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Texas Tech will have to play “best game” to be competitive with Kentucky

Nate Sestina (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — Texas Tech and Kentucky have played just four games against each other and the two teams haven’t met in more than two decades.

A fifth meeting will take place this weekend.
 
For the first time since 1965, the 15th-ranked Wildcats will take on the No. 18 Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge Saturday. The two programs haven’t played since Kentucky dealt Texas Tech an 83-68 setback in Cincinnati.

Despite the lack of history between the two programs, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard is well aware of Kentucky’s rich history and its coach, John Calipari.

“There as many challenges as can possibly be (and) I can imagine. (John Calipari) is one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball and it’s obviously one of the most historic programs with a great fan base,” Beard said on the Big 12 coaches teleconference on Wednesday. “(It’s) another year, (and they have) incredible talent.”

The Red Raiders (12-6, 3-3) have been on a roller-coaster ride this season. Texas Tech handed then-top-ranked Louisville a 70-57 loss in the Jimmy V. Classic on Dec. 10 at Madison Square Garden. Texas Tech has split its first six games in conference play and is coming off a 65-54 loss at Texas Tech Tuesday night.

“We’re a work in progress,” Beard said. “… I’m really enjoying coaching this team and I’m proud of this team. We return one starter from last year’s Final Four team and we return two players that played last year. Somehow we’ve built a team as we’ve gone along.

“We’ve had some amazing moments this year and we’ve played some really good basketball for extended periods of time, but we’re still searching for that complete game as are a lot of teams.”

Kentucky (14-4, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) defeated Georgia 89-79 Tuesday night to complete a regular-season sweep of the Bulldogs. Kentucky has enjoyed success in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and defeated Kansas 71-63 in the yearly one-day event between the two conferences last year at Rupp Arena. Kentucky is 3-3 in the event and has won two straight, induing last year’s single-digit win over the Jayhawks.

Beard said the Wildcats won’t be an easy task for his team to overcome and said his respect for Kentucky is “off the charts.”

“We’ll have to play the best game of the season to have a chance to be competitive in the game in my opinion,” Beard said. “(It’s) a team that we have a lot of respect for (and) a team that’s definitely good enough to win a national championship.”

Gametracker: Kentucky at Texas Tech, 6 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.

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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

4 comments

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  1. The argument that TTU must play its best to beat this UK team is not supported by the facts.
    When TTU representatives say things like this it is nothing but coach speech, which we all can recognize, even from even 500 miles away.

    Texas Tech is not as strong this season as it was last season. However, their quality of play this season has been about the same as UK’s with an ANE of 0.19 ppp through 18 games for TTU vs 0.20 ppp through 18 games for UK.

    TTU has 6 losses, but the weakest opponent to defeat TTU this season has been at #63 DePaul by 3 in OT. Compare that to UK’s weakest losses this season to #286 Evansville at Rupp, to #121 Utah at a neutral location, and at #93 South Carolina.

    These teams should match up quite well on Saturday, and the home court advantage will probably tilt the scale in TTU’s favor, if both teams play they usual game.

    UK’s best performance this season has been games 1 and 2 with game ANE values of about 0.4 ppp and0.38 ppp respectively. Since that opening, the Cats have had 4 games (Games 8, 12, 14, and 17) over 0.3 ppp.

    In contrast, TTU’s best games this season have been game 13 with a game ANE of about 0.62 ppp, and TTU has had 3 additional games with game ANE values above 0.4 ppp (Games 9, 16, and 17).

    At the bottom end of performances in individual games, UK has had 2 games with a negative game ANE (game 3 and 10). TTU has had 1 game with a negative game ANE, game 10.

    For UK to get this win, they must play at or above a game ANE of 0.25 ppp, which is 0.05 ppp (about 4 points) better than their season average.

    TTU’s best has been stronger than UK’s best.
    UK’s weakest has been weaker than TTU’s weakest.
    UK’s average has been higher than TTU’s average.
    TTU’s HCA is greater than the advantage of UK’s average over TTU’s average.

    This will be a difficult game to win. It is winnable, but contrary to the thesis of this article, UK must play its best to get this win, not the other way around.

  2. Professor, I notice that your confidence about this team has been negative. Yes this team has some areas that need to improve on, but in the mean time I do see some signs that this team is began to find themselves and will be a top 10 team by March if not top 5. I’m some what surprise by your words of non-wisdom about this team most Cal teams has always start slow and make progress as the season goes along and this team is no excepting. I really think team will prove you wrong in the mean time cheer them on.!!

  3. Texas Tech is a good basketball team, and this game will be a good road test for our Wildcats, it will not be easy, no road game ever is. That said, I think UK wins due to our depth and talent. I will also take the nice evaluation of UK from Coach Beard as simply a compliment to Calipari and his team, and then “grin big and wide.” He could have called UK a bunch of bums. He is smarter than that for sure. He was just showing respect for UK’s storied program, as he should have. Of course it’s “Coach Talk.” I liked hearing it. Now, UK must come ready to battle. Go Cats!!!!

  4. Tech has been hard to figure this year, but they always seem to get up for the big games. This is just the kind of test we need, especially on the road. It will show if we are becoming top 10 talent again or still need work. If everyone will just play and do their job, we should be fine.

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