After back-to-back abysmal performances in a home loss to Dayton and a blowout road loss to VCU, the Crimson Tide will try to get things back on track with a trip tonight to Lubbock, Texas to take on the Red Raiders. The game will tip off at 7:00pm CT and will not be televised, but will be streamed live on ESPN3 and will be available via radio on the Crimson Tide Sports Network.
Texas Tech enters the game with a seemingly respectable 5-2 record, but the win/loss mark masks what is probably the weakest team in the Big XII conference this season. All seven of the Red Raiders' games have come at home, and four of their five wins have come against teams ranked in the bottom 30 (out of 347) Division I teams in the Pomeroy ratings, with the fifth win coming against 264th ranked Northern Kentucky by just six points. They were annihilated at home by top-ten ranked Arizona, and lost their most recent game at home to lowly McNeese State.
Despite Alabama playing on the road, missing two key players due to injury, and having downright pitiful performances in their last two outings, Vegas has the Tide favored by 10 points as of Tuesday night. Playing a road game against anyone in college basketball, especially a major conference foe, is never an automatic win, but this is a game that Alabama simply has to find a way to win, especially given the fact that Alabama's margin for error this season is exceedingly thin thanks to what is shaping up to be another down year for the SEC and Bama's having lost its only two non-conference games against likely NCAA Tournament opposition.
To pick up the win tonight, the Tide will have to overcome an opponent with some interesting statistical quirks. Coach Grant has noted that Texas Tech plays an aggressive defense very similar to what Bama faced at VCU and what the Tide itself implements on that end. Indeed, the Red Raiders rank 5th nationally in defensive steal rate and 18th nationally in forcing turnovers. However, despite their penchant for creating havoc, their overall defensive numbers are quite poor, especially relative to Alabama and VCU, as they rank a mere 264th in overall defensive efficiency according to the Pomeroy ratings.
On the offensive end, they rank 10th nationally in shooting percentage inside the 3-point arc, yet rank only 182nd in overall offensive efficiency according to the Pomeroy ratings. A big reason for this discrepancy is that they are among the bottom 20 teams in the country in assist ratio, indicating a team whose offensive playmaking comes almost entirely from individual drives to the hoop and 3-point shots, despite the fact that they have one of the worst 3-point shooting percentages in the country.
From an individual standpoint, the Red Raiders are led by 6'7" junior wing player Jaye Crockett, who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding with 15.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Although Crockett is a nice player with experience, he is no all-star, though he is certainly the most dangerous player on the floor for Texas Tech. The team has two other double-digit scorers, one on the perimeter and one on the inside in 6'1' freshman guard Josh Gray and 6'11" junior center Dejan Kravic, who both average just over 11 points per game.
Luckily for Alabama, who is now beyond thin in the post, the Red Raiders lack much of an inside presence. Aside from the 6'11" Kravic, the only other post player who averages more than ten minutes per game is 6'7" sophomore forward Jordan Tolbert, who mostly rotates with Kravic. Despite the lack of a major post presence, though, Texas Tech does rank 45th nationally in offensive rebounding rate, indicating their smaller players can give Bama trouble on the offensive glass if the Tide doesn't box out well.
On the perimeter, leading scorers Crockett and Gray are joined by 6'2" sophomore guard Trency Jackson, 6'0" junior guard Daylen Robinson, and 6'4" junior guard Jamal Williams, all of whom average between six and nine points per contest and play just over 20 minutes each game. A pair of 6'4" freshmen guards, Toddrick Gotcher and Dusty Hannahs, are the only other players on the roster who average more than ten minutes per outing.
Road wins never come easily, and despite the fact that Alabama is playing a weak opponent with a first-year head coach, the team will need to come out focused and play better than it has its last two games to avoid what would be by far the most disastrous loss of the season to this point from a postseason implications standpoint. A win however, even an ugly one, would help rebuild some of the confidence that was lost in the three-game losing skid, and more importantly would send Alabama into its three-game homestand in late December with a chance to close the nonconference schedule on reasonably sound, though certainly not rock-solid, footing from a postseason resume standpoint. Hope for the best.