Saturday’s college basketball slate gives us a critical game in the crowded Big 12 between the no. 11 Kansas Jayhawks and no. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders. At home, the Jayhawks are favored by four points.
Texas Tech has risen as high as no. 8 in the polls this season. However, that was before they endured a three-game losing streak that followed an impressive 4-0 start to Big 12 play. Alas, the Red Raiders have bounced back with wins over Arkansas and TCU over the past week to get back on track.
Meanwhile, Kansas is facing the possibility of a three-game losing streak. The Jayhawks loss out of conference to Kentucky last weekend and then fell to Texas on Tuesday. They’ve now lost three of their last four games and have dropped to 5-3 in conference play and 16-5 overall. To be fair, all five of their losses this season have come on the road. However, they are far from a lock to win their 15th straight Big 12 title.
The Missing Piece
Kansas’ problems, at least in part, have to relate to the loss of 7’1’’ center Udoka Azubuike, who is out for the season with a wrist injury. Azubuike gave the Jayhawks an inside scoring presence, a strong rebounder, and a defensive enforcer. Kansas, to some extent, was out-muscled inside during their recent losses to Kentucky and Texas. Now that the Jayhawks are deep into conference play, they’re feeling his absence.
Of course, their issues go a little deeper than that. The players Kansas relies on upon to lead them have been inconsistent. Dedric Lawson made just 4 of his 15 shots against Texas, a dreadful percentage for a player who shoots over 50% from the field. Lagerald Vick has also struggled to find his shooting touch in recent games. With Azubuike out, the Jayhawks don’t have enough scoring options to survive if Lawson and Vick aren’t at the top of their game.
A Little Help
Texas Tech can surely relate to scoring problems. The Red Raiders have been one of the most inconsistent offensive teams in the Big 12 this year. They’ve relied primarily on Jarrett Culver, who’s averaging 18.5 points per game, and a solid defense to carry them in games. When Texas Tech has received production from other sources, they look like a genuine contender in the Big 12, but when they don’t, they’ve struggled to beat good teams.
Fortunately, things are trending in the right direction. Grad transfer Matt Mooney has scored 30 points over his last two games, both wins, as opposed to 12 total points during Tech’s recent three-game slide. His scoring has been the team’s best barometer for success. The same is true for Davide Moretti. He’s made at least three perimeter shots in four of his last eight games. When he has, the Red Raiders are 4-0, but when he hasn’t, they are 1-3 during that span.
Kansas may have hit a tough stretch, but they’ve been able to hold serve at home this season. On the other hand, Texas Tech is still a little unreliable offensively, especially on the road. Bet on Kansas winning and covering the 4-point spread against Texas Tech.