Texas Tech’s First Round Opponent Runs the Air Raid
If you don't know who the Northern Kentucky Norse are, you aren't alone. They don't have a storied history in the NCAA and have only been D1 since 2016 when they joined the Horizon League. Since making the jump they are 81-40 and have been in the tournament twice. The first time back in 2017 where they played Kentucky in the first round playing them close but falling 79-70. Their second trip will begin on Friday at 12:30 in Tulsa, Oklahoma against the Red Raiders.
The John Brannen led Norse to make the tournament after upsetting Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament 77-66. Including the three wins in the conference tournament, the Norse have a five-game winning streak they are riding into the big dance.
Northern Kentucky did not play a tough schedule, at all, but they did play a few teams that made the tournament including Cincinnati and UCF. They lost both. Their 13-5 conference record and the 255th toughest schedule in America helped them finish 26-8 overall. Their Net Ranking is 115th, as opposed to Texas Tech's top-10 rank.
Also, for comparison's sake, Texas Tech had the 53th toughest schedule in the country.
Their biggest highlight of the season, I believe it was in the SportsCenter top 10, was this air raid concept on the inbounds play earlier this season.
I'm sure there were bigger actual highlights, but they football inbounds move is an absolute delight to watch. The guy inbounding went full Alex Smith though and hit the check down instead of hitting the streaking deep in for the touchdown like Patrick Mahomes would have.
The metric sites and analytical observers have Texas Tech winning this game big. The lines out of Las Vegas opened up north of -14 for Texas Tech. It's a classic 3 seed vs 14 seed matchup. That doesn't mean that Northern Kentucky isn't full of good players, or that 3 seeds don't lose in the first round. In fact, 21 14 seeds have toppled 3 seeds since 1986, and fellow Big 12 schools were victimized in 2015. Baylor fell to Georgia State and Iowa State was beaten by UAB.
It's certainly not impossible, but improbable is fitting for the Norse's run in the NCAA tourney. It all starts with 6'8" forward Drew McDonald who leads the Norse in scoring and rebounding. They also rely heavily on Junior guard Tyler Sharpe who leads the teams in steals and Redshirt Sophomore Guard Jalen Tate who is the best passer and three-point shooter on the team.