average, Texas Tech is 5 of 16 from the three-point line.
PC: Freshman forward Zach Smith looks to be Tech’s rim protector, leading the team in block% (6.5%) and in minutes per game. How disruptive can he be to an opposing offense?
Seth: Smith is a project, but the sort of project that when he has some more experience and more size, he's going to be really good. I don't know that I would call Smith a rim protector, but of all of the freshmen, he's been the guy that's gotten the most playing time and I think Tubby is force-feeding him minutes despite bad match-ups. I don't think I'd call Smith disruptive, but he does, on occasion, block some shots. I think to be really disruptive you have to move opposing players off of the block and Smith isn't close to that sort of player yet.
PC: As is usually the case for struggling teams, offense doesn’t seem to come easy for Tubby Smith’s team. Is there a player that the rest look to to score points, or does the offense have to come by committee?
Seth: Yeah, that offense is pretty terrible and there's really not much that Texas Tech has been able to do about it. Before the ISU game, Texas Tech employed a high-low post game where there weren't a lot of players moving and screening. Tubby changed the offense overnight and we saw players screening on the block to open the wing for the TTU guards to get open for a shot. What fans saw on Saturday night was a Texas Tech that stayed in a zone the entire game and Texas Tech just didn't have an answer. There really isn't one player that's stepped up and Texas Tech only has one player averaging in double-figures, Devaugntah Williams, but he's incredibly hot-and-cold. I think that Norense Odiase has some potential to be a good offensive player, he's got soft hands, he just needs to learn a hook shot in the off season. There's not much to write about with the offense.
PC: What’s your prediction for the game? What will it take for Tech to defend its home court and extend Baylor’s losing streak? Do you foresee a big game for Rico Gathers inside against Tech’s lighter front line?
Seth: I think Baylor will win going away for this game. Texas Tech doesn't have a true small forward on the roster (Justin Gray was filling that role, but he's out for the year) and Baylor has two pretty good small forwards, plus, I don't see Texas Tech having an answer for Gathers on the boards. Baylor scores too well and the Bears' defense is much improved, so I'd guess a 15 point win for Baylor.
Thanks again to Seth for chatting, even if he uses the double space after a period like he's using a type writer. That drives me crazy. Anyway, still appreciate you, Seth. Best of luck to the Red Raiders in their future success.