Who: No. 14 Texas Tech (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) at South Carolina (13-7, 4-4 SEC)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
KenPom prediction: Texas Tech 67, South Carolina 63
Radio: 107.5 The Game
Series: South Carolina leads, 2-1
Last meeting: Dec. 4, 1976 -- Texas Tech won 83-75 in Lubbock, Texas
Coach: Chris Beard (130-48 in six seasons overall; second season at Texas Tech – 33-18)
This is Beard’s first game against South Carolina.
Projected starters: G Keenan Evans (17.1 ppg), G Zhaire Smith (10.1), G Justin Gray (5.3), G Jarrett Culver (10.9), C Norense Odiase (4.1)
Last game: Beat Oklahoma State 75-70 on Tuesday at home
Notes: Beard coached the ABA’s South Carolina Warriors in Myrtle Beach from 2011-12. … The Red Raiders, picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the Big 12, are a No. 4 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest NCAA Tournament bracket projection. On Jan. 2, Texas Tech never trailed in beating league-favorite Kansas by 12 in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. … Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. It’s second in scoring margin (plus-14.9) and steals.
Coach: Frank Martin (226-135 in 11 seasons overall; sixth season at USC — 109-81)
Martin, Kansas State’s coach from 2007-12, is 5-1 against Texas Tech.
Projected starters: G Wes Myers (8.2), G Evan Hinson (3.5), F Justin Minaya (8.3), F Chris Silva (14.7), F Maik Kotsar (8.6)
Last game: Beat Florida 77-72 on Wednesday in Gainesville
Notes: This is South Carolina’s first appearance in the Big 12/SEC Challenge since the 2014-15 season. The Gamecocks are 1-1 in the event, splitting a home-and-home with Oklahoma State. … Myers since becoming USC’s starting point guard: 12.3 ppg, 2.1 apg. Myers in 12 games as a reserve player: 5.4 ppg, 1.5 apg. … Martin is 8-4 against ranked opponents since the beginning of last season.
1. Major opportunity continues
Texas Tech represents South Carolina’s fourth consecutive straight game against a ranked opponent. The Gamecocks are 2-1 so far, quickly building their case to be an NCAA Tournament team.
A win Saturday and USC would have three wins against over the RPI top 50. The Gamecocks, on their way to being a No. 7 seed in the Big Dance, went 3-5 against the RPI top 50 last season.
2. Point guard spotlight
Myers, with 22 points and four assists, more than held his own against established Florida conductor Chris Chiozza (10 points, eight assists) on Wednesday.
The senior’s next matchup is Evans, the Big 12’s fourth-leading scorer. Evans has a different approach than Chiozza. He leads Tech with 230 shot attempts, 74 more than the next closest Red Raider.
“This is his third year as a starter there, and he just comes at you every single play,” Martin said of Evans. “He’s a little different than Chiozza. Chiozza comes at you every play, but he’s coming at you to make assists. This guy’s coming at you to score.”
3. Can ‘hot shooting’ continue?
South Carolina on Wednesday snapped its nine-game drought of failing to reach a field goal percentage of 40. The Gamecocks made 43.6 percent of their shots, including a sizzling 52.4 percent in the second half.
The Red Raiders have proven to have one of the Big 12’s stingiest defenses, but they have allowed an opponent to shoot 46 percent or better three consecutive straight games, losing two of them.
USC is 9-0 this season when it shoots 40 percent or better.