Texas Tech Elite Eight bound with chance for much more

Chris Beard and Tech look mean again. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It took a while for anything resembling offense to appear but when the 40 minutes were over the Texas Tech Red Raiders were headed to the Elite Eight once again.

It was the top two defensive teams in the country and you could tell. Michigan had their lowest output ever in the first half of a tournament game managing just 16 points to Texas Tech's 24. Even the trek to 24 by Texas Tech involved a lucky turnaround three with the shot clock expiring by guard Matt Mooney. Sure, luck on those three, they were gritty and determined the rest of the game on their way to a 63-44 win.

Texas Tech absolutely has a path to playing not only in the Final Four in Minneapolis, but the title game. Defense this time of year can sour even the most impressive of offenses and if Texas Tech can lean on Jarrett Culver just a couple more times there's hope for three more games on the schedule.

An unlikely spot to find the Red Raiders after losing six of their top eight scorers last year including consensus All-American Keenan Evans and the 16th overall pick in last year's NBA draft Zhaire Smith. But the Red Raiders are back in the Elite Eight for the second time in school history with a team even better than last year's surprising squad. Chris Beard's dogged determination to make life hard on offenses has paid off. The best defense left in the tournament belongs to the Red Raiders.

Standing in their way is one of the most impressive Gonzaga teams in recent memory. The Bulldogs dispatched Florida State in a revenge game from the previous year. The Red Raiders have the athleticism to hang with Gonzaga and the defense to throw the Bulldogs top-ranked offense into disarray. It wouldn't be easy but it isn't out of the question to see Texas Tech score just enough to sneak into the school's first ever Final Four.

Should they escape the showdown with their region's number one, a likely rematch with Duke would await. Texas Tech and Duke played earlier in the year and it was an early test for the Blue Devils and the first loss for the Red Raiders who had led at halftime. The Blue Devils poured it on while the Red Raiders offense went cold and the showdown in Madison Square Garden went to Zion Williamson and company.

Thinking Duke and beyond is ahead of ourselves though. Gonzaga is the next test. Loaded with athleticism top to bottom and a coach who has been to the tournament twice as many seasons as Beard has been a head coach the Bulldogs are the toughest team Texas Tech has faced all season besides Duke.

Of all the team's headed to the Elite Eight, four more punch their ticket Friday, Texas Tech might be low on the list of the likely contenders. Maybe even seventh in the likely pecking order of potential champions. Being picked seventh suited the Red Raiders just fine before the season, surely they won't mind it again.

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Here's what Davante Adams' big day against the Texans really proved

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the season, Bradley Roby has been the sole bright spot playing for a secondary that has been subpar at best. He entered Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers trailing only Eric Murray for the most tackles as a defensive back, while owning the Houston Texans' only interception of the season.

During his media availability on Thursday, Roby spoke about having the Texans' confidence to trust him as the primary defender shadowing the opposing team's best receiver.

And with Davante Adams coming to NRG Stadium with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Roby had an opportunity to illustrate why Houston's coaching staff have so much faith in him.

Three plays into the game, Roby sustained a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon. In his absence, the Texans felt his importance competing with a depleted secondary.

Adams would go on to have a career day against the Texans. He recorded a career-best 196 receiving yards on 13-of-18 targets and two touchdowns β€” as the Packers handed the Texans a 35-20 loss on Sunday.

Had the Fort Worth native avoided the injury, would it have resulted in a victory for the Texans? Perhaps not. It is always hard for a team to come away victorious after going scoreless during the first half, but Roby would have limited the destruction caused by Adams. Rogers completed four deep passes where he recorded 28 or more yards, with Adams being the recipient of three.

Not only did Houston have to deal with the effects of not having their best corner shadow one of the league's premier receivers, but the team was not prepared to battle without Roby, according to Michael Thomas following the loss.

"When you lose your starting corner like that, it's going to affect [the team]," Thomas said. "Anytime you have to make adjustments. If you're not prepared, and you don't have the right mindset, then you're probably not going to get the right results you want. Maybe we could have done it a little sooner, but you definitely miss a guy like Roby. You plan on having your number one guy go against their number one guy all the time."

Roby's premature exit left the Texans with a gaping void to slowdown Rodgers and the Packers without two of their projected starting corners. Gareon Conley β€” who revived his career during the second half of last season β€” has yet to play a single snap for Houston in 2020 as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

Their lackluster performance on Sunday showcased the lack of depth and talent the Texans have in the secondary. And with the trade deadline a week away, it may be in the Texans' best interest to invest in a young defensive back they can build around in the future β€” especially considering the timetable on Conley's return remains unknown.

Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said on Monday that the team is hoping Roby's injury is short-term and hopes to have their top corner make his return following the bye.

At 1-6 on the year, all the Texans have left to play for is pride as they close out the remaining nine games of the season, and the best way is to prevent another receiver from recording nearly 200 yards in a single game.

For this vulnerable secondary, it is a feat easier said than done. And with the talents of Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, and A.J. Brown remaining on the schedule, it is only best for Roby to make his return to the field sooner rather than later.

"I take pride in it. It's an opportunity that not a lot of guys get throughout the league, and I'm thankful for that. Just to be able to go against the best and try my best for the team and see how I match up. I'm very thankful for that." β€” Roby.

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