Texas Tech Red Raiders at Texas Longhorns (-11)
The Texas Longhorns (19-12, 8-10 Big 12) came into the season with high hopes, ranked No. 10 in the nation. They started strong in non-conference play, losing just two games (one of which was to the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats); but then Big 12 play started and something went terribly wrong.
After an 8-10 regular season, the Longhorns are now on the bubble for March Madness, and will find themselves on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday unless they can get past the Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-18, 3-15 Big 12) tonight at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri (9:30 p.m. Eastern).
On paper, the Longhorns shouldn’t have much problem advancing. Despite the 8-10 Big 12 record, Texas already thumped Texas Tech twice this year. In the first conference game of the year, the Longhorns opened up a 20-point lead and cruised to a 70-61 road win. Then, in February, Texas stifled the Red Raiders offense en route to a 56-41 win.
The Longhorns have even more reason to be confident tonight as they come in on a two-game win streak that saw them down No. 14 Baylor in OT (61-59) and dispatch of Kansas State with ease (62-49).
“Everyone’s playing a lot looser,” center Cameron Ridley said. “We’re not worried about making mistakes as much as we’re used to. Everyone’s confidence is pretty high right now.”
The Texas Red Raiders, on the other hand, have lost seven of their last eight games, including a 77-74 setback against Baylor in the last game of the regular season. Though his team wound up on the losing end on the scoreboard, second-year head coach Tubby Smith was pleased with his squad’s effort in Waco.
“This is the best game we’ve played this year as far as a complete game,” said Smith. “Other than making shots when you have to, we did everything else.”
The Red Raiders finished the year last in the Big 12 with a 3-15 mark. Their best win of the season came in late January when they stunned then-No. 9 Iowa State 78-73 at home. They have yet to win a conference game outside of Lubbock, though.
Texas is an 11-point favorite at the moment. In the trends, the Longhorns have won nine of the last ten games against Texas Tech and have covered the spread in seven. Texas is also 7-1 ATS in its last eight neutral site games as a favorite.
With the streaking Longhorns knowing a loss will keep them out of the tourney, look for Texas to blast the Red Raiders tonight. I like the Longhorns, laying the points (-11).
(Photo credit: aaronisnotcool (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo may appear cropped.)