Kansas St.-Texas Tech Preview
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- Maui Invitational moving to N. Carolina
- L'ville refutes recruiting allegations
- Accused racist Texas State coach resigns
- College hoops bubble remains possibility
First page of a story is no time to make a lasting, concrete decision.
So putting a huge amount of stock in how 11th-ranked Texas Tech and Kansas State began the Big 12 season would be a little premature.
You would have to believe that both teams would like to show some strides forward when the two Elite Eight teams from last March meet on Saturday at Lubbock, Texas.
The Red Raiders (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) escaped against West Virginia with a 62-59 triumph on Wednesday despite a night marred by troubles shooting and with fouls. The Wildcats (10-3, 0-1) dropped an ugly 67-47 loss to Texas in Manhattan, Kan.
So, playing better seems likely for both teams. Coaches are fond of talking about progress from the first game to the second, and that theory can certainly be applied when a conference season lifts off.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard expects an uptick from K-State, which was pegged to finish second in the league prior to the season and was ranked to start the 2018-19 campaign.
"I expect Kansas State to play their best game of the year," Beard said Thursday during a coaches' teleconference. "From a competitive standpoint, it's always a little weird playing teams coming off awful losses. I think they're going to be on edge."It's always a war when you play Kansas State."
The Raiders handled the Wildcats with relative ease both times last season, 74-58 at home and 66-47 on the road. Defense was a key in those wins and that looms as a major factor Saturday.
Texas Tech has been among the leader in field-goal defense, allowing foes to shoot a meager 32.8 percent. The Red Raiders are allowing just 52.3 points per game.
League play generally affects those kind of stats, and West Virginia - as poorly as it played - managed to shoot 41.9 percent (18 of 43) on Wednesday.
But K-State has scuffled offensively on a regular basis this season and will again be without starters Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade, the latter being the preseason pick for Big 12 Player of the Year. Both are out with foot injuries and their absences are a legitimate excuse for a portion of the Cats' struggles vs. Texas.K-State shot 32.7 percent against the Longhorns.
"We have got to find something offensively where we get that ball moving and we have got to finish, too," K-State coach Bruce Weber said in a story published at KansasCity.com, the website of the Kansas City Star. "We had some opportunities, we had some open shots, we had some shots at the hoop. It was a physical game, not many free throws. You have got to finish at the hoop."
The Red Raiders encountered similar problems against West Virginia, especially with star guard Jarrett Culver strapped with three first-half fouls.
Culver didn't score at all in the first half, which Texas Tech trailed for most of, after connecting on only 7 of 24 field-goal attempts. But he bounced back to score 18 after halftime and followed a similar trend by scoring 10 of the Raiders' last 14 when they surged away for their first-ever win in Morgantown.
"I thought he had great composure in the second half," Beard said in the post-game press conference. "He looked like a veteran out there.
"I think any problems that we had with our offense (Wednesday) was because West Virginia is a really good defensive team."
Updated January 4, 2019