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Texas Tech faces monumental challenge against first-place Kansas

Posted: March 3, 2013 - 6:00pm  |  Updated: March 4, 2013 - 1:24am
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Texas Tech's Chris Walker talks with Jamal Williams during their game against Texas Christian at the United Spirit Arena on Saturday. (Scott MacWatters for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)  Scott MacWatters
Scott MacWatters
Texas Tech's Chris Walker talks with Jamal Williams during their game against Texas Christian at the United Spirit Arena on Saturday. (Scott MacWatters for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)
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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The proverbial underdog label doesn’t begin to describe the role Texas Tech will assume when it faces No. 6 Kansas in a nationally televised game at 6 p.m. today.

The Jayhawks, having rebounded convincingly from a three-game losing streak in early February, are once again sitting on the doorstep of a Big 12 Conference championship. Two more wins would give Kansas at least a share of its ninth straight league title.

To put that dominance in perspective, Kansas has lost at Allen Fieldhouse only eight times in Bill Self’s 10 seasons as its coach. You read that right: By the end of the season, Self could own more Big 12 championships than he does home losses.

And speaking of Allen Fieldhouse — the 60-year-old college basketball cathedral that houses more than 16,000 rabid fans every game — the Jayhawks have won 106 out of the last 108 times they’ve played on their floor. Tonight, the venue will host senior night for a team that starts four of them. And its best player, freshman Ben McLemore, may be playing his last game, too, as he will be a sure-fire lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft should he choose to enter it.

McLemore is coming off a sterling performance in his team’s rout of West Virginia on Saturday, scoring a Kansas freshman-record 36 points.

“We’re not gonna talk about this until the season’s over,” Self told reporters after the game, “but he could be obviously running out there the last time, too.”

Stack it all up you have a Kansas team with plenty to play for and doing so behind a crowd that will be ready to stretch its vocal chords.

But those seemingly insurmountable odds, the Red Raiders said after their win against TCU on Saturday, are what make the challenge of facing the Jayhawks in the penultimate game of the regular season an exciting one.

“We have nothing to lose,” said Tech forward Jordan Tolbert, who is coming off a season-high 22-point output against TCU. “Nobody thinks we can win. Why not shock the world?”

Tech (10-17, 3-13 Big 12) has reasons to believe it can be competitive with cream of the Big 12 crop. The Red Raiders lost to Kansas, 60-46, in Lubbock in January and trailed the Jayhawks (25-4, 13-3) by just two points at halftime.

Tech has also demonstrated marked improvement on offense in recent weeks. The Red Raiders averaged 54.5 points per game during their first 10 league contests. In the last six games, that average has risen to 65.8. One factor: Tech is taking better care of the ball. It has committed fewer than 15 turnovers in each of the last six games.

That marks progress for a team that was heavily hampered by giveaways earlier in the season, including a two-game stretch in which Tech turned the ball over 41 times.

Those steady improvements obviously don’t change the fact that the Red Raiders will face an uphill climb from the start, and they will need a perfect storm of factors to come together in order to stay with the perennial league champs inside their historic barn.

Regardless of the result, Tech coach Chris Walker wants to make sure his team appreciates the moment.

“This is why I love coaching in the Big 12,” he said, “because I get to coach against guys that have been in the Final Four. The guys get to play in these arenas on national TV against these players, and there’s no better way to be in a competitive situation and enjoy that.

“You have to embrace that. You don’t run from that, and there is no fear. You just go in there and, as I told the guys, there is only one thing we are responsible for, and it’s playing harder and more together than the other team.”

 

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College basketball

Who: Texas Tech vs. Kansas

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.

Records: Tech 10-17, 3-13 in Big 12; Kansas 25-4, 13-3

Last time out: Tech 72, TCU 63; Kansas 91, West Virginia 65

Last meeting: Kansas 60, Tech 46 on Jan. 12 in Lubbock

TV: ESPNU (Suddenlink 503/HD553; Direct TV 208; AT&T U-Verse 605/HD1605; Dish Network 141)

Radio: KTTU 104.3

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the land of Oz

The first year Tech players cannot imagine what they face in Allen Field on Senior Night. 16,300 fans plus standing and yelling an hour before the game starts, all through the game, and after it's over. As noted, Tech has been invited to partake in Senior Night, which will make the noise and environment even worse for them to deal with. I've been in the place twice for games, the last time Bob Knight took them there, and quite frankly, KU doesn't loose to Tech or anyone on Senior Night. KU will win by as much as they want to.

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Bramlage?

Hey AJ, wake up! KU plays in Allen Fieldhouse and it couldn't be any more different than lame Bramlage Coliseum.

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our team

Out of curiosity, where has TTU ranked in hoops recruiting last 10 years? Were we in the top 100 any of those years?

I said at the beginning of the year that we do not have D1 talent, which should have been obvious to anybody with a shred of objectivity.

We are RPI'd at 221. Which is interesting ... b/c that is significantly worse than noted hoops powers UT-Arlington and Texas Southern. How does this happen? (Rhetorical question, I know the answer).

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Turn out the lights on Walker

This team plays and looks like a high school team and there has been zero improvement. Fire Walker and hire a real coach.

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