Tonight’s ESPN2 Big Monday event pits two Big 12 schools who have slipped in February. The league event is likely to vault the winner into a position to be a No #2 seed in the bracket projections. Tipoff is schedule for 9:00 p.m. ET at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia. ESPN Big Monday Free Pick: Mountaineers host Red Raiders.
The Red Raiders and Mountaineers (-6.5 155) are both mathematically in the hunt for a Big 12 regular season title. For either school to earn a tie for the top spot in the conference both have to win out while the Jayhawks need to close the season with two consecutive losses.
Texas Tech and senior guard Keenan Evans are undervalued as a whole. The Raiders are easily the most balanced team in the Big 12. Evans is in contention for Big 12 Player of the Year. His 17.2 points per game are essential to Tech finding a road victory on Senior Night in Morgantown.
A court-toe injury has hampered Evans the last three games. In addition Justin Gray left Saturday’s loss to Kansas with concussion symptoms. He is a gametime decision for tonight’s tilt.. The Red Raiders did receive a roster boost with the return senior forward Zach Smith. The frontcourt big body is a huge asset to the undersized Tech staring lineup.
The Raiders are as defensively adept as are the Mountaineers. Both rosters created a large number of turnovers per game and both squad rely on protecting the paint. The Red Raiders are a high energy squad and coach Beard’s game preparation has created offensive difficulties for their opponents this season. Texas Tech has surrendered fewer than 29 points on average in the first half of their contests this season. In addition they have held foes under 40% shooting on the season. This is a key handicapping variable when the Raiders are receiving 6-points or more. Tech has a winning against the spread mark as an underdog of 6-points or more this season.
This game will be an emotional affair for the backcourt of West Virginia. The tandem of guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles will play their final college game in Morgantown tonight. Rim protector and center Sagaba Konate won’t be the force he has been against other smaller conference lineups. While Tech is far from deep in the frontcourt Zach Smith, Norense Odiase and Tommy Hamilton IV will be utilized tonight in the Big 12 road game. Center Konate has blocked at least two shots in six straight games and has registered 15 blocks in the last two.
All things being equal the Red Raiders are arguably the best team in the league. Their three-game losing streak is due in large was due to the toe injury to Evans. The defensive prowess of the Raiders will force West Virginia to settle for three-point attempts. Furthermore the Raiders are well versed in avoiding turnovers against pressure defenses like the Mountaineers present.
In a season in which the Mountaineers have created less backcourt steals and scuffled to hold leads late in the second half this game offers value to the visiting underdog.
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ESPN Big Monday Free Pick: Mountaineers host Red Raiders