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Texas Tech Passes Michigan Exam … But Major Tests Wait



ANAHEIM, California – When Texas Tech came through the Honda Center corridor Thursday after holding Michigan for 44 points – the lowest ever spoken for Wolverines in the NCAA tournament – Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares" thumped so high in the team's wardrobe that the doors rustled.

Philly rapper's ode to overcome the odds – "I used to pray for times like this / To rhyme / So I had to paint like that" – could be the theme of a program that reached Elite Eight in the second series during third year coach Chris Beard.

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Now, Texas Tech, who plays the best defense in America, will meet Gonzaga, the best crime in the country, in a Saturday fight that could send the Red Raiders to the first four in the program history.

"Yes, I'm already a bit appalling and thinking about how good Gonzaga is, but I didn't know they were the best team offensive," Beard told ESPN after the game. "I have great respect for their trainer and their program, just like everyone in our lockers. We need to be on a high level because it is who we are. I have always thought when you come to this tournament, you have" after all, who we are. Of course, who we are and we need to figure out a way to score some points as well. "

Texas Tech Frustrated Ignas Brazdeikis and Michael Offensive Playmates All Night. Photo by Harry How / Getty Images

It is easy to forget West Regional

Zion Williamson is not in Anaheim, North Carolina and Kentucky are also elsewhere, Tennessee and Purdue held one of the best games of the year on Thursday, played in Louisville, where Virginia Also held by a Oregon team game, most of the sexy pre-final four storylines include teams that did not make the trip to the Honda Center, a 3.5-mile drive from Disneyland, yet Saturday's meeting between Gonzaga and Texas Tech is a state-run dream, Gonzaga, the country's most effective offensive team and Texas Tech, the country's most effective defense – all attributes also supported by ESPN Analytics, Synergy Sports and KenPom alike – will compete on the weekend t exciting fight.

"We haven't seen any movies on them yet," projected lottery pick Jarrett Culver said. "We were just focused on Michigan, but we know [Gonzaga is] a good team, one of the best teams in the country, so we have to play one of our best games to compete with them."

There was remarkable offense for Tech – Culver poured into a game of high 22 points and co-guard Davide Moretti added 15 hours after viral video posted by Moretti's family surprised him with a visit from Italy – but which was usually with this team was defense that day.

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On Thursday, Red Raiders made history for Michigan basketball (the bad kind) who missed their first 18 3-point attempts. All this came after Buffalo, who averaged 84.5 PPG and had scored 91 points in the first round against Arizona State, was held to just 58 points against Texas Tech in the second round. North Korea, Buffalo and Michigan averaged only 53.0 PPG against Texas Tech, a team that has held seven teams below 50 points this season.

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Jarrett Culver addresses Texas Tech's shutdown defense, which holds Michigan at 44 points.

"You know who we are playing, it just becomes a phenomenally defensive team," said Mark Few after Gonzaga's victory over Florida State without knowing which team he had in Elite Eight. "And probably as hard or harder to score than it was [Thursday]. So we have to tighten and be tough."

Hype around this matchup will not exceed the hype around the second Elite Eight game.

Virginia can complete the exorcism of last season's demons and a first round of losses to UMBC with a Final Four run. The Cavaliers face a Purdue team that somehow lost a talented senior class and still manages to enter Saturday's match, just a win from the program's first Final Four appearance since 1980.

Some Combination by Duke, Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Houston, North Carolina, Auburn, LSU and Michigan State will create more nationally relevant matchups Sunday than anything that will unfold Saturday.

Let's just be honest.

Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech can't compete. But if you believe in the numbers, no other Elite Eight will meet the summit of the one who will be staged in Anaheim. We can see that Culver and Texas Tech choke a Gonzaga team that won seven West Coast Conference games with 30 points or more. Or we could see Bulldogs and their two projected first round picks, Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura, run off an astonishing race and dominate Texas Tech, as it has other opponents during the season.

It's an efficiency burned meeting with a trip to the last four on the line.

Does it get much better than that? Not for analytics acolytes.

"We show our team clips of winning basketball," Beard said. "We show many Gonzaga clips, their passion, their togetherness, their courage, how aggressive they are. At this point I am a fan, and here for the next hour or so I have to flip it and start getting ready to try to prepare for them. "


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