Big 12 Burning Questions: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 31st, 2017

This preview is part of RTC’s 2017-18 preseason coverage.

Burning Question: Will the Red Raiders cash in on an athletic and experienced roster in 2018?

Texas Tech finished last season with a modest 18-14 overall record and no postseason appearance. The Red Raiders were expected to fare considerably worse in the wake of Tubby Smith’s departure to Memphis, but not only were they better than many anticipated, a fair argument could be made that their record undersold how good they actually were last season. Texas Tech finished just outside of KenPom‘s top 40 and were clearly snake-bitten down the stretch, losing six tough games in a row that were decided by five points or fewer or in overtime. Of course, it also lost six more Big 12 games, so it wasn’t all attributable to bad luck. Despite the disappointing finish, it looks like the program made the right hire in second-year man Chris Beard, who will turn to an experienced rotation that wants nothing more than to follow up last year’s disappointment with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018.

Keenan Evans is ready to lead the Red Raiders in a bounceback campaign. (John Weast/Getty)

When looking at the Red Raiders’ roster, athleticism, especially in the backcourt, is what jumps out. Keenan Evans was one of the better all-around guards in the Big 12 last season, dishing out 3.0 assists per game while limiting turnovers and frequenting the foul line (where he converted 85 percent of his tries). Wing Justin Gray led all Texas Tech regulars with a 54.7 percent eFG last season, propped up by a tremendous ability to finish at the rim (82.1%, per hoop-math.com) despite standing just 6’6″. Both players are back, as is Niem Stevenson, who averaged 8.6 PPG a year ago.

Similar to last season, the Red Raiders will also have a flood of transfers ready to go. This year’s additions are headlined by Deshawn Corprew, a 6’5″ stat sheet-stuffer from the junior college ranks, and Brandone Francis, an attacking guard who sat out last year after transferring from Florida. Hyron Edwards will provide depth and athleticism at the point guard slot after transferring over from Trinity Valley (TX) Community College, and Josh Webster will look to fill a role as well. It should be noted that Tech wasn’t a very good offensive team during Big 12 play last year (1.03 PPP, ranking seventh in the conference), so that aspect of Beard’s attack will need to improve if it wants to turn things around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Feast Week Mission Briefing: Texas Tech in the Cancun Challenge

Posted by Chris Stone on November 22nd, 2016

Feast Week is here. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments over the next week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings continue today with Texas Tech in the Cancun Challenge.

Catching Up: Texas Tech currently sits at 3-0 and the Red Raiders have easily dispatched their first three opponents (all ranked 240th or worse nationally, according to KenPom). Head coach Chris Beard entered his first season in Lubbock with a plethora of talent with which to work and it has shown in his rotations. Nine different players are averaging double-figure minutes so far and only two, Justin Gray and Zach Smith, are pushing the 30-minute mark. Meanwhile, four different players are scoring 10 or more points per game as Texas Tech has averaged 84.3 points per contest through the first three games of the season. Although they are not battle-tested, the Red Raiders have the look like a team with enough depth, length and athleticism to compete for a spot in the top half of the Big 12 standings.

Justin Gray is helping lead the way for Texas Tech (Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Gray leads the way for Texas Tech (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Opening Round Preview: An opening round match-up with Auburn will be Texas Tech’s first real test of the season. The Tigers also enter the event at 3-0 but their three wins were over teams ranked among the KenPom top 200. A trio of freshmen — Danjel Purifoy, Mustapha Heron, and Jared Harper — are all scoring in double figures while posting an effective field goal percentage above 50 percent. This contest should represent a clash in styles as Bruce Pearl’s squad likes to push the pace (14.4 seconds per possession). The Red Raiders, on the other hand, are more methodical (17.0 seconds per possession).

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Texas Tech Rides the Coaching Carousel

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 16th, 2016

Sometimes, all it takes is one domino.

Just one week ago, Georgia Tech provided an improbable escape hatch for Josh Pastner at Memphis, which led the Tigers’ program to quickly move in uprooting well-traveled Tubby Smith from Texas Tech. On Friday, the Red Raiders responded by hiring Chris Beard from UNLV. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that Beard is an upgrade from Smith, and time will tell how it works out in the long run. In the short term, however, Texas Tech has emerged from a whirlwind week with only a few scratches when it could have been left bruised and bloodied.

Texas Tech reached back in its history in plucking Chris Beard from UNLV. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Texas Tech reached back in its history in plucking Chris Beard from UNLV. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Though critics have zeroed in on Beard’s transience by pointing out that this move marks his fifth job since 2011, it is very clear that the Texas Tech position represents something different to him than the three coaches the school has employed in the eight seasons since Bobby Knight retired in 2008. It may not necessarily prevent him from jumping again, but it is important in framing his decision to move. Beard’s daughters live in nearby Abilene and he toiled in Lubbock as an associate head coach under the Knights (Bobby and Pat) for 10 years, the longest he’s worked at a single school since entering the coaching profession in 1991. The fact that UNLV’s program appears to be teetering with leadership uncertainty and a roster that’s been almost completely gutted may have also played a role in Beard’s decision to pull the cord and return somewhere familiar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Offseason Burning Questions, Part II

Posted by Chris Stone on April 12th, 2016

Yesterday, Brian Goodman opened our examination of the offseason’s burning questions facing Big 12 teams by reviewing challenges facing Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU. Our series continues today with consideration of the questions plaguing the remainder of the league: Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia.

Iowa State (23-12, 10-8)

For the first time in a long time, Iowa State will be without Georges Niang. (Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in a long time, Iowa State will be without Georges Niang. (Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

Who will step up in the Cyclones’ frontcourt? A lack of depth at Iowa State was a persistent problem last season and it leads to the bigger question about who will fill the gaping frontcourt holes in Ames next year. With both Georges Niang and Jameel McKay no longer around, the Cyclones return no players 6’8″ or taller who played greater than five percent of the available minutes last season. Iowa State will need to rely on a big debut from Emmanuel Malou, one of the best junior college transfers in the country, and dramatic improvement from rising sophomore Simeon Carter, the Cyclones’ best returning big man.

Oklahoma State (12-20, 3-15)

What can new head coach Brad Underwood do with one of the Big 12’s best backcourts? Underwood consistently produced efficient offenses at Stephen F. Austin and he’ll have the chance to do likewise in Stillwater. The first-year head coach will inherit one of the conference’s best backcourts, as both Jawun Evans and Phil Forte appear set to return to school, with Evans showcasing his potential in the Cowboys’ upset of Kansas and Forte likely the best outside shooter in the Big 12. How Evans and Forte develop their chemistry with Underwood this offseason will go a long way toward determining whether Oklahoma State can regain conference relevance next season. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Bubble Watch: Giving It The Ol’ College Try Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 5th, 2016

Today is the first Friday in February, which means March is approaching as quickly as bubble discussion is intensifying. So lets frame the Big 12’s bubble situation as it stands now. Thankfully, the Big 12 isn’t the most complicated conference in this respect. We aren’t talking about a league like the ACC, where the second and tenth place teams are separated by just 2.5 games. In any case, the Big 12’s true bubble teams are down to four after West Virginia, who is currently tied for first in the conference, all but locked up its tournament spot by taking down Iowa State this week at Hilton Coliseum. The other three teams considered locks for the NCAA Tournament are obvious ones: the aforementioned Cyclones, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Now it’s time to dive into the four teams who have the best shot at snagging those coveted at-large bids. What have they done so far? What must they do in the future? Should you eat more of a balanced diet? Two of these questions will be answered on this edition of Big 12 Bubble Watch. (RPI numbers via NCAA.com; SOS via CBSSports.com; Kenpom via Kenpom.com). Numbers are as of February 4.

You won’t need to watch out for Lucille. She already has an eye on the Big 12 bubble picture.

You won’t need to watch out for Lucille. She already has an eye on the Big 12 bubble picture.

Probably In

Baylor: 17-5 (6-3); RPI: 26, SOS: 43, Kenpom: 29

Analysis: There was a 30 for 30 on a great Bears team last night (er, somebody’s Bears) but this year’s team is just kinda plain. They’re vanilla. A likable flavor with likable qualities. Lester Medford has dished out 75 assists compared to 25 turnovers in the last 10 games. Rico Gathers Sr. is a man with “Sr.” in his name and continues to dole out punishment to anyone who has to guard him. Taurean Prince is still a prospect NBA executives are drooling over. So what’s missing? The Bears’ lone win against a sure-fire tournament team came on the road at Iowa State, which is obviously nice. Outside of that, Baylor’s other wins are fairly hollow. Fortunately, they’ve got nine games to go and a golden opportunity at another good road win when they travel to West Virginia tomorrow. There is very little to worry about right now in Waco.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 M5: 12.07.15 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 7th, 2015

morning5_big12

  1. It’s the Monday following the announcement of this year’s College Football Playoff participants so it must be time to talk Big 12 expansion again, right? Unlike last year, however, the league might be forced to expand sooner rather than later. It was expecting a motion to deregulate conference championship games in football to pass next month, but the Big Ten has stepped in with a “last-minute amendment” that might hurt the 10-team conference’s chances of hosting such a game in 2016. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he wouldn’t want to be forced to expand the league but admitted that it “could end up that way.” Expansion in football would directly affect basketball, of course, possibly enhancing or diluting the product depending on which direction it goes.
  2. Baylor football had a rough go of things on Saturday, but the men’s basketball team turned those fortunes around Sunday night against #16 Vanderbilt. The Commodores went on a 17-0 run early in the second half to go up 10 but the Bears stormed back to tie the game at 52 with 8:40 to play. From then on, both teams traded body blows in what became a 40-minute basketball masterpiece that Baylor won, 69-67. Taurean Prince scored 30 points in front of over 30 NBA scouts and we all watched Lester Medford (15 points on 6-of-12 shooting) make big shot after big shot to nail it down for the Bears. This appears to be a strong profile-building win for Baylor.
  3. Darker days are approaching for Oklahoma State, if they aren’t here already. After losing at home to Tulsa for the first time since 1985, the Cowboys fell even lower on Saturday as they lost to Missouri State (1-5 record, ranked 239th on Kenpom), 64-63. It was Missouri State’s first win against a Division I opponent this season. For the Cowboys, this marked the first time they have dropped two consecutive non-conference home games since, you guessed it, 1985. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is still without top scorer Phil Forte indefinitely as Travis Ford has said that his status could be “day to day, week to week” or “month to month.” And the Sugar Bowl won’t be for another three-and-a-half weeks, huh? Yikes.
  4. Oklahoma will take on Villanova tonight in a highly-anticipated top 10 showdown between potential Final Four teams. The game will of course be played at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on the 74th anniversary of Japan’s infamous attack on the United States that thrust the country into World War II. Head coach Lon Kruger spoke on the significance of their visit to Hawaii as an opportunity for his players to learn more about an important part of America’s history.
  5. Despite dealing with eligibility concerns with two players and an early transfer, Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith has been forced to shorten his rotation in two ways: personnel and height. It seems to have worked thus far. The Red Raiders are 5-1 on the young season with their only loss coming against a Utah team they hung with for much of that game. Zach Smith and Norense Odiase have emerged as the two stalwarts down low while guard Keenan Evans has made strides as a scorer in his second season. The danger with a short rotation is when those players reach a point somewhere in conference play when they run out of gas and start putting forth weaker efforts. That’s something Smith will have to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story