Although the Texas Tech Red Raiders are on a three-game win streak, things are about to get much, much worse.
The Red Raiders host the Baylor Bears on Tuesday night and Texas Tech big man Dejan Kravic could have a nightmarish night against Baylor freshman center Isaiah Austin.
Austin gets better with every passing game and his 14.8 points per-game is going to give Texas Tech major issues because Austin’s shown that he doesn’t have to stay in the post to do damage offensively.
Through the first 12 games of Austin’s career, he’s gone 11-0f-33 from three-point range and that’s not all he does.
The 7-foot-1 center has double-digit rebounding efforts in four of his past five games and he hustles for a big man.
Senior point guard Pierre Jackson presents more trouble for Texas Tech. Not only is he experienced at running the offense but his team-leading 19.9 ppg shows he doesn’t have any problems making the offense, either.
The Red Raiders are also weak defensively on the perimeter and Baylor will look to capitalize on that fact via Jackson, who takes most of the Bears’ looks from deep.
That being said, Texas Tech could stay in this game if the Red Raiders limit Jackson’s perimeter attempts. He’s got a high basketball I.Q., though and gets to the foul line on nights when his long-range shot isn’t working.
Jackson also isn’t the best ball-handler, so if Texas Tech uses freshman guard Josh Gray on Jackson, more pressure could be put on the more inexperienced Austin to make up the scoring inside.
That’s where Kravic comes in.
The big Canadian is a decent rebounder and even better shot-blocker. If he can even so much as disrupt Austin’s inside game, Texas Tech could gain an edge.
The other obvious target for the Red Raider defense is Austin, who while immensely talented, is still prone to rookie impatience. Austin’s committed at least four fouls in four games and the Bears are 1-3 in those contests.
Texas Tech leading-scorer Jaye Crockett (15 ppg) is another decent rebounder but at 6-foot-7, Crockett’s better-suited for going through the middle of the lane than being parked under the basket.
The junior has a knack for getting to the foul-line and the Red Raiders are going to have to wear down Austin and force him into early fouls in order to have any kind of post presence.
Crockett and Gray need to hit their shots and be pesky in the passing lanes because a lot of the Red Raiders’ scoring won’t come from many other options.
I’m not about to name a sure-fire strategy that will lead to the Red Raiders to an upset of Baylor but Texas Tech does have the tools to be an effective team, the players just need to be utilized better.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter:@mgillmei