Once you do, you’ll notice a common ending to every post, “4:1.” It’s readily apparent this is a rallying cry for the program. But, the meaning behind it is not as obvious. With the upcoming basketball season fast approaching, let’s take a look at what 4:1 means and the role it can play for the Red Raiders this season.
In Coach Beard’s own words, 4:1 symbolizes that, “The mental is to the physical as four is to one—mental toughness in basketball just like in life, overcoming adversity.” Beard was introduced to this concept during his first stint at Texas Tech while under the tutelage of coaching legend Bob Knight. Once he heard it, he was immediately enamored and began applying it to all facets of life. 4:1 has since became the central component of Beard’s player development, both on the floor and off.
This mentality emphasizes that the key to success lies beyond physical capability and resides in one’s capacity to mentally withstand whatever obstacles that stand in your path. You can listen to Coach Beard discuss 4:1 (and other topics) here.
Playing in the Big 12, Texas Tech will need all the mental fortitude they can muster. Big 12 basketball has finished top-2 in RPI each of the last four seasons, making a persuasive argument it’s the toughest conference in the country. It is rife with high-end talent, both in regards to players and coaches. There are no easy wins in this league.
For any team to be successful during conference play, they not only have to be able to compete physically, but they must be able to persist mentally as well. No team in the Big 12 is going undefeated in conference. There are too many good teams for that to happen. Therefore, teams must be able to cope with suffering a loss. Allowing one loss to get inside your head, rattle your confidence, and snowball into two or three losses in a row is not conducive on a path to the NCAA tourney.
The first season under Beard saw Texas Tech go 8-5 after losses, showing a certain level of resiliency. Six of those wins came in Big 12 play and another was against LSU in the middle of January. They lost back-to-back games just three times and had one losing streak of three games. These are not great numbers by any means, but they could have easily been worse. Several losses during conference play were only by two possessions or less, but the Red Raiders didn’t allow those tough losses to defray their ability to compete in the next game.
Another challenge facing this team is winning games on the road. Texas Tech was terrible on the road last season. They went 1-9 in true road games, the only win coming in non-conference play at Richmond. Their losses were by an average of nine points, but there were multiple close games as well. The Red Raiders made their biggest road push in conference at the end of January and beginning of February. Three straight road losses during that time were only by 4 points to Baylor, 4 points to Texas, and 1 point to TCU. They then faltered down the stretch, losing their final three road games by an average of 13 points.
If Beard's group wants to take a step forward this season, this is where they need to make it. The 4:1 philosophy will have to be more than a hashtag. It needs to show up on the court. Winning a true road game, especially in Big 12 play, is one of the toughest tasks that the team will face. Hostile crowds, home cooking from the refs and scoreboard operators, just the general talent in the Big 12...all of these are obstacles to be overcome.
The game of basketball itself doesn't change whether it's played in Lubbock or in Lawrence or in San Antonio. That's the heart of the 4:1 message. For Tech to earn a bid to March Madness, the guys need to understand that they have the ability to win games in this league. That ability doesn't go away simply because a crowd is rooting against you. Have the mental fortitude to push the distractions aside and let your game take over. It's easy enough to write about, even easier to throw a hashtag on tweet. However, actually putting it into practice is a different story.
Some players are born with that kind of mental strength, but most have to earn it through experience and hard work. That's why seniors are so paramount in college basketball. Experienced seniors is what Texas Tech has in spades. Seniors Keenan Evans, Justin Gray, and Zach Smith are all returning starters. Fellow senior Niem Stevenson was a key part of the bench rotation last season, averaging 21 minutes per game. Stevenson also started eight games last season. Another factor this year is redshirt senior Tommy Hamilton. Hamilton sat out last season after transferring from DePaul. He should at least be a solid bench contributor for Tech, if not more. During his three seasons at DePaul, he started at least 16 games each season and put together career averages of 8.8 ppg and 5.2 rpg.
As discussed earlier on VTM, outside of the seniors, Tech is an extremely young team. The freshman will have to buy into Coach Beard’s 4:1 message if Texas Tech has any hope of playing in the postseason. The mental leadership of this team falls squarely on the shoulders of Evans, Gray, and Smith. Those three seniors are three of only five players on the roster to have experienced a Big 12 road win. Simply having experienced a road win makes them resident experts on what it takes to do so. The seniors will be instrumental in helping the underclassmen understand what kind of mental preparation leads to success on the road in the Big 12.
4:1 goes deeper than basketball, and Coach Beard will be the first one to tell you that. 4:1 is an approach to life. I'm proud that Texas Tech has a coach that understands his role in molding his players into men. Men who have the mental fortitude to overcome adversity and still be a positive force in life. For that reason alone, I want Coach Beard to be in Lubbock for a long time. That's not going to happen, though, if his teams continue to go winless in road conference games.
4:1 has practical applicability that can help the Red Raiders turn that negative trend around. Their talent level says they can. Their coach says they can. I say they can. It's up to them to go out there and prove it.