No. 15 Texas Tech, TCU still hope to square off

NCAA Basketball

With teams in scramble mode from coast-to-coast as COVID-19 continues to cause ripples in their schedules, there are different levels of desperation around the Big 12 Conference.

As 15th-ranked Texas Tech and TCU try to get at least one game in against each other, the sense of urgency is there for both teams but for different reasons.

The Red Raiders are scheduled to travel to Fort Worth to take on the Horned Frogs on Thursday, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported late Tuesday that the game is expected to be postponed. Frigid weather has wreaked havoc on power grids and travel capability all over the Lone Star State since Sunday.

An earlier game between Texas Tech and TCU scheduled for Tuesday in Lubbock was postponed indefinitely.

If the game is played Thursday, the focus for the Red Raiders (14-6, 6-5 Big 12) isn’t on securing an NCAA Tournament spot. That’s a relatively safe assumption for a team that last week climbed to No. 7 in the AP poll, as high as it has been in the national rankings since 1995-96. Instead, Texas Tech is aiming to stay in the hunt for second place in a rugged league that figures to send six or seven teams to the Big Dance.

With three losses in their past five league games, the Red Raiders have lost ground to the conference’s elite.

TCU is in a different boat after a 70-55 loss to then-No. 13 Texas on Saturday. The Horned Frogs (11-8, 4-6) are running out of time and chances to nail down signature wins. The loss to the Longhorns left TCU 0-5 against ranked foes this season.

“We had our opportunities, but eventually the poor play just continued and it wore us down,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “They pulled away down the stretch on us. We’ve got to find a way to execute better throughout.”

The Horned Frogs certainly have Texas Tech’s attention, especially inside, where big man Kevin Samuel presents a matchup problem. He averages 9.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and has been a defensive demon with team highs in blocks (34) and steals (23).

“He’s a really good player. He’s a unique guy,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “His size (6-foot-11, 255 pounds) does not define him. That’s not the deal. Unbelievable offensive rebounder with his timing, gets his own misses a lot. Got extremely quick hands on defense, gets a lot of steals.

“I think he’s much, much more than just a big guy. He makes a lot of things happen with his talent.”

Samuel isn’t the only player whom Texas Tech must slow. RJ Nembhard (16.9 points per game) is one of the Big 12’s more dynamic players, and he figures to challenge a Red Raiders defense that has shown a susceptibility to allowing big scoring performance.

That, mixed with TCU’s need for a late-season rally, makes the Horned Frogs dangerous.

“I like TCU’s team this year,” Beard said. “I think TCU still in a lot of ways controls their own destiny. I still think they have the makings of an NCAA Tournament team.”

–Field Level Media

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