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The race to 8

What Texas Tech needs to do to go dancing

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Northwestern Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, someway, Kliff and Gibbs’ boys managed to end the season bowl eligible. It wasn’t pretty, but hey, bowling is bowling. Seasons are defined by whether you make the postseason or not. It’s no different for Chris Beard and his basketball team. While we wait to see what bowl game the football team will play in, we can now turn our attention to an exciting basketball team.

I think all of us in the VTM family can agree that Texas Tech making the NCAA tournament is a priority in our lives. March just isn’t the same without filling out at least one bracket with the Red Raiders winning it all, no matter how preposterous. So, the big question looms, what will it take for Texas Tech to make the field of 68? The answer is surprisingly simple. Win 8 conference games.

Yes, I know. You have to win your non-conference games. Perhaps more accurately stated, don’t lose games to teams you have no business losing to. Texas Tech hasn’t had any worries in that department for several years. Scheduling soft outside of conference has seen Tech dominate to the tune of a 33 game winning streak at home against non-conference opponents. This season there are only a handful of opponents that the committee will notice victories over. I’m not that upset over it. Scheduling this way allows for the team to garner confidence, and the Big 12 as a conference is so strong that facing several other power 5 opponents is not necessary when trying to impress the selection committee.

That being said, this year’s team has already created a palpable buzz. They are 6-0 for the first time since 2009 and have won every game by double digits. Beard’s group was impressive in winning the Naismith Hall of Fame classic beating Boston College and a No. 20 ranked Northwestern team. The win over Northwestern was the biggest margin of victory over a ranked opponent in program history.

Winning all the early games is fine and dandy, but the end goal is for us to make the tourney. In that regard, forget the non-con, conference play is where it’s at. In the history of the Big 12 conference, no team has won less than 8 games and received a bid to the NCAA tournament. There it is, plain and simple. Go get 8 wins and you’re in.

It should be that noted that while 8 appears to be the magic number, even that has occurred relatively sparingly. 6 teams have won only 8 conference games and went dancing: 07-08 Texas A&M, 10-11 Mizzou, 13-14 Oklahoma State, 14-15 Texas and Oklahoma State, and 16-17 Kansas State. Recent history is in Texas Tech’s favor. 4 of those 8-win Big 12 teams that made the tournament did so in the last 3 seasons. Given the Red Raiders impressive performance so far early this season, it stands to reason they would be treated similarly by the selection committee.

I’m not saying that it’s easy. The Big 12 is once again an elite basketball conference. But, the path to playing games in March is simple. You’re given 18 opportunities in conference play, find a way to win to 8 of them.