Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Brigham Young Cougars Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

Texas Tech finished the regular season with a flourish to gain a double bye at the Big 12 Conference tournament and will need to rely on that momentum to hang around at the postseason party in the toughest league in the land.

The 25th-ranked Red Raiders (22-9) begin tournament play with a major challenge when they tangle with 20th-ranked BYU on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. The Cougars (23-9) earned that chance with an impressive 87-73 triumph against UCF on Wednesday.

A three-game winning streak to end the regular season helped Texas Tech tie Baylor for third place in the Big 12 and resulted in the No. 4 seed. The last victory came against the then-11th-ranked Bears and was emblematic of the Red Raiders’ late-season push, with improved defense and grit as major ingredients. Baylor shot 23.8 percent from 3-point range (5 of 21).

“What I love about our team right now is they want to win,” first-year Texas Tech coach Grant McCasland said. “Nobody is out there playing the game to see how they can benefit from it individually, and you can see the collective joy that our guys are playing with.

“Everybody is taking accountability for the mistakes they make and everybody is trying to do their role as best as they can to help each other win. That’s postseason basketball. That’s how you win. So judging by our love for each other, I would say we’re ready.”

How ready figures to be seriously tested against BYU, which is 7-3 since Feb. 10 and joins the Red Raiders as one of the bigger surprises in the Big 12 this season.

The Cougars blitzed UCF with a 14-0 start on Wednesday and thrived by relying on one of its major strengths, knocking down 7 of 15 3-point attempts in each half. Fousseyni Traore led BYU with 14 points in a game when balance and sharing the ball were huge keys. Three other Cougars scored 12 or 13 points and the team combined for 18 assists on 25 made field goals.

“We had some good fortune and some good ball movement,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “The guys came out on the floor on attack from the very beginning of the game. Playing on our toes is something we talk about every day.”

The start against UCF was reminiscent of the only matchup this season against Texas Tech, on Jan. 20 in Lubbock, Texas. BYU opened with a 10-0 run and led 48-32 at halftime.

The Red Raiders, however, clawed back in that game for an 85-78 triumph. Texas Tech ratcheted up its perimeter defense, with BYU connecting on only 3 of 19 3-point shots in the second half. Red Raiders guard Pop Isaacs turned in one of his best games with a career-high 32 points.

Isaacs will be a key on Thursday and comes in on an uptick with 39 points in the last two games after a 3 1/2-week shooting slump. He leads Texas Tech with an average of 16 points per contest.

Red Raiders big man Warren Washington also came up big against the Cougars in the January win with a season-best 19 points, but he has played in only one of the last seven games because of a nagging foot injury.

The BYU-Texas Tech winner moves to face whoever prevails between TCU and No. 1-ranked and Big 12 regular-season champion Houston in the tournament semifinals on Friday.

–Field Level Media

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