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College Basketball Betting: Hidden Factor in Texas Tech’s National Title Futures

Dec 27, 2018 10:00 AM EST
Credit:

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard

  • Chris Beard and Texas Tech are currently 50-1 to win the college basketball national title.
  • The NCAA's metrics suggest the Red Raiders are among the best teams in the country.
  • Eli Hershkovich breaks down their potential to win make a deep tournament run and win it all.

Either Chris Beard is a magician, or the rest of college basketball can’t solve the madness behind his coaching prowess. Bet on the former.

The third-year Texas Tech coach has the Red Raiders (5-6 against the spread) contending for a Big 12 title for the second consecutive season. They’ve racked up the No. 1 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (85.2 opponents’ Points Per Possession) and showcased it in their 11-point loss to Duke at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 20, limiting the Blue Devils to a season-low 69 points (nice!) via 0.84 PPP.


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But more impressively, they’re still generating success after losing their two leading scorers from a campaign ago: Keenan Evans (17.6 points per game) and Zhaire Smith (11.3 PPG). Smith also boasted the 43rd-best Offensive Rating in the country.

Texas Tech is positioned at 50-1 to win the national title, putting the program in the same tier as Buffalo (7-3-1 ATS) and Florida (5-6 ATS).

The mid-major Bulls could be in position for an unprecedented run, but neither team possesses a defense comparable to the Red Raiders. Keep in mind that each of the past 11 national champions manufactured a top-20 AdjD.

Nevertheless, with the unit hovering around 200-1 odds a month ago, why does it retain value? Because the NCAA selection committee flipped its world upside down during the offseason, and it wasn’t because its members started watching “Stranger Things.”

The selection committee introduced the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), which replaced the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) as its primary assessment system. It factors in game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency and the quality of wins and losses — where RPI only considered wins and losses and strength of schedule.

CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm noted that while the committee stated it considers NET an aid, similar to how it used RPI, NCAA tournament seeding could be more so affected by the newfound method.

“They did it because coaches asked for a more sophisticated rankings system,” Palm told The Action Network. “The committee doesn’t understand it. Why create something so advanced that you [the NCAA] doesn’t understand it yourself? [But] people are going to expect you to put more weight on it … Selection and seeds could correlate better to NET rankings than they ever did to RPI rankings just because it might be better measuring to that the committee likes.”

The Red Raiders own the seventh-highest NET rating in college basketball, behind Duke, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Houston, and N.C. State. Five of those teams have manufactured a top-14 AdjD ranking, with the Wolfpack listed at No. 52 overall.

Considering Texas Tech’s conference slate has yet to unravel, there’s time for a drop-off. Beard’s squad is tied with Iowa State for the second-best odds to win the Big 12 tournament in Caesars Entertainment’s latest release, proving Vegas doesn’t believe it is Kansas’ lone competition (6-5 odds).

But if the selection committee put more onus on NET than originally presumed, the Red Raiders would likely be in contention for a No. 2 seed come March (assuming they maintain their hot start). Not only do I see them as Jayhawks’ toughest conference foe, but they also showcased their promise last March, losing to the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats in the Elite Eight as a No. 3 seed.

Beard is one of the more underrated coaches in college basketball, carrying freakin’ Little Rock to a No. 33-ranked AdjD in the 2015-16 campaign. His defensive system is a nuclear weapon on steroids, thriving off its ball pressure with the 12th-highest Turnover Rate in Division I. It can switch on ball screens at most positions, too, suffocating opponents in the lane as a result.

Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Texas Tech forward Malik Ondigo (10) blocks Northwestern State’s Ishmael Lane (20).

Incredibly, Texas Tech is the lone DI program to hold each of its opponents under 1.00 PPP. It’s a credit to Jarrett Culver evolving into an elite wing defender while St. John’s transfer Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase represent one of the top rim-protecting frontcourts, amassing the eighth and 125th-highest Block Rate in the nation, respectively.

The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Culver (19.6 ppg) has taken an even bigger leap offensively, with his Possession Usage spiking 9.3%. Plus, he’s emerged as a playmaker via his 32.6% Assist Rate — the 64th-best in the nation.

With him, South Dakota transfer Matt Mooney (10.6 ppg) and Davide Moretti (8.7 ppg) all providing improved floor spacing, the crew is set to excel more than Beard did in his second campaign with the program. The trio failed to deliver a sound performance against the Blue Devils, though, combining to shoot 38.7% from the field, as the Red Raiders failed to hit a field goal in the final 6:25.

Scoreless stretches remains their lone flaw, yet I’d expect them to solve it before March. A win would’ve boosted their title odds significantly, too.

This team is capable of cutting down the nets in April, and if the NCAA’s witchcraft gives Texas Tech an assist towards nabbing a No. 2 seed in the big dance, you’ll be enraged throughout its run. Avoid the remote-tossing and invest.

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