With good reason, people are excited about this Texas Tech basketball team. They have started the season 6-1, with each win by double digits. Those wins include two over Power 5 opponents, one of which was then-ranked Northwestern. The average margin of victory is 28 points and the average point differential overall is +22.6 points per game. During this opening stretch of the season, Coach Chris Beard has gone with the same starting five—a quintet of seniors. The formula is working and will likely continue moving forward.
Another essential component to that formula, and what has really made this team go, has been the freshmen tandem of Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith coming off the bench. The frosh pair head up a second unit that has outperformed their opponent in every game so far this season. After the first seven games, the bench is averaging an insane 40.6 points per game. Culver has been particularly stellar. He's now averaging 11.9 points per game, good for second on the team. He was recently named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, and even more impressive, was named VTM's player of the week.
Meanwhile, Zhaire Smith has been an endless highlight reel on both ends of the floor. His athleticism jumps out and slaps you in the face, but if you look deeper, his skill set isn't anything to scoff at either. He provides legitimate production in FIVE different categories. Through the first seven games, Smith is third on the team in points per game, third in assists per game, second in blocks per game, and third in rebounds per game.
Beard has on multiple occasions turned to Culver, Smith, and the rest of the bench early in games to inject more energy into the Red Raiders when the starters haven’t played up to Beard’s standards. They haven’t failed to respond. I imagine that these stats will come back to earth once conference play begins. Opponents will have had the ability to review the tape on these freshman and scout them more intensely to game plan for their talents. But, I don't imagine Beard shortening the rotation too much. Culver and Smith have simply been too effective to sit them.
Combining these fresh faces with the battle-tested seniors has created a unique team on the college basketball landscape. It also sets up Texas Tech for the future—a future that is looking very bright at the moment.