Big 12 Team Preview: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Texas Tech.

Where We Left Off: The 2012-13 season was a rough one for Texas Tech. Billy Gillispie resigned as head coach just before the start of the season, citing health concerns, but a mountain of allegations of player mistreatment that surfaced over the previous summer made one wonder just how much of the move was his call. The Red Raiders went on to win just two conference games under interim head coach Chris Walker, and finished the season 11-20, although it’s worth pointing out that one of those wins came against Iowa State. One of the more startling moves on the coaching carousel saw Texas Tech tab former Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith as its next leader, as many thought the Red Raiders would go with a younger coach eager to take on the unenviable task of resurrecting the program.

Tubby Smith brings a wealth of coaching experience to Lubbock, but don't expect a quick turnaround. (AP)

Tubby Smith brings a wealth of coaching experience to Lubbock, but don’t expect a quick turnaround. (AP)

PositivesDespite the coaching change, six of Texas Tech’s top seven rotation players (by minutes played) return from last season. For a team that lost 20 games, the immediate reaction isn’t to necessarily view that as a major advantage, but at the very least, the core of junior Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett should provide some stability during the first phase of the program’s transition. The former averaged 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, while the latter led the team in scoring and two-point field goal percentage. Freshman forward Aaron Ross will also provide a boost to the frontcourt after he was forced to take a redshirt year due to a torn ACL. Sophomore Dusty Hannahs finished among the league leaders in three-point percentage with a 37.4 percent clip last season and should see his role increase. While Smith picked up a pair of guards off the scrap heap in Stan Mays and Randy Onwuasor, the Red Raiders’ frontcourt is clearly their biggest strength.

Negatives: The Red Raiders lost Josh Gray, who consumed the most possessions of anyone on the team, to transfer after just one season, and Trency Jackson left the program after two. As a result, Texas Tech will be very thin in the backcourt, leaving Hannahs and senior Jamal Williams, Jr. at the controls without much talent behind them. In the post, while Crockett performed admirably, considering his size (just 6’7″ and 200 pounds), he’ll need to be a much bigger threat down low if Texas Tech is to stay competitive. The Red Raiders have nowhere to go but up offensively after they finished 9th or 10th in the Big 12 in nearly every offensive category, but they’ll need several players to make big leaps to get there. Simply put, there isn’t one facet of the game where Texas Tech couldn’t use significant improvement.

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Sizing Up a Key Freshman at Every Big 12 School

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2013

Brian Goodman is the lead Big 12 correspondent for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman

The 2012-13 season saw a handful of freshmen throughout the Big 12 make their presences felt around the league. Everyone knows about Marcus Smart, but he was far from the only rookie player who proved himself capable. Perry Ellis, Isaiah Austin, Rico Gathers and Georges Niang also showed opposing players and coaches that they belonged in the conference too. Further down the standings, Josh Gray, Javan Felix and Terry Henderson gave glimpses of what they can do when given opportunities to show their stuff  (although Gray later transferred out of the conference).

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it's not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Andrew Wiggins will be the top freshman in the Big 12, but after him, it’s not so black and white. (credit: ESPN.com)

Once again, the Big 12 will welcome a stellar class of incoming talent this season. We took a look around the conference and plucked one freshman from each team who we think will make the strongest impression. Top to bottom, the Big 12 doesn’t offer quite the depth the SEC — which claims eight of the top 12 prospects from ESPNU’s Top 100 (just to use one recruiting service) — will roll out, but we’re looking forward to watching newcomers from every Big 12 team make strong impressions in their opening campaigns.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Like you, we’ve seen the YouTube clips and read the scouting reports and articles in publications ranging from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Also, like you, we’re ready for Wiggins to make his debut and show everyone in actual games why he’s been the projected top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft for so long. We agree with Bill Self in that we don’t expect Wiggins to average 20 points per game – today’s suppressed scoring environments and Self’s reputation as a coach who prefers a balanced attack makes that outcome a longshot. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t think the phenom will make a huge impact on both ends of the floor.

Matt Thomas, Iowa State: Despite starting just two games last season, Tyrus McGee was the Cyclones’ second-leading scorer thanks to a white-hot 46.4% shooting clip from long range. Now that he’s gone, though, Fred Hoiberg needs someone to fill the shooting void, and we can easily see Thomas emerging as that guy. The 51st-ranked recruit on ESPNU’s Top 100, Thomas boasts the kind of range that can break games open and cut deficits in a hurry. Once he commands the attention of the league’s defenses, passing lanes will open up to deliver the ball to the likes of Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang.

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Big 12 Team Preview #9: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Monday, Danny Spewak (@dspewak) took care of previewing the TCU Horned Frogs. Today, Nate Kotisso (@natekotisso) previews the cellar-dwellers from a year ago: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were not a unanimous choice among the Big 12 microsite writers to finish ninth in the conference but we’re guessing we still won’t find much argument with this selection either. 

The Skinny: 

  • 2011-12 Record: 8-23 record, 1-17 in the Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: G Javarez Willis, F Robert Lewandowski
  • Head Coach: Chris Walker, 1st season
  • Projected Finish: 9th

Walker now makes three different coaches in three seasons. (Associated Press/Zach Long)

Interim head coach Chris Walker undoubtedly has a tough act to follow but at the same time he doesn’t. Former head coach Billy Gillispie had as tumultuous of a season that a coach can have. He broke NCAA practice rules more than once, was reprimanded by his athletic director for those trangressions, and his team stunk it up on the basketball court. Since the bar isn’t set very high at this point, I’m sure Walker can win more than eight games and look somewhat competitive in Big 12 play. This is Walker’s first opportunity at a head coaching job but like many first-timers, he too was a well-traveled assistant coach. He started off at Loyola Marymount in 1992 (this was the post-Paul Westhead/Kimble/Gathers era), left for Vanderbilt in 1996, went to Pepperdine in 1999, back to his alma mater Villanova in 2000, then headed to UMass in 2001, before going to New Mexico in 2007, and then back to Villanova in 2009 before arriving last season in Lubbock. For a man thrust into as awkward a situation as any, Walker is saying all the right things and then some. On “wearing” the interim tag:

“It’s all about attitude. I was remarking to somebody the other day there are a lot of interim coaches out there, they just don’t know it. I look at this situation, and people look at it as if I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. It took me six months to live. I’ve really flipped it and said it’s six months to give. I’m head coach for the first time in the Big 12. I’m going to give everything I have to the University, to the players and the community of Lubbock.”

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Morning Five: 09.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2012

  1. Thursday’s buzz revolved around two head coaches who are no strangers to controversy — let’s start with the much more successful of the two, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun. In a piece provided to SI.com by Mark Blaudschun about the venerable head coach, Calhoun said that he plans on making a decision whether he will return for his 27th season in Storrs in the next couple of weeks. And according to the author describing his body language in the interview, Calhoun may be leaning toward hanging up his whistle. We plan on looking deeper into Calhoun’s legacy a bit later today, but our stance on his retirement has always been one of ‘we’ll believe it when we see it.’ Of course, his team in 2012-13 is shut out of both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments (although the school is still lobbying for inclusion in the conference tourney), so the motivation that he had which caused him to come back last season might be missing this time around.
  2. The other head coach (for now) who has been in the news cycle all week long is Texas Tech’s Billy Gillispie. After six days holing up in a Lubbock hospital as he dealt with stress-related health issues, the much-maligned head coach was released on Thursday afternoon and presumably headed home. We actually don’t have a very good feeling about all of this, but we’d expect that the university will be speaking with him as soon as possible and will announce its position regarding his term of employment very quickly. Regardless of what happens with respect to Gillispie, the reeling program received more bad news this week when it learned that transfer forward Aaron Ross has torn his ACL and will miss the upcoming season. Too soon to joke that Gillispie will have him running stairs tomorrow?
  3. After two years of domino-tipping, could conference realignment be reaching a sort of stasis? The reason we say this is because the Big 12 is reportedly set to announce a new monstrosity of a $2.6 billion television contract with ABC/ESPN and Fox that will cover the next 13 years of broadcasts. So what, right? The difference is that this deal — similar in scope to the Big Ten and Pac-12 contracts  — in that each member institution must sign over its “grant of rights,” which is essentially a legal term that gives the conference ownership over each school’s media properties. So if, say, Texas or Oklahoma were to go sniffing around for a better deal elsewhere in the next 13 years, their media revenue in the new league would stay with the Big 12. This extreme disincentive to give away one’s media rights should all but ensure that those three stalwart leagues keep their members from jumping ship. Given that the Big 12 in particular has already been very close to disintegration, their newfound steadying influence in the nation’s mid-section may ultimately put an end to some of the craziness of the last couple of years.
  4. Remember that Rick Pitino guy? The Louisville head coach must have enjoyed his 2012 Final Four team so much that it left him (mostly) speechless over the summer. We’ve gotten used to the guy making news pretty much year-round, but there’s been nary a peep out of him lately. Yesterday he made the national news circuit with his comments to WDRB.com that, in light of the fact he has a veteran team with national championship aspirations returning, he wants his players to avoid playing pick-up basketball and only spend 45 minutes per day working on their games. If you read the article, Pitino goes into a long-winded explanation about how he implements his system as a whole versus its parts, but what’s unsaid here is that his teams over the last several years have been often walking M*A*S*H units. The message between the lines here is that Pitino wants his players to be fresh and healthy for the 2012-13 season, with the knowledge that if his group can remain that way into March, the Cardinals will have a great chance at cutting the nets down in Atlanta. This is actually a solid strategy, even if Pitino has trouble coming right out and stating it that way.
  5. While on the subject of Louisville, Lindy’s has released its preseason Top 10 and the anti-pick-up Cards sit at the top of the heap. Indiana, the other team that will probably share with UL the top spot in many polls, came in at #2. The surprise pick was at #3, with John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines getting the nod, but we have to ask the question whether the choice of St. Louis at #9 was made before or after the news of Rick Majerus’ layoff. No disrespect to interim head coach Jim Crews, but that’s a lot to ask from a guy who has never so much as sniffed the Top 25, much less the rarefied air of the Top 10.
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Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by dnspewak on August 6th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Texas Tech. 

2011-12 record: 8-23, 1-17

Billy Gillispie knew he had a major reclamation project on his hands at Texas Tech when he took over prior to the 2011-12 season. The program, which has always traditionally lagged behind the rest of the Big 12 in attendance and overall support, had slowly faded from a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Bob Knight to a cellar-dwellar under Pat Knight in just a few seasons. So when Gillispie landed in Lubbock after Knight’s firing and brought in a boatload of junior college transfers and freshmen, it was no surprise his team finished with eight victories and showed almost no signs of life in his first season. Apparently, that did not sit well with half the team, since six players decided to transfer during the offseason. Gillispie had originally oversigned with his 2012 recruiting class, so it’s not certain what exactly transpired this spring, but it wasn’t strong publicity for Gillispie. Before you accuse him of losing control of his program, though, look at the actual defections that occurred. He’s not losing his entire team by any means. Only one starter (Javarez Willis) transferred. That’s not good, obviously. But the others? As harsh as it sounds, they’re replaceable. And the fact is, Gillispie’s best player and leading scorer returns for his sophomore year in Jordan Tolbert, and he inked eight — yes, eight — newcomers, a class with decent potential on paper. There are still roster questions and other potential defections to worry about this summer, so much that the team hasn’t even officially published its roster online yet. But minus Billy G’s tumultuous tenure at Kentucky, the rest of his track record affords him the benefit of the doubt at Texas Tech. It might not be all that pretty in 2012-13, but the rebuilding process has entered its critical first steps here. Now, we just need to figure out who’ll actually play on the team next year.

Billy Gillispie’s Program Can’t Go Anywhere But Up

Summer Orientation:  As much potential as this Class of 2012 may have, it already lost one member when juco forward Rodrigo Silva left the team this summer to pursue a pro career in Brazil. It’s important to note that the move isn’t yet official, but the word around Texas Tech circles is Silva’s father is ill, and his family has serious financial needs. Understandable. On the court, it’s difficult to lose a 6’10” forward with the largest frame of any recruit in the class, and he’s not the only one who might not make it back to Texas Tech. Fellow forward Wannah Bail, one of the most highly-touted freshman in this bunch, had problems in the classroom this summer and had to temporarily go home. Gillispie said he expects to see him on campus for the fall semester, but this situation poses a serious problem for everybody involved. Bail, a 6’8” tweener and a top-150 prospect, needs to add considerable strength but has the athleticism and defensive potential to log a lot of minutes in his first season– if he plays. That’s why this is such an important development for Gillispie right now. He played high school ball with Michael Carey, who also committed to Tech in February but may not qualify. To be quite frank with you, we’ve attempted to look into Carey’s status for the 2012-13 season, but it appears completely unknown at this point. We know he signed, and we know there’s questions about his eligibility, but that’s all we know. Again, that’s a trend this summer. Who in the heck will really play for this team this season? Here’s another example: Blake Nash, who did officially transfer to Texas Tech but may or may not play in 2012-13. The former South Florida guard wants a hardship waiver after logging decent minutes as a backup during USF’s NCAA Tournament run in March. If he’s eligible, he’ll likely find his way into the rotation in some capacity for Gillispie in his first season and will help stiffen that point guard battle in off-season and fall practice even more.

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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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