There are certain schools who make an unprecedented run in the NCAA Tournament only to fade back into obscurity almost as quickly as they emerged.
The 2006 George Masons of the world, the 1990 Loyola Marymounts, heck, even this year’s Loyola Chicago all fall under the category of teams who played well beyond their abilities and will likely never return to that level of success again.
Texas Tech wasn’t supposed to make it to the Elite 8, but this team is anything but one-and-done (although they may have one on their roster in Zhaire Smith). With a coach like Chris Beard and in a conference like the Big 12, Tech is in a unique position to harness this momentum and continue to build off of it going forward with the potential of becoming a perennial tournament team and conference championship contender.
Even with the loss of Keenan Evans and four other contributors, it’s hard not to believe next year’s team will be better than this year’s Elite 8 squad. Let’s look at who’s returning next year:
Jarrett Culver (sophomore, 11 points per game, five rebounds)
The unquestioned leader of next year’s team, expect Culver to up his scoring averages to at least 15 if Zhaire Smith stays, and 18 if Smith leaves.
Zhaire Smith* (sophomore, 11 points per game, five rebounds)
Arguably the best athlete in the Big 12, if Smith comes back for an additional year of polishing, Tech could be one of the favorites to end Kansas’ run as conference champions.
Brandone Francis (senior, five points per game, two rebounds)
Francis is lights-out from behind the three point line and will capitalize on more opportunities to score next year with increased playing time.
Norense Odiase (senior, four points, four rebounds)
Odiase isn’t on the floor to lead the team in scoring. He’s there to rebound and provide interior defense - two jobs he excelled at in 2017. Another offseason will do wonders for his development.
Davide Moretti (sophomore, three points, one assist)
As the season progressed, Moretti slowly got more and more comfortable playing American basketball at the major conference level. He’s always going to be a liability defensively, but if he can produce more offensively, his time on the floor will be well worth a single mismatch on the other end.
Malik Ondigo (sophomore, one point, one rebound)
The 6’10 center didn’t get a lot of action in his freshman campaign, but he will play a bigger role next year as another shot-blocking presence.
The recruiting class
This is where things really start to get interesting. I absolutely love the recruiting class Beard pulled in, and these players are going to make immediate impacts on the roster. There’s no redshirting here.
Khavon Moore (four-star small forward)
Moore might be the most heralded prospect to commit to Tech basketball in, well, ever. The 6’8 wing from Georgia made it onto the ESPN100 rankings and averaged 10 points and six rebounds on the prestigious Under Armour circuit last summer. Moore will be a starter from Day 1, and if he plays anywhere near his potential, Red Raider fans may not miss Keenan Evans as much as they originally expected.
Kyler Edwards (four-star shooting guard)
I love this signing. Edwards is an aggressive, physical and gifted shooting guard out of Arlington, TX, who picked up 20 scholarships from all kinds of major conference schools and top midmajor programs, including Butler, VCU, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Missouri and Kansas State. Edwards will be an instant starter if Zhaire Smith declares for the NBA Draft, but even if Smith stays, Edwards will play significant minutes in his freshman campaign - Tech needs his scoring. He also plays strong defense and rebounds well for a guard, which fits the mold Beard is looking for.
Deshawn Corprew (No. 3 JuCo player in the country)
Originally a four-star Texas A&M commit, Corprew is a versatile 6’5 wing who will provide some leadership to a very young team next year. He won’t only be there for moral support, however, the kid is extremely talented and led South Plains to a 28-8 record this season.
With this class, Beard continues to flex his recruiting muscles and foreshadows a new era of Tech basketball - one with an abundance of four-star players who stay for multiple years, which is pretty much the recipe for building a championship-caliber team. Look at Villanova’s roster every year. It’s filled with guys who were stars - not superstars - in high school, and Jay Wright gets them to stay for three and four years. That’s how you create and sustain success, and as long as Chris Beard is in charge of this program, you can expect Texas Tech to make strides toward college basketball royalty.
How optimistic are you about Tech basketball going forward?
This poll is closed
12/10 could not be more optimistic
8/10 this program is on the right track
5/10 let’s see how this plays out
1/10 this was a fluke season