After a 6-1 start to the season, the Red Raiders are set to begin their Big 12 slate with a marquee matchup. The nation’s fifth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks will travel to Lubbock to take on No. 14 Texas Tech.
The Jayhawks have started their season with the same record as Tech, winning six games and losing just one. Kansas has had a difficult front end of their schedule, facing three quadrant one opponents, according to Bart Torvik. The Jayhawks beat Creighton and Kentucky, but lost 102-90 against Gonzaga.
Leading the Jayhawks in scoring is redshirt freshman forward Jalen Wilson. After playing in just two minutes of game time last season, Wilson has scored 107 points through seven games. He is second among Big 12 players in points scored this season, according to Sports Reference.
Wilson is also the Jayhawks’ leading rebounder, averaging 8.7 boards per game, according to ESPN.
“On the court, he’s just a talented guy . . . simply stated, he’s one of the best young players in college basketball,” Tech head coach Chris Beard said on Wilson during a media availability to preview the game.
The Jayhawks also return the reigning Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, senior guard Marcus Garett. The cornerstone of the Kansas’ defense, Garrett, is currently averaging 1.6 steals per game, according to ESPN.
Kansas also has a pair of highly talented two-way wings in their starting lineup. Sophomore guard Christian Braun and junior guard Ochai Agbaji are averaging a combined 26.0 points and 3.0 steals per game, according to ESPN.
The Jayhawks also have an anchor on the post in 6-foot-10 junior forward David McCormack. McCormack is currently averaging 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, according to ESPN.
In the eyes of Kansas head coach Bill Self, Tech remains one of the best teams in the Big 12.
“They really, really defend, they run good motion, everybody can pass, shoot, you know, move without the ball, their pieces are interchangeable enough . . . that you can switch just about everything,” Self said on Texas Tech during a mid-week media availability.
“I like their team, and Chris always comes up with something that’s a little bit unique that will . . . try to surprise you when you play. Their one of the teams out there . . . that can beat anybody in the country.”
The Red Raiders have once again found their identity on the defensive end of the floor. Tech is allowing just 51.6 points per game, the lowest average among all college basketball teams that have played four or more games, according to Sports Reference.
Tech has eight players with three or more steals, and six players with two or more blocks this season, according to ESPN.
As good as the defense has been for Tech, increased offensive production would be helpful for their success. The Red Raiders are currently averaging 108.9 points per 100 possessions, which is just the 91st highest in the country, according to Sports Reference.
“Right now, with our team, I think our defense is ahead of our offense because of the players we have that haven’t played together,” Beard said during a media availability.
A big part of getting the offensive going will be the performance from junior guard Mac McClung. After averaging 18.5 points per game on 53.5 percent shooting from the field through the first four games, McClung has hit a bit of slump.
McClung has been held scoreless in three straight first-halves. Over the last three games, he’s averaged just 8.3 points on 17.9 percent shooting from the field.
McClung has continued to make an impact on the offensive end by distributing the ball well to his teammates, but his scoring was a big part of the Red Raiders’ early season successes.
The other two Red Raiders averaging double-digit scoring are sophomore guard Terrence Shannon Jr. and junior guard Kyler Edwards.
Shannon is impacting the game on the defensive end, averaging 1.3 steals per game, while scoring and efficient 11.8 points per game, according to ESPN.
Edwards continues to be a do-it-all lead guard for the Red Raiders in year three, averaging 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game this season, according to ESPN.
The Red Raiders will look to combat the size of McCormack downlow with senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva. Santos-Silva is averaging 8.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game this season, according to ESPN.
The game will tip-off at 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN. It may also be listened to on Double T 97.3 FM.