Big 12 Preview: Texas Tech’s Burning Question

Posted by Chris Stone on October 27th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC Big 12 microsite’s preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will Texas Tech’s rising sophomores get the Red Raiders out of the Big 12 cellar? 

During last season’s discussion about the best basketball conference in the country, there was always an elephant in the room regarding the Big 12 because league members played Texas Tech and TCU four times each during conference play (going 27-5 against them). And yet here we are ready to make the case that at least one of those two schools should make some progress this season. Still, let’s set realistic expectations. Texas Tech was a really bad basketball team last year. The Red Raiders pulled off an exhilarating upset victory over Iowa State in Lubbock when the Cyclones shot 6-of-31 from three, but Tubby Smith’s squad ultimately finished at the very bottom of the league with a brutal 3-15 record. The Red Raiders also couldn’t fall back on decent efficiency numbers like fellow cellar dweller TCU (which finished 4-14 in Big 12 play), which finished the season in KenPom’s top 70. Texas Tech,  on the other hand, ranked 168th of 351 teams, beating out just four other Power Five conference schools (Mississippi State, Washington State, Missouri and Rutgers) for the ignominious title of worst major college team in America. The team finished last in the Big 12 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, turned the ball over on 23 percent of its possessions, and failed to defend very well at all inside the three-point arc. This year, they were again picked to finish last by fellow conference coaches.

Norense Odiase will lead Texas Tech's rising sophomore class. (Michael C. Johnson/USA Today Sports)

Norense Odiase will lead Texas Tech’s rising sophomore class. (Michael C. Johnson/USA Today Sports)

That is a lot of terribleness to overcome, so let’s start with what the Red Raiders lost. Senior Robert Turner is gone and that might be a good thing. The guard was an inefficient scorer — shooting 29 percent on 108 three-point attempts and just 42 percent on nearly 150 two-point attempts — who accounted for 26 percent of the Red Raiders’ shots while he was on the floor. Turner’s usage should get gobbled up by Tech’s returning senior guards and rising sophomores. Both Devaugntah Williams and Toddrick Gotcher were good three-point shooters last year, making 39 and 38 percent of their attempts, respectively. Neither is much for scoring inside nor distributing the ball particularly well, but three-point shooting is a valuable attribute since it can space the floor and open up the offense.

Having Williams and Gotcher back in the lineup is nice, but the key for Smith’s squad this season will be the development of his first full recruiting class. The Red Raiders return five rising sophomores, including Zach Smith and Norense Odiase, who both played in over 50 percent of Tech’s available minutes a year ago. Smith is a 6’8″ forward who doesn’t really have the girth to play down low but also lacks the shooting to play on the perimeter. He had the lowest offensive usage rate among this group, but he’s athletic enough that he should be able to find a role in the team’s schemes even if it’s just becoming a defensive stopper. Odiase is a bit more promising. At 6’9″, 265 pounds, he’s tailor-made to bang down low in the Big 12. Odiase converted 50 percent of his two-point attempts last season and that number should improve as he develops his post game. In addition to Smith and Odiase, Tech will also have Keenan Evans, Isaiah Manderson and Justin Gray back on the floor this season. Evans will earn minutes at point guard, where he showed some defensive promise; Manderson gives the team another big body inside; and Gray should improve considerably after playing in just 15 games last season.

The non-conference schedule is mostly favorable, giving the young guys time to improve before the arduous slog of the Big 12 season. The Red Raiders’ toughest game will come in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off where they will face Utah. While they’ll likely lose to the Utes, they should be able to pick up a couple wins against the remainder of the slate. Expectations are getting higher in Lubbock and the team wants to make the NCAA Tournament in the next few seasons. Texas Tech is unlikely to pull off that feat this year, but they could at least find their way out of the Big 12’s cellar with the development of their sophomore class.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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