The last decade for Tech basketball has been anything but legendary.
Since Bob Knight retired, the only NCAA tournament berth has was in 2016 under Tubby Smith. This year’s team can make all those years of sorrow and misery for Tech basketball fans go away with one special run this year. They have the coach to do it, they have the fan support to do it and most importantly, they have the collection of talent to do it.
This is the year. The year Tech basketball fans such as myself have been waiting for since 2014. Tubby’s 2014 recruiting class is finally seniors. For the first time in a long time, the Red Raiders have a solid core group of leaders that are ready to win and win now.
In Zach Smith, the team has a leader of the front court that will hold it down on the defensive end, usually catching the match-up of the opposing team’s best post player on the offensive and defensive end. He is also going to collect the most rebounds and blocks this year, being less than 30 blocks away from the Texas Tech all-time record. For Tech to succeed, he needs to average at least a double-double while also becoming the all-time leader in blocks for the Red Raiders.
Next we move to Keenan Evans, the man who runs the offense and is one of the best point men in the Big 12. Keenan will be the most important cog in the Red Raider offense and will be an important 3-point threat for the Red Raiders. Look for Keenan to lead Tech in points and assists during the year.
We now move to Justin Gray, the jack-of-all-trades man for the Red Raiders. He can do anything the team needs him. By far Tech’s best defender, Gray is also one of the best rebounding forwards in the country. And when called upon, he can operate as a point forward and dish out assists. These three core guys can provide something in their senior year the Red Raiders haven’t been able to do in a decade, win a NCAA tournament game.
Now, I get it, these three alone can’t be my reasoning for believing that this could be the best Tech team ever. The future for this team and program is so bright. The bench play and depth is something the Red Raiders have not had in a long time. Sixth-man Norense Odiase also from the same recruiting class as the before mentioned seniors will serve as the main front-court backup and will most likely be the best player returning to this team next year. Odiase brings size, defense, and post scoring to a Red Raider team that needs to be balanced off the bench.
Freshman Jarrett Culver and super athlete Zhaire Smith look to have huge roles as the main guard combo off the bench. These two will be crucial to the success of the Red Raiders later in the season. If they can perform on the road during Big 12 play, the Red Raiders will definitely finish higher than 7th in the Big 12 as the preseason poll shows. Zhaire Smith is going to be a scoring force of the bench and combined with Culver and Italian sharpshooter Davide Moretti, the Red Raiders have three very solid and very young back court backups.
Moretti is my personal favorite of these three as he is the best shooter out of these three and can also create for himself and for others. He is my sleeper to make a huge impact off the bench. He could become Keenan Evan’s protege and I can see him running the point for the next three years for Texas Tech (Kinda like Keenan).
Transfers are something that Chris Beard has been able to accrue during his tenure and is something that can propel the Red Raiders onto the national stage. Tommy Hamilton IV is a player that can potentially win Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. As the starting center for the Red Raiders, he has the size, athleticism (lost a ton of weight coming into this season), and even three point capability to make a huge impact coming into this season.
Sound like another senior transfer we know (i.e. Anthony Livingston)? Niem Stevenson is a player who came on late for the Red Raiders last season. Hampered because of an illness for the majority of non-conference last year, Stevenson became the number two or three option for the Red Raiders offensively late in Big 12 play. Stevenson is an all-around player for Chris Beard being able to guard multiple positions with his 6-7 frame and is also an all around offensive being one of the Red Raiders’ best finishers at the rim. He had 11 points in the win on Sunday and they all came in the second half. This dude can ball. Stevenson has the ability to become an All-Big 12 type player.
The Red Raiders have two players in Zach Smith and Keenan Evans that can change the fortunes of the whole team. If those two along with Niem Stevenson can earn All-Big 12 honors, this team will have a great chance to push a deep playoff run.
This team’s defense-first mentality has been preached to this core group for four years now along with at least seven solid scoring threats on the offensive end make it possible for this team to become the best in Tech history. Of course, we can’t really be sure if this team will become one of the all-time greats but from the exhibition games we can say for sure that this team will be fun to watch.
How far will Tech’s basketball team go?
This poll is closed
Won’t make NCAA tournament
Round of 64
Round of 32
Elite 8 and further