The Gonzaga Bulldogs have yet another top 25 opponent on the horizon. To help prepare for the Zags’ next big game, we reached out to Viva the Matadors, SB Nation’s excellent Texas Tech blog. A big thank you to Mike Macon for answering some of our questions.
SSF: We are in the midst of the Mark Adams era of Texas Tech basketball. How has it been going so far and how has the transition been on moving on from Chris Beard?
I would say the jury is really still out on the overall impact, but the short term results have been extremely impressive. Coach Adams had to rebuild his entire roster effectively (8!! New players) and did so with a flash. Landing big name transfers isn’t enough though, you do need to actually get them to gel and perform. Against Tennessee the nation got to see that there is no defensive drop off in Lubbock under Adams’ system. Texas having already taken Gonzaga on though means this game will mean a bit more comparing the past and the future.
SSF: The Red Raiders have some serious size in their guards, but that doesn’t necessarily extend to their frontcourt. How do you envision Texas Tech making life difficult for the twin pillars of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren?
I tell everyone: learn the name Daniel Batcho. He’s Tech’s best size at 6’11 coming from Arizona. He would have stayed and been a stud for the wildcats had a knee injury not cost him a year. He’s getting better every game, and he’s just kind of a freak athlete. He matches up very well with Chet from what I can tell, but he can (and has) guarded all five spots. He’ll be critical to Tech’s effort.
As for Timme, I suspect Tech will suck Kevin McCullar on him or maybe some combo of Marcus Santos-Silva or Bryson Williams. MCullar just eats up the players he guards, while MSS and Williams are more true forwards that can bang with the best of them. Regardless, Tech is lengthy across the board and has neutralized (albeit inferior) bigs this season. I’m actually not concerned from a paper matchup perspective here, but if Timme is able to get hot I’m on record saying Gonzaga just blows Tech out so this is the matchup to watch.
SSF: Gonzaga has looked absolutely dominate against Texas and UCLA and then has looked absolutely lost against Alabama. The real team is probably somewhere in between, at this moment. What does Texas Tech need to accomplish offensively to help pull off the upset?
Play under control, and keep the ball moving. At its best, Tech’s offense is aggressive and attacks while looking for open shooters to dump the ball off too. At its worst, the offense is stagnant with wild drives that result in turnovers or just a two man weave up top before a bad shot.
Tech lacks a true PG as of yet, with several guys vying for the role. Whoever runs point, they’ve got to keep the ball moving and play smart. Drive, but keep your head up.
SSF: The Red Raiders have five players averaging double-digit points. Terrance Shannon leading everyone with a fine junior year campaign of 16.8 points per game. Which player do you see as the key to this game for Texas Tech, one either the offensive or defensive end of the floor?
It’s TJ by a lot offensively. If he has a game where he is just “the dude” Tech can win this one. McCullar is another popular option as he is the teams stated PG, but really your best player needs to play like it to beat the best. And Shannon is Tech’s best player.
Defensively, like I said it has got to be Batcho. If he does his part, protects the rim, and cleans up the rebounding Tech will be a very tough team to beat any given night.
SSF: We have an away loss against a decent Providence team and a tidy OT win over a good Tennessee team, but in reality. Outside of that, Texas Tech hasn’t played much of anyone before Saturday’s game. Are the metrics we are seeing for the Red Raiders what we should expect throughout the year, or are things a bit too rosy after playing the Grambling State’s, Incarnate Word’s, and Nebraska Omaha’s of the world?
Tech’s loss to Providence was, shall we politely say flukey. Tech didn’t look prepared for Providence’s zone and I’ll just say the officiating left everyone with more questions than answers.
Tennessee demonstrated how insane this team can be defensively, and that isn’t going anywhere. Tennessee is a good offense, and Tech just completely shut them down. Offensively, both those games tell a story of a team that’s still figuring things out. There’s a ton of scoring potential, but I’m not sure we’ve seen what they can actually do.
I don’t know if we know what Tech’s ceiling is yet, but if they play together defensively like they did against Tennessee that ceiling could be pretty dang high. They’ve just got to be consistent offensively.
SSF: Texas Tech is a senior-laden roster and Gonzaga is full of young and talented, but somewhat inexperienced, faces. This game will probably have a tight line to open up — what is your game prediction?
I think Tech matches up well with Gonzaga. I also think Tech can’t afford to give anything less than their best and expect to win. I expect a very close game, and I’ll give the Red Raiders the advantage because I think Gonzaga is going to struggle against this much length and athleticism, 72-68.