Over the past couple of years, the term “non-conference basketball” is synonymous with watching Duke play a Division II school.
It’s fun for one team, however, the fans tend to get bored pretty quickly. In 2016, Tech’s best non-conference win was against a Richmond team that lost to TCU in the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Although Tech has a better non-conference schedule, the Red Raiders still have the usual blow-through opponents like Maine, Kennesaw State, and Savannah State. The Red Raiders also have some better opponents this year in No. 23 Seton Hall and a Nevada team that won the Mountain West and made the NCAA tournament last year. Kenpom.com has the Red Raiders ranked No. 33 in the country. This is a much better ranking compared to last year and is probably attributed to the experience and skill that Tech brings to the table.
Now, let’s look at some of the non-conference opponents for Tech this year:
The most intriguing match-up for Tech in non-conference play is Seton Hall. The Pirates are a top-30 team in the country and they’re bringing back most of their shooting. It’s a senior-laden team just like Texas Tech. They finished 21-12 last year and Kenpom.com ranks them as the No. 28 team in the country. They are led by 6’10 senior center Angel Delgado, who averaged 15.2 ppg and more than 13 boards per game as well. They are also led by a 6’6 Senior forward, Desi Rodriquez, who averaged 15 ppg and around five boards per game last year. Finally, the Seton Hall Pirates have 6’4 senior guard Khadeem Carrington, who led the Pirates with 17 points per game. It’ll be important in this game for Tommy Hamilton IV and Zach Smith to lock down the paint. Look for Josh Webster in this game to come off the bench to guard Carrington. Webster, a transfer from South Plains is known for his defense.
The next most interesting game is against Kenpom.com 73rd ranked Nevada. This Nevada team made the NCAA tournament last year and only lost 7 games all year! However magical last season was for the Wolfpack, this year does not look to be as magical as Nevada loses three of their top 4 scorers from last season. Their best player, Jordan Caroline, a 6’7 junior will bring 15 points per game and 9 boards per game to the table. The most likely match-up will be Zach Smith or Justin Gray. This will be a good inside-outside matchup for Smith as Caroline made 33% of his 3-point attempts last year. Another intriguing forward for the Wolfpack is Elijah Foster. Although the 6’8 Foster only played in 7 games due to injury last year, he was a solid low post scorer and a solid rebounder averaging 12 ppg and 7 boards per game (All stats from nevadawolfpack.com). Look for Tommy Hamilton IV and Norense Odiase to get the majority of the defensive reps on him.
Tech also has interesting match-ups against Boston College, UTSA and Rice. However, Tech does not have a true road game in non-conference. This is something that disturbs me as a fan of the team. Hostile environments such as Kansas, Texas and Iowa State have haunted Tech for years. The Red Raiders has a solid core of seniors that have experienced these types of environments throughout the years. But with loads of freshman and newcomers looking to crack the rotation early, a solid non-conference away game would have made me more confident in this team’s ability on the road during conference play.
Out all of the non-conference games, the only two that will be interesting are the games against Seton Hall and Nevada. It would also potentially be an interesting match-up if Tech faces Northwestern in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Expect the non-conference to go about as well as it has the last two seasons. With the exception of the two teams mentioned earlier, everyone on this non-conference schedule should be an expected win. So carpe diem (S/O to Weston) Red Raiders and let’s get this season started!
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