Assessing the Season: Texas Tech Red RaidersPosted by Nate Kotisso on April 12th, 2013
As the season winds down and Big 12 teams continue to find themselves eliminated from the post-season, we’re taking a look back on a team-by-team basis at the 2012-13 season. Next up: the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Final Record: 11-20 (3-15)
The Expectations: Normally, the only time a college basketball team makes news in August is if it secures a top commitment from a recruit. What was being reported by CBS Sports last summer was far from normal. Head coach Billy Gillispie was in a heap of trouble, violating NCAA rules by exceeding the allowable amount of practice time (four hours/day; 20 hours/week) to as many as eight hours in a day. One player, later identified as Kader Tapsoba, was so worn down by the practices that he developed multiple stress fractures. And yet Gillispie still made him practice. It wasn’t just excessive practice that led to Gillispie’s downfall, though. He promised ex-Indiana player Tom Coverdale a job as an assistant but later changed his mind. Secretaries, trainers, graduate assistants and others also left in the early stages of Gillispie’s tenure. It was already well-documented that Texas Tech was going to have a vastly different roster compared to the year before with 15 players transferring out of Lubbock in the 18 months that he had been head coach there. Associate head coach Chris Walker was later tabbed as the interim coach for the 2012-13 season, but Texas Tech basketball was starting over. The only thing you could expect from this team was to play hard, game in and game out.
The Actual Result: The Red Raiders pressed their way to a 4-0 start to the season, albeit against inferior opponents Prairie View A&M, Nebraska-Omaha, Jackson State and Grambling State. Then came some tougher opponents in Arizona, Alabama and Arizona State, all of which soundly beat Tech in Lubbock. (Aside: everyone is no doubt jealous at how Tech was able to get all of their non-conference games at home.) Conference play began and that went just as well as you would have expected. The Red Raiders lost 15 games in the Big 12 including nine in a row at one stretch. Their best home win came against Iowa State in which both teams combined to score 107 points. Jordan Tolbert, perhaps the best player on last year’s team, told ESPN.com he’d transfer if Gillispie wasn’t fired. Tolbert returned but the 11.5 PPG scorer from last season struggled to find his offensive game, probably because Tolbert’s father and biggest motivator, James Tolbert, passed away in October. That and the fact that the freshman starting point guard, Josh Gray, was going through a baptism-by-fire against the likes of Marcus Smart, Pierre Jackson and Angel Rodriguez. It shouldn’t go unmentioned that Jaye Crockett had been a former starter for the Red Raiders and still made an impact. Chris Walker made the decision to bring him off the bench this season, and Crockett quickly became one of the better sixth men in America (11.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG).
Highlight of the Year: January 23. This was easily the Red Raiders’ best day of the season. They defeated Iowa State 56-51 in a truly ugly basketball game. Two things the Cyclones typically do exceptionally well — rebound and make outside shots — were not on display that night. ISU missed 17 of 23 three-point attempts and the Red Raiders outrebounded them 34-28 for the game. Josh Gray also showed signs of leadership by hitting several big shots in the second half when Tech made its comeback. A signature win if there ever was one with this team.
Player of the Year: Josh Gray. Being a point guard, much of a team’s success falls on you. Granted this team didn’t win a whole lot this season but how much of a difference would it be if Marcus Smart had run the point on a team like this? Not much. Gray didn’t lead the team in scoring (9.3 PPG) but he showed enough flashes of what is to come from this season alone. He’s not afraid to look for his own shot. Gray had just eight games this season in which he did not attempt a free throw. For perspective, Texas guard Sheldon McClellan, who is clearly a more prolific scorer than Gray, had seven games this year without a free three attempt, and he played in three more games than Gray. His assist-to-turnover was basically 1:1 the entire year which is forgivable for a freshman starter getting acclimated to college basketball. Once more talent rolls into Lubbock, he can become one of the premier passers in the Big 12.
Surprise of the Year: Dusty Hannahs. His scouting report may tell you that this guy is just a three-point shooter but Hannahs is much more than that. Sure he’s an outstanding perimeter shooter but he also puts his 6’4″, 210-pound frame to good use by creating his own shot inside the arc. Walker brought Hannahs along slowly at the start of the season but eventually made him a part of his rotation starting with the Arizona State game. The next game against NCAA Tournament-bound North Carolina A&T, Hannahs scored 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, four of those seven makes coming from behind the arc. Like others on the team, Hannahs is showing signs of what he can be in the future. He and Josh Gray will be fun to watch next season.
Overall Grade: B-Minus. Tech was arguably the toughest job in college basketball this season and Chris Walker handled it the best way he knew how. It was unfortunate that Walker didn’t get the full-time gig but the hiring of Tubby Smith, another well-respected man in the coaching profession, is basically getting a similar version of Walker with the exception of Smith’s past coaching successes. Texas Tech hoops should be on the way up.