68 teams made the NCAA tournament, and Texas Tech wasn’t one of them.
Think about that.
Now think about this: 32 teams made the NIT. Again, Texas Tech was left off the invite list.
So 100 teams made it to a respectable postseason tournament, yet the Red Raiders will be doing exactly what you’ll be doing this weekend: watching on the couch at home.
How did this happen? Let’s backtrack for a minute to February 17, 2017. Tech upsets the No. 4 team in the country, Baylor, 84-78, getting the signature win they desperately sought. The victory moved the Red Raiders to a 17-9 record with a pedestrian but semi-respectable 5-8 record in Big 12 conference play.
This was a point in time in which Tech had full control over its postseason fate. It had only five games remaining in the regular season, one against conference weakling Texas, a game against Iowa State in Lubbock, and three tough matchups on the road against West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State.
If the Red Raiders could just win three of those five games, they’d be in good shape heading into the conference tournament. That would put them at 20-11. Then all they’d have to do is win a game against a team in the bottom half of the conference in the Big 12 tournament, and probably another game against one of the mid-tier teams. Then Tech would be sitting at 22-12 in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
If you think that may not be enough to secure a tournament bid for the Red Raiders, I have examples proving otherwise. There were six teams from the Big 12 that made the tournament. Six. Keep in mind there’s only 10 teams in the conference. One of those teams, Kansas State, got in with a 20-13 record and a losing record in conference play. Oklahoma State also was admitted, with a 22-12 record.
Tech was right there, y’all.
And the Red Raiders don’t have anyone to blame but themselves. After the big Baylor win, Tech lost four of the next five games, and bowed out of the conference tournament in the first round thanks to a humiliating loss to the Big 12’s worst team, Texas.
It takes grit to earn an invitation to the Big Dance. If you win a big game over a top-five team, there’s no room for contentment. One win does not punch a ticket to the tournament. You have to keep that edge and continue to battle all the way through the end of the season. What we saw from Tech was a lethargic effort after that win, as if the Red Raiders had already proved themselves worthy of tournament selection.
Their collapse was so detrimental the NIT didn’t even want the Red Raiders in their field. TCU made the NIT with a woeful 19-15 overall record and 6-12 conference record, but at least the Horned Frogs were able to muster up a win in the conference tournament.
This season was a promising one under new coach Chris Beard. The polished 11-1 start to the year foolishly brought everyone’s hopes up, only to be derailed by a poor showing in Big 12 play. The journey to redemption in 2018 starts now, and Tech fans are hopeful some of the new recruits can bring some passion and prowess to this otherwise stagnant team. I’m not yet sold on Jarrett Culver, who wanted to go to Texas but was spurned by Shaka Smart, and I don’t know enough about Daniel Mading to project his impact. But those two still carry heavy expectations, and fans can only hope they’ll play with more conviction than the Tech team that showed up the last month of the season.