Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Texas Tech vs. Houston Preview

Heartland College Sports – An Independent Big 12 Today Blog

Here is everything you need to know about Texas Tech and Houston in our Red Raiders vs. Cougars Big 12 Tournament men’s basketball semifinal preview.

Game 11: No. 4 Texas Tech (23-9) vs. No. 1 Houston (29-3)

Time, TV: 6 p.m. Friday, ESPN/ESPN2

Location: T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, MO

Season series (Houston 1-0): Houston 77, Texas Tech 54

Big 12 Tournament Results: Texas Tech: def. BYU, 81-69 (quarterfinals); Houston: def TCU, 60-45 (quarterfinals)

 

Winner: Advances to the Big 12 Championship Game at 5 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Game 12.

Here is the full Big 12 men’s tournament schedule and results.

Projected starting lineups

Houston: G Jamal Shead, G L.J. Cryer, F Javier Francis, F J’Wan Roberts, G Emanuel Sharp.

Texas Tech: F Robert Jennings, G Darrion Williams, G Pop Isaacs, G Kerwin Walton, G Joe Toussaint.

Players to watch

Texas Tech

G Pop Isaacs

When Darrion Williams tweaked his ankle early in Thursday’s game with BYU, Isaacs stepped up and started scoring because that’s what he does. Tech’s offensive leader finished the game with 22 points and two assists, as he made nine field goals, including three 3-pointers. The Red Raiders were sharp, but Isaacs was the sharpest of the bunch. He’s been that way all season. It’s why he was named to the Heartland College Sports All-Big 12 First Team. This season he’s averaged 16.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists. If you’re going to slow Texas Tech down, you have to slow him down — and that’s not easy.

Houston

F J’Wan Roberts

The senior forward doesn’t get the credit that players like guards Jamal Shead and L.J. Cryer do when it comes to Houston’s success this season. The frontcourt was an area of some question for Houston due to the loss of Jarace Walker, who played one season for Houston and is now in the NBA. Roberts, who mentored Walker last season, make sure the paint remained rock solid. Entering the Big 12 Tournament he averaged 9.9 points and 7.0 rebounds, which are right on his season averages from a year ago. Against TCU, a game Houston dominated from start to finish, he had eight points and 10 rebounds. He’s shared time inside most of the season, but as March Madness approaches Roberts will log more time on the floor as the Cougars attempt to make a push to the Final Four.

 

Key storylines

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders have clearly put the rocky end to the tenure of Mark Adams in their rear-view. They exited this tournament early last year and Adams was almost immediately fired. In came Grant McCasland and he’s got the Red Raiders challenging for the Big 12 Tournament title and trying to improve their NCAA Tournament seeding. Isaacs has been key to that. But so have a raft of transfers (Darrion Williams, Joe Toussaint, Chance McMillian and Warren Washington) who all had NCAA Tournament experience from a season ago. Coach Grant McCasland said the double-bye benefited Texas Tech and they had no rust to shake off. Washington is the one player to watch as he is day-to-day with a foot injury and didn’t play on Thursday. He would give Texas Tech some interior help, something it could really use vs. Houston.

Houston

Houston got a measure of revenge in Thursday’s quarterfinal. Earlier this season TCU beat the Cougars in Fort Worth. Houston’s other two losses were to Iowa State and Kansas, and the Cougars got a second crack at the Cyclones and Jayhawks and won. The loss to TCU, in a sense, jump-started Houston’s run to the Big 12 regular-season title. They won 14 of 15 games after the loss and claimed the regular-season title in the Cougars’ first year in the league. Now that Houston has exorcised that last demon, they have a chance to earn the right to play in the Big 12 Tournament championship game. That chance will be led by Big 12 Player of the Year Jamal Shead and head coach Kelvin Sampson, who could use a national title to solidify his credentials for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Prediction

Houston 75, Texas Tech 70. Both teams dominated their quarterfinals games. The difference was that I never saw Houston’s intensity wane. That happened for a few minutes for Tech in the second half. Houston just seems so locked in that, even though Tech will push them hard, the Cougars will win.    

<iframe src=”https://app.e2ma.net/app2/audience/signup/1986400/1964875/” width=”510″ height=”500″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.