We've suffered long enough as Texas Tech basketball fans. We haven't had much to cheer about since The General called it quits. Surely Tubby's third year is THE year we make some noise and knock on the postseason door, right?
The Glass is Half Full:
There isn't a single fan of our men's hoops program that isn't excited about at least a couple of this years Freshmen. Keenan 'Smooth' Evans, Zach 'Pogostick' Smith, Norense 'Robert Tomaszek' Odiase, Isiah 'High Top' Manderson and Justin 'Pray for my Knee' Gray all had impressive moments this past season. Conventional wisdom tells you they will naturally get bigger, stronger and better at their craft. Not only did they get to play a lot of minutes this year but they played a lot of minutes in the best basketball conference in the nation typically at the same time. Chemistry and camaraderie alone win games in college basketball. Tubby's decision to get these guys on the court together in the back half of Big 12 play will pay huge dividends next season. In addition to the rising up and comers we return two high quality players that will bring a level of leadership we've sorely lacked. Toddrick Gotcher is the Van Wilder of college hoops. He's been through it all at Tech. He's battle injuries, witnessed a revolving door of coaches and players and 6 years later he's still around. Gotcher is more than capable of hitting big shots and having big games. His backcourt mate Devaughntuh Williams returns as well. DWill flashed what he is capable of in multiple conference games this year. He's a scorer and he wants the ball when the team needs a bucket the most. Again..something we've lacked for years in Raiderland. DWill has All-Big 12 performer written all over him. Toss in some young athletic guys with high ceilings in CJ Williamson and Jordan Jackson and this team now has more than enough depth at the guard position to compete with most backcourts.
The aforementioned players represent the following:
85% of our scoring; 86% of our rebounding; 76% of our assists and 98% of our blocks from 2014.
While we return all but 1 contributors other teams aren't so lucky.
Kansas State says goodbye to their 2nd leading scorer and top 2 rebounders
TCU says goodbye to their starting backcourt which includes their top 2 scorers and 2 leading assist men. College hoops is a guards game!
Oklahoma State bodes farewell to their leading scorer, top 2 rebounders AND top 2 assist men. Forte may have to hoist 20 3-pt attempts a game next season. Sooner or later kids will realize Travis Ford is a joke for a Head Coach. They will need more than facilities to continue to attract talent to Stillwater.
Texas will lose a top scorer and rebounder in Myles Turner as well as the heart and soul of that team Jonathan Holmes. I could see Isiah Taylor testing the draft and by making the tournament this year they will keep Rick Barnes around yet another year to waste a sh*tload of talent.
Baylor loses their starting backcourt and second leading rebounder. Rico Gathers is not a guy that wins games for you. They play a defense that is bound to get lit up time and time again. Scott Drew is a terrible coach. I've never feared nor will I ever fear Baylor basketball.
Curb the Enthusiasm:
Yes, we return 2 Seniors in Gotcher and Williams and a couple Juniors in Foster and Ross but that means the overwhelming majority of this team is still very green. I'm not saying Foster and Ross can't be contributors but nothing about their game leads me to believe we can rely on them much if at all next season. If you strip them out we are back to 7 of the 9 guys that get the majority of the playing time being true Freshmen or Sophomores. That's a scary thought in a conference that again returns a lot of experience.
Two of the key components of the game of basketball are shooting and limiting turnovers. We struggled at both last year. 8-21 nights at the charity stripe are as concerning as it gets. 20+ turnovers in multiple games is terribly frustrating. Couple one of, at times both with several cold nights from behind the arc and you wind up with 3 conference wins. Shooting and ball handling are an art. Nobody significantly improves over the course of a couple months.
Kansas is Kansas. They replace whoever defects to the NBA with another guy that would be instantly the best player on our team..by a ton.
Iowa State returns all top returning scorers, rebounders and assist men. Niang seems like that guy you appreciate sticking it out four years UNLESS he's in your conference. He returns again as the best player in the conference and one of the best in the country. Monte Morriss is the best Point Guard in the conference and maybe the nation. I'm predicting them to play Kentucky in the championship this year. I'm predicting them right now to cut down the nets next season. Hoiberg when all is said and done will be revered at the same level as a Tom Osborne or Joe Paterno.
Oklahoma..if Hield stays around watch out. They are a Final Four team next season with him as they return everyone else from a team that I'm predicting to make an Elite 8 run this season. Even without Hield, Lon Kruger is a top 3 coach in the conference and will showcase his wizardry.
West Virginia loses Staten but they return everyone else. They play a suffocating style of basketball that teams just can't prepare for. If there is a coach in the nation that gets more out of his players please point him out. Bob Huggins is the best coach in the conference.
When the dust settles:
1. Iowa State - 2015/2016 National Champions
2. Oklahoma - 2015/2016 Final Four
3. Kansas - 2015/2016 Elite 8
4. West Virginia - 2015/2016 Round of 32
5. Baylor - 2015/16 NCAA Tournament Team
6. Texas - 2015/16 NCAA Tournament Team
7. our very own TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
8. Oklahoma State
10. Kansas State
Does Tech make the postseason?
We are going NITing!! The team goes 7-11 in conference after a stellar pre-conference where they win 12 games. They end the season over .500 and flirt with traveling to New York for the NIT Final Four. All setting the stage for what will be a magical 2016 basketball season!