Saturday Showdown: Kansas-Texas Tech Mega Betting Guide
© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Just a little bit at stake in today’s Big 12 showdown in Lubbock.
Kansas is playing for revenge, a potential No. 1 seed, and most importantly, to extend its streak of winning at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship to an astounding 14 consecutive seasons.
On the other hand, Texas Tech is looking to bounce back from two consecutive losses, while keeping hope alive for its first Big 12 regular-season championship. (Kansas has won 17 since the conference’s inception in 1997). Kansas will clinch an outright regular-season crown with a win, while a loss will provide high drama on Big Monday for Texas at Kansas and Texas Tech at West Virginia.
Both teams have locked up a top-six seed in the Big 12 tournament, which will give each the luxury of a first-round bye. Kansas has won 10 conference tournaments, while Texas Tech came up short in its only championship appearance.
Let’s take a deep dive into today’s betting guide for KU-TTU..
Kansas (+1.5) at Texas Tech | O/U: 142
4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
Texas Tech won the first meeting in Lawrence with relative ease. A road conference win at Phog is rare enough, but we’re talking about a Red Raiders squad that had lost 16 straight to the Jayhawks coming into the season. (Their last win came almost eight years ago to the day when Alan Voskuil hit 9 of 14 from deep in his final home game for a career-high 35 points.) If TTU can pull out a win today, it would sweep Kansas in the regular season for the first time in program history.
By PJ Walsh
While the public clearly prefers Kansas in this matchup, sharp money has already played Texas Tech. Sixty-six percent of spread tickets have taken the Jayhawks, but the line has actually moved from Kansas +2 to +2.5, indicating that the larger wagers from respected players have taken the Red Raiders.
No need to talk too much about a motivational edge given the stakes, but I will highlight a few key spots. Kansas comes in on a three-game winning streak with revenge from a home loss to TTU earlier this season. However, Texas Tech should come in with an extra edge after losing two straight. All in all, the Big 12 regular-season championship is on the line. Throw out the situational matchup and focus on the scheme.
By Jordan Majewski
When Kansas Has The Ball
You have to effectively defend Kansas with a small lineup to have any chance at slowing down Bill Self’s lethal 4 out offense. Texas Tech accomplished that in the first meeting at Phog Allen, impressively holding KU to 73 points in 72 possessions. However, KU did exploit some areas of the TTU defense, and Self is a master game-planner. He’ll have some things worked out for the rematch.
First, Keenan Evans couldn’t stay in front of Devonte’ Graham, who was basically the lone highlight for KU in Lawrence, scoring 27 points thanks to 13-13 from the line. Tech switched on a lot of pick and rolls and dribble handoffs, but Graham was the only Jayhawk who consistently exploited his matchup, because he’s so good off the dribble.
The way to beat Tech’s “swarm to the ball” defense is to break it down one on one. Graham did just that, which forced Red Raiders coach Chris Beard to make a major gamble. He started underscreening, essentially daring the Jayhawks to shoot, and one of the most prolific 3-point offenses in the country went an ice cold 6-26 from 3. Beard recognized that his typically hard hedging wasn’t working against an offense like KU’s. Can he make the same bet and expect the Jayhawks to clank 20 3-pointers again? I doubt it.
Let’s presuppose Beard elects to hard hedge this time around, like his defense typically does. Not only will Graham have another field day, but KU also has a multitude of lob plays against aggressive defenses. Based purely on my anecdotal evidence, the Jayhawks are the best lob team in the country.
Supposedly, there’s a chance Zach Smith could make his return for the Red Raiders. He would provide an enormous boost for TTU’s defense. Per hooplens.com, TTU’s defense is 18 points per 100 possessions better with Smith on the floor. Of course even if he does suit up, he’s unlikely to contribute major minutes.
When Texas Tech Has The Ball
It’s all about Keenan Evans and how effective he can be with his toe injury. Beard’s motion offense flows entirely through Evans, who logged only 25 minutes of mostly ineffective play at Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Adding to TTU’s woes, Kansas has played better defensively since being drubbed by Baylor in Waco. Self’s benching of Lagerald Vick in that game has since revitalized the talented but often lackadaisical wing. Vick has responded by stringing together three strong games offensively, defensively, and on the glass. Vick’s effort particularly on the defensive glass is critical in this matchup, as defensive rebounding for KU’s 4 out alignment around Udoka Azubuike has been an issue all year. TTU exploited that deficiency to the tune of 18 offensive boards at a 46% rate in the first matchup.
TTU has a major athleticism advantage at the 4 vs. Svi Mykhailiuk, and even when Self goes big with Mitch Lightfoot. Tech doesn’t overwhelm with size in the frontcourt, but the ridiculously athletic Zhaire Smith and Justin Gray both routinely exploited their matchups in the first meeting.
The wild card on this end of the floor for Self is Silvio De Sousa. He might still be a liability defensively at times in terms of his court awareness, but his athleticism was on full display against Oklahoma. Self should now have much more confidence in going to De Sousa, who might no longer be just a “panic option” for Azubuike foul trouble or spot minutes at the 4 if Lightfoot/Svi are struggling defensively.
Matchup to Watch
By Bryan Mears
The Kansas offense comes in white hot, putting up 104 points on 60.9% shooting in a rout of Oklahoma. The Texas Tech defense matches up much well with a Jayhawks offense that thrives from the perimeter and takes care of the ball. The Red Raiders rank fifth in defensive turnover rate and 26th in 3-point field-goal percentage allowed. Texas Tech owns the third-best defense in the nation (effective field goal percentage allowed), and its strengths directly match up with Kansas’ offensive strengths. In the first meeting, Texas Tech allowed just 23.1% shooting from 3 and forced 15 turnovers. If it repeats that defensive output, it will sweep the season series. Easier said than done, though.
By Evan Abrams and John Ewing
In our Bet Labs database, Bill Self is the most profitable coach in top 10 matchups since 2005: 21-12-1 ATS.
Keep an eye on the market. Fading the public has historically been a profitable strategy in top 10 matchups. Teams getting <50% of bets have covered at a 54% clip since 2005. That covering percentage increases to 65% for the team receiving less than 30% of bets.
In the last 20 years, Texas Tech has only defeated Kansas five times. Kansas has won and covered the following game in each of the previous four losses, with an average margin of victory of 35.75 points.
What’s Your Favorite Bet?
Jordan: Kansas +1.5
Wes: Texas Tech ML -120
Mears: Texas Tech ML -120
Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writers, and is based on their research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.
Pictured in top photo: Jayhawks guard Malik Newman and Texas Tech guard Brandone Francis.
Photo via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports