One Burning Question: How Will Chris Beard Use Texas Tech’s Newfound Depth?

Posted by Chris Stone on October 25th, 2016

It was an adventurous offseason in Lubbock. After taking Texas Tech to its first NCAA Tournament since 2007, head coach Tubby Smith left for the Memphis job that was vacated by Josh Pastner. Two days later, the Red Raiders hired former Little Rock head coach Chris Beard away from UNLV where Beard had committed to coach just a couple of weeks prior. The 43-year old already has a long history in Lubbock, spending 10 years working there as an assistant under the Knights (Bob and Pat) from 2001 until 2011. In addition to Beard, Texas Tech will also welcome seven transfers — two of whom will sit out this season — and a walk-on freshman. Four of those players will vie for playing time immediately on a roster that returns five players who averaged at least 19 minutes per game last season. Having that collection of talent will be a boon for Beard in his first season on the job, but figuring out how to put the puzzle together will be his most challenging task.

Chris Beard will have his work cut out for him in his first season at Texas Tech. (Brad Tollefson/A-J Media)

Chris Beard will have his work cut out for him in his first season at Texas Tech. (Brad Tollefson/A-J Media)

Although Texas Tech lost its two leading scorers from last season, it still returns plenty of talent deserving of minutes on the court. Junior Zach Smith, for example, is one the Big 12’s top breakout candidates this season. A bouncy power forward that uses his quickness to attack larger defenders, Smith averaged 10.0 points per game last season. He’s also an important contributor on the defensive end where his 5.1 percent block rate and high defensive rebound percentage helps the Red Raiders close out possessions. Texas Tech should also have a fully healthy Norense Odiase back on the court this year. Odiase averaged an impressive 17.8 points per 40 minutes last season and has the ability to be an effective presence on the low blocks. Senior Aaron Ross, a 6’8″ frontcourt player, also returns as a big man who can stretch the floor, while junior Keenan Evans is likely to spend even more time as the team’s lead guard without Devaugntah Williams in the fold.

The newcomers, though, will offer a challenge, something the returnees asked for. Giovanni McClean and Anthony Livingston are up-transfers who led their respective mid-major teams in usage rate last season. McClean, a 6’1″ guard, led 9-21 Quinnipiac in scoring at 12.9 points per game, while Livingston notched 15.5 points per game for Arkansas State in the Sun Belt. Meanwhile, Shadell Millinghaus and Niem Stevenson will look to make an impact on the team as junior college transfers. Millinghaus should bring two-way potential at the guard spot, and Stevenson, who averaged 24.7 points per game in junior college last season, could prove to be the team’s leading scorer.

With a roster full of juniors and seniors, Beard is reportedly considering a 12-man rotation this season, a move that would be unsustainable even for many of the nation’s deepest teams. His challenge will be to fuse elements of the old and new to find the optimal combination of rotation players that give the Red Raiders the best chance of returning to the postseason. One of the determining factors may be the offensive system that Beard implements. Texas Tech will reportedly integrate more pick-and-roll and motion action into its schemes, a system that may limit the effectiveness of a plodding big man like Odiase. Whatever the game plan, Beard has made it clear that he intends to compete right away and figuring out who should be on the floor during key points of the game will go a long way toward answering that question.

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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One response to “One Burning Question: How Will Chris Beard Use Texas Tech’s Newfound Depth?”

  1. DanSwany says:

    Look for Anthony Livingston to be involved a lot this season. Zach Smith will still be the team MVP, but Livingston will probably be a breakout star for this upcoming season.

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