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The Path to the Postseason

Texas Tech’s Road Back to the NCAA Tournament

NCAA Men's Final Four - Previews Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

After last season’s surprising run to the NCAA Tournament, the Red Raider basketball team entered the 2016-17 season with high expectations. But in the ever-changing landscape of college hoops, previous success doesn’t ensure future success. Individual player improvement, coaching tweaks and lucky bounces can all change a team’s fate dramatically.

March Madness is the most thrilling time of the season, but a team’s chance for one shining moment is often created in December or January. Over 300 teams have a chance to play their way into the tournament, so every game matters.

Each week we’ll take a look around the country and then analyze Texas Tech’s chances of making the NCAA or NIT Tournaments. Since so many stats and factors ultimately weigh into the decision process, we’ll attempt to focus on the areas that the Selection Committee values most.

Some general things to follow are:

Strength of Schedule

Quite simply, playing against and beating good teams is a useful measuring stick. Thus far, Tech has played a soft schedule and consequently looked very good. Once the bar is raised, the results will start to mean more. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi recently listed Tech as the team just outside of his current bracket prediction.

Getting national attention this early despite a soft schedule is great news for Tech and means that they’ll be looked at even more once the competition gets tougher. Strength of schedule will also affect commonly referenced stats like RPI and BPI, which the selection committee values.

Conference Strength

This goes along with strength of schedule but probably does more to impact our standing nationally. In football this year, everyone knew early on that the Big 12 was weaker than normal. That narrative grew to the point that by mid season, no team was being talked about as a title contender.

Last season, the Big 12 was exceptionally talented and deep and benefited from having nationally beloved OU star Buddy Hield. That reputation helped Tech make the tournament after the Red Raiders strung together three consecutive wins over ranked opponents, the best of which occurred in Lubbock against Hield’s Sooners.

If the Big 12 starts strong again, that perception can carry the conference into January and February when impressions are really made. Placing fourth, fifth, or even sixth in one of the nation’s best conferences is usually enough to go dancing.

Peaks and Valleys

The committee will look at a team’s best wins and worst losses as an attempt to gauge their ceiling and floor. My general rule of thumb here is to root for every team on Tech’s schedule when they aren’t playing Tech. We don’t necessarily want our opponents to be good; we just want them to look like they’re good. If one of the weaker teams on our schedule goes on a run to win their conference tournament, Tech benefits from that. If Baylor, West Virginia and Iowa State all finish in the top 20 and we beat two of them, we’re looking good. At this point in the season it’s hard to say which is our best win, and our worst loss is the only loss. Keeping an eye on these extremes can give a good indication of how good we are.

As the season progresses, we’ll take more specific looks at different factors and really crack down once conference play starts. The Path to the Postseason is long and narrow, but this team has the talent and experience to navigate it successfully.