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UTEP Reaction: Defense, solid inside game lead Red Raiders to victory

The Red Raiders started off their season strong with an exhibition win over the Miners of UTEP.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs Texas Tech Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s November 1st, so we have now made the official transition from spooky season to basketball season. Thursday night, the Red Raiders made their season debut in the form of an exhibition game against UTEP. The Red Raiders won by a score of 85-61, as the Red Raiders outscored the Miners by 17 points in the second half of play. Here are some things that I noticed from watching the entire game from the Red Raiders.

Jarrett Culver is ready to win

Jarrett Culver led this team last night with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He led this team on the floor and he is ready to be the next great player at Texas Tech. He played four different positions last night and looked like a true leader on this team. The game seemed so much easier to him compared to last season, which is a sign that Culver might have a huge breakout year for the Red Raiders this season. I fully expect him to average between 15-20 points per game this season.

Davide Moretti is ready to step up

One of the biggest questions going into the season was how the point guard position was going to shake out for this team. This team has a bunch of good guards but Davide Moretti stood out to me as the truest point guard on this team. He grew leaps and bounds last season from a guy I thought was more of a spot up shooting guard to someone that can really lead this offense full time. He was aggressive getting into the paint and finishing a couple of beautiful shots in the lane. He has shown how much better he’s gotten on the defensive end of the floor as well.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Purdue vs Texas Tech Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The rotation will be at least nine strong

There will be nine main guys on the floor for the Red Raiders this season, potentially ten once Khavon Moore returns from injury. Coach Beard used a bunch of different guys last night, the main four off the bench were Brandone Francis, Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corpew, and Malik Ondigo. Avery Benson also played a good amount and might crack the rotation as he looked good on both ends of the floor. The depth on this team looks better than it did last year as Brandone Francis looked great in the sixth man role last night.

Brandone Francis will be this team’s sixth man

Speaking of Francis, he will be the man off the bench for the Red Raiders. Coach Beard subbed him into the game just one minute after tip-off and was an immediate spark for the Red Raiders. He ended up with 11 points and hit two three-pointers to really spark the offense at the beginning of the game. He will be used a ton this season at three different positions.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional Practice Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of four guard, one big lineups will be used

This team has three really good bigs, and using all of them has been difficult with the way the game of basketball is going. Coach Beard went to a four guard, one big look a ton last night. Beard uses either Jarrett Culver, Brandone Francis, or Deshawn Corprew at the 4 spot while having either Tariq Owens or Norense Odiase out on the floor as the center. At one point, Beard deployed Owens, Culver, Edwards, Mooney, and Moretti. They played a 5-out offense, creating lots of spacing and lanes for players to run through and it gave them a ton of easy shots near the basket on offense and they were able to play a good zone defense, hampering the ability of UTEP’s quick guards. With Odiase putting up a double-double and Owens coming away with nine boards, I think this team has the guards to thrive in this kind of look.

There will be little letdown from last season

Here is my overall analysis after this exhibition game: This team is still very good. This team will have its offensive struggles going into beginning of non-conference, but its defense will be more than good enough to win them games. UTEP is no slouch, and they will win some games this year as well. This was a good game for the Red Raiders to have this season, as an exhibition against a division one team was good preparation for the season. Don’t pay attention to any of the basketball “experts” that say this team won’t make it because it has all the necessary parts to make a tournament run.

First, they have a good coach, as Coach Beard has turned this program into a force to be reckoned with. They also have a superstar player in Jarrett Culver that will take over games for the team come Big 12 play. It looked so effortless for him at times last night, I have confidence that he could be a superstar in the conference come January. Finally, this team is great defensively. Not only do they have a great inside defensive presence in Norense Odiase, they now have a freak shot blocker in Tariq Owens. Matt Mooney also surprised me with his defensive ability last night as he has very long arms and quick feet.

No more are the days of Tech being a pushover in the Big 12 or being a one and done NCAA tournament team. This team is here, and here to stay. What do you all think of the upcoming season? Let us know in the comment section below!