Spread: Texas Tech -4
5pm Central – United Supermarkets Arena, Lubbock, TX
Kentucky Wildcats (14-4)
Kentucky travels to Lubbock, TX, today for the only matchup of two top-25 teams in this year’s edition of the Big 12 / SEC Challenge. They’ll do so without 5-star freshman and Chicago native Kahlil Whitney, who announced this week that he is transferring from Kentucky. The Wildcats are heavily reliant on producing offense inside the arc, as they are in the bottom 3 in the country in terms of percent of points from 3. Only 18.9% of their points come from deep. The only consistent threats from the outside are sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley and grad transfer forward Nate Sestina, who are shooting 39.5% and 39.4% from deep, respectively.
The Cats feature a balanced scoring attack, with junior big-man Nick Richards leading the team in scoring at 13.7 PPG on 67.4% shooting from the field. Sophomore Ashton Hagans averages 13.6 PPG, as does Quickley, and freshman Tyrese Maxey averages 13.3 PPG. Hagans also dishes out 7.3 APG, good for 9th best in the NCAA. If Kentucky is going to pull off an upset on the road, they’ll need Hagans to beat his averages and facilitate for others against Texas Tech’s vaunted defense, and they’ll need Nick Richards to stay out of foul trouble—something the junior has struggled with in three of Kentucky’s four losses this season.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (12-6)
The 2019 NCAA Tournament runner-up Red Raiders come into this one having dropped a mid-week game at TCU by a score of 65-54. The Red Raiders, who may have been looking past the Horned Frogs with this weekend’s game against Kentucky looming, allowed TCU to shoot 47% from the field—well above Texas Tech’s season average of 40% allowed—including 8/20 from deep. Texas Tech’s calling card is its stifling defense, which ranks as a top-10 defense by many metrics. The Red Raiders turn opposing offenses over on 24.5% of possessions, good for the 11th best rate in the nation.
Offensively, Texas Tech relies heavily on its guard-play and is led by a backcourt of freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey and junior Davide Moretti. Each are excellent 3-pt shooters, shooting 40.3% and 38.5%, respectively. Ramsey is particularly lethal from deep at home, as he’s shooting 45.2% from behind the arc in home games. Unsurprisingly, Texas Tech is 9-1 at home this season, with their only loss coming at the hands of Baylor, the #1 team in the country at the moment. United Supermarkets Arena has been a nightmare for opposing squads this season, and homecourt advantage could play a pivotal role in a game between evenly matched teams.
Texas Tech is 4-5-0 against the spread in true home games, while Kentucky is 2-3-0 against the spread in true road games. While Texas Tech’s guard-heavy lineup will struggle early to match the physicality of Kentucky’s frontline in Richards, Sestina, and sophomore EJ Montgomery, the Red Raiders are a different animal when they’re on their homecourt. Their top-10 defense will turn Kentucky over and give the Cats fits. An orchestrated Coach Cal ejection won’t even be enough to save Kentucky on the road today. Take Texas Tech -4.