With teams scrambled from coast to coast as COVID-19 continues to ripple through their schedules, there are varying levels of despair surrounding the Big 12 Conference.
As 15th-ranked Texas Tech and TCU try to have at least one game 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 face the Horned Frogs on Thursday, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday night that the game is expected to be postponed. Freezing weather has wreaked havoc on power grids and travel capacity across the Lone Star state since Sunday.
A previous game between Texas Tech and TCU scheduled for Tuesday in Lubbock was postponed indefinitely.
If the game is played on Thursday, the Red Raiders (14-6, 6-5 Big 12) focus is not on securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament. That’s a relatively safe assumption for a team that last week rose to No. 7 in the AP poll, as high as it has been in the national rankings since 1995-96. Instead, Texas Tech aims to stay on track for second place in a tough league that plans to send six or seven teams to the Big Dance.
With three losses in their last five league games, the Red Raiders have lost ground to the conference elite.
TCU is on a different boat after a 70-55 loss to No. 13 Texas on Saturday. The Horned Frogs (11-8, 4-6) are running out of time and no chance for exclusive wins. The loss to the Longhorns left TCU 0-5 against ranked foes this season.
“We had our chances, but eventually the bad play continued and we were exhausted,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “They got away from us. We have to find a way to execute better at all times.”
The Horned Frogs certainly have Texas Tech’s attention, especially inside, where big man Kevin Samuel presents a fighting problem. He’s averaging 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 (6ft 11in, 255lbs) doesn’t define him. That’s not the deal. Incredible offensive rebounder with his time, he gets a lot wrong. He has extremely fast hands on defense, he gets a lot of steals.
“I think he is much, much more than a big guy. He makes a lot happen with his talent.”
Samuel isn’t the only player Texas Tech must slow down. RJ Nembhard (16.9 points per game) is one of the most dynamic players of the Big 12, and he believes he will challenge a Red Raiders defense that has proven susceptible to allowing big scores.
That, combined with TCU’s need for a rally at the end of the season, makes Horned Frogs dangerous.
“I like the TCU team this year,” Beard said. “I think TCU still controls its own destiny in many ways. I still think they have the makings of an NCAA tournament team.”
–Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.