Texas Tech Hoops: Texas Tech Reacts to Making NCAA Tournament and Playing Butler

Players and coaches react to Texas Tech making the NCAA Tournament.

Reaction on Making it to the Dance. Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith said that it’s a great time for Texas Tech basketball and is honored to be part of the turnaround:

“It’s a great time for Texas Tech Red Raider basketball, and I’m really honored to be leading this program at this time,” Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for these young men. The players have bought in. They trust, and they believe in what we’re trying to get done. I’m really proud of how we’ve competed all season long especially being as young as we are. Our players have shown a lot of maturity. It’s been a fun group to coach, and I think we can be very competitive against a good Butler team.”

Drought Stopped. LAJ’s Krista Pirtle writes that with Texas Tech making the NCAA Tournament, the team improved from last year to this year:

Smith didn’t plan for last year’s freshmen to play as much as they did, but that experience has paid off this year in the form of a postseason berth.

“We’re taking it more serious this year,” Gray said. “Guys made a lot of mental mistakes on the floor. This year we’ve learned from those mistakes. We’re winning games we need to win in big situations.”

And that started in nonconference play with wins over teams like South Dakota State, Little Rock and Hawaii who each received postseason bids as well on Sunday.

From there, it didn’t get any easier playing in the toughest conference in the country.

However, after the Red Raiders suffered only one loss throughout November and December and once they found their stride halfway through Big 12 play, it was then that Texas Tech started to see what they believed could happen in Canada come to fruition in front of their eyes.

“A lot of guys are getting confident now,” Gray said. “You can see that since we just made the NCAA Tournament. It’s been a blessing. Coach Smith has had our backs all year long through the ups and downs. I love him to death. He’s my best coach in the nation.”

Watching the Bulldogs. LAJ’s Nicholas Talbot talked to head coach Tubby Smith who spoke about the Butler Bulldogs:

“Butler was in the Puerto Rico shootout with us, but we didn’t have a chance to play them,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “But they have played a competitive schedule and that is why they are in the tournament.”

Butler is led by Kellen Dunham and Kelan Martin, who averaged 16.3 and 16.1 points per game respectively. The Bulldogs are also a strong 3-point shooting team, knocking down 38.7 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

“Dunham is an outstanding guard who can really play. I haven’t watched any film on them yet, so I can’t be too specific on how they play,” Smith said. “We just need to keep improving and keep getting better between now and Thursday.”

FiveThirtyEight Projects Butler. It’s early, but the computer models are already out and FiveThirtyEight is projectiong Butler as a better team than Texas Tech, by a healthy margin.

Butler’s Reaction. IndyStar’s David Woods gets the reaction from the Butler Bulldogs:

This will be the third NCAA appearance for seniors Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham. Jones said he didn’t start wondering whether Butler would make it until after Thursday’s 74-60 loss to Providence in the Big East tournament.

“It’s always exciting to get in the tournament, no matter if it’s leaked or not,” Jones said. “I’m just ready to go because it’s a great atmosphere. And I’ve loved it every time I’ve been in it.”

Jones said he thought Seton Hall’s Big East tourney championship enhanced the Bulldogs’ resume. Butler twice beat Seton Hall and is 5-8 against the NCAA field, featuring victories over Purdue, Cincinnati and Temple.

Through January, Butler was 14-7 and 3-6 in the Big East.

“Two and a half weeks ago, we were probably on the outside looking in, according to some people,” Holtmann said. “Certainly, when you’re 7-3, you played your way in. Not only in, but safely in. As things shook out, I didn’t have any anxiety about not being in the tournament. I didn’t have any anxiety about being in Dayton (play-in game). The only anxiety I had was about how we played the other night.”

Miscellaneous. The VegasSun has early odds and Texas Tech getting three points against Butler . . . RushTheCourt looks at all of the Big 12 teams and their match-ups . . . CBS Sports takes a look at the Midwest Region, but doesn’t mention Texas Tech . . .


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