IOWA (4-1) VS. TEXAS TECH (5-0)
DATE: November 28, 2019
TIME: 7:00 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING: Fox Sports Go
LINE: Texas Tech -7.5
KENPOM: Texas Tech -5 (Iowa 33% win probability)
We're done with the cupcakes.
Iowa starts the proper portion of its schedule Thursday night at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, where the Hawkeyes will face the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. Central, with television coverage on Fox Sports One. The winner will face the winner of Creighton-San Diego State on Friday night; that game will be played after Iowa-Texas Tech is finished.
The Red Raiders are currently ranked No. 12, and are 18th in Kenpom, but are far removed from the squad that played in the national championship game last year. Gone are Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens. In fact, the only starter from last year's team still on the roster is guard Davide Moretti (6'3", 180, 13.8 ppg). Tech capitalized on its success by landing four-star freshman guard Jahmi'us Ramsey (6'4", 195); he has promptly become the team's leader in points (19.4 ppg), steals (1.8 spg) and usage rate, and second in rebounds (6.4 rpg). Moretti and Ramsey are joined in Tech's three-guard backcourt by sophomore Kyler Edwards (6'4", 200, 10.0 ppg).
Forwards Terrence Shannon (6'6", 210, 10.0 ppg) and T.J. Holyfield (6'8", 225, 13.8 ppg) get the starts, but Chris Clarke (6'6", 220, 3.2 ppg) gets enough time off the bench to lead the team in rebounding. Tech has a seven-footer, in freshman center Russell Tchewa (7'0", 260), but he plays only sparingly, or at least he has so far.
Tech's methods are decidedly old-school. They don't take many threes; no team in the Big 12 is getting fewer points from three-point shots than the Red Raiders. Their assist/field goal ratio is the highest in the country, a sure sign that the offense isn't running through a single player. And it shows in the results: Five Tech players are averaging double-digit points per game so far this season. The only real weakness in Texas Tech's offense is a troubling turnover rate, with one-in-five possessions ending in a turnover.
Much like last year, though, the story is Texas Tech's defense. The Red Raiders are currently ninth nationally in defensive efficiency, with opponents scoring just 0.88 points per possession. Tech has owned the glass, hauling in 81 percent of available defensive rebounds, and generates a turnover on 25 percent of opponent possessions. Tech opponents are shooting just 40 percent on two-point attempts, one of the lowest rates in the nation, but Tech isn't simply packing the paint and waiting out its opponents. In fact, their tempo rate is remarkably high for a defense-first squad. It's just maximum pressure, everywhere, at all times, and damn if it isn't effective.
Thursday night's game should be a measuring stick for both programs: Iowa's one game against a legitimate opponent was a disaster, while Tech hasn't played a team in the Kenpom top 200 yet. With Iowa's offense seventh in efficiency so far this year, this might be the opponent best equipped to handle Tech's defensive wizardry until they see Kansas in conference play. But while Iowa's offense against Tech's defense is certainly the evening's main event, it's the other end of the floor -- Tech's multi-pronged offense against Iowa's precarious defense -- where this game will probably be decided.