Preview and Game Thread: NCAA Tournament, Round 1 | Texas Tech vs. Butler

Date: Thursday, March 17th
Time: 11:40 am
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (19-12, 9-9)
Bad Guys: Butler Bulldogs (21-10, 10-8)
Location: PNC Arena | Raleigh, North Carolina
TV/Stream: truTV (channel guide) | Streaming – NCAA March Madness Live
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM/104.3 FM/950 AM

POINT GUARD Kennan Evans (6-3/180) 8.8 / 2.8*
SHOOTING GUARD Toddrick Gotcher (6-4/205) 11.1 / 3.6
SMALL FORWARD Justin Gray (6-6/210) 8.7 / 3.7
POWER FORWARD Zach Smith (6-8/215) 10.1 / 7.4
CENTER Matthew Temple (6-9/260) 3.6 / 1.8
SIXTH MAN Aaron Ross (6-8/225) 10.3 / 4.5
SEVENTH MAN Devaugntah Williams (6-4/205) 10.6 / 3.2
EIGHTH MAN Devon Thomas (6-0/170) 2.5 / 1.3*
POINT GUARD Jordan Gathers (6-3/205) 4.3 / 0.7*
SHOOTING GUARD Kellen Dunham (6-6/200) 16.3 / 2.6
SMALL FORWARD Roosevelt Jones (6-4/225) 14.0 / 4.7*
POWER FORWARD Austin Etherington (6-6/220) 3.8 / 1.8
CENTER Tyler Wideman (6-8/246) 7.7 / 5.7
SIXTH MAN Andrew Chrabascz (6-7/236) 10.1 / 4.2
SEVENTH MAN Kelan Martin (6-6/235) 16.1 / 6.8
EIGHTH MAN Tyler Lewis (5-11/169) 6.2 / 3.0*

* Assists.

1. KenPom has Butler as the 39th best team in the nation, having an adjusted offense of 18th in the nation and 130th in adjusted defense. That’s a pretty big disparity. Texas Tech is 45th in the final KenPom ratings, 28th in adjusted offense and 92nd in adjusted defense. I’ll be honest, the offensive nature of Butler scares me because Texas Tech can be a pretty terrible at defense themselves and I worry that Texas Tech might not be able to keep pace.

2. The entire lineup is intriguing to me because it’s not a typical team. There is no speedy point guard that averages 7 assists a game, but there is a forward type that takes a ton of shots at the rim that averages near 5 assists a game. There isn’t an athletic shooting guard, but a tall and terrific shooter that could very well be a small forward (but he doesn’t rebound for squat). Butler has a fantastic 6th man that’s even better than Texas Tech’s 6th man.

3. Perhaps the key to stopping Butler is making them defend you on the inside. Texas Tech has no issue with working the clock and using every second to obtain the best possible shot. This may be a game where Odiase (not listed) gets into the game sooner rather than later and I’d love to see Smith roam the baseline as I don’t think Butler has anyone as athletic as Smith. Smith has to want to accept the role of being actively involved. It’s up to him.

4. Via LAJ’s Krista Pirtle head coach Tubby Smith wanted his players validate the moment:

“His message to us is to validate the moment,” sophomore forward Justin Gray said. “He always reiterates that we belong here, not that we’re lucky and the ball is falling on our side of the court the right way. He says we belong here, we deserve to play with the best because he believes we’re on of the best teams in the country.”

With Smith believing in their potential all season long, the Red Raiders started to believe as well.

And that’s been the key to this season for Texas Tech.

“I feel like last year, everybody wanted to play and we wanted to win, but I feel like everybody didn’t believe in what we could do,” sophomore guard Keenan Evans said. “This year everybody believes in one another and we just play for one another. We play hard together and believe we can win.”

This, in itself, is a pretty cool moment, but seeing how Gray and Evans conveyed Smith’s thoughts to the media is perhaps even more meaningful because that means that Smith isn’t just talking to hear himself rattle, but the players are listening to him and when you listen to someone some intently you believe what they’re trying to sell.

5. On Sunday, when it was announced that Texas Tech made the tournament, I tweeted that no one really gave this team a chance. Heck, I had no thought in my brain that we’d be sitting here today and I’d be previewing an NCAA Tournament game, so I’m just as guilty as the next person. But no one gave them a chance. No one. And here we are. Enjoy the moment and appreciate what Smith has done in such a short period of time.

One more thought. You see that woman on the left hand side of this photo that’s jumping up for joy? That’s Tubby Smith’s wife. There may not be a bigger cheerleader of this team and this coach than Mrs. Smith. If you look, you’ll see her behind Tubby for each and every game. Tubby’s not even close to being done just yet.

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