Sportingnews.com released its annual “way too early” rankings for the 2018-2019 basketball season and despite the Red Raiders finishing ranked No. 6 in the final AP Poll, Texas Tech failed to make their top 25. It hardly comes as any surprise to most Tech fans who have dealt with this kind of (or lack of) media attention since 1923.
What makes it worse is that in the past, just when Tech has a chance to prove the doubters wrong and step into national prominence, something knocks us back to square one, such as recruiting violations or locking the son of a prominent ESPN analyst in a shed. Instead of building upon some successful tournament runs back in the 90s or a football season that saw the Red Raiders peak at No. 2 in the nation, they had to start rebuilding from scratch. Tech just never seems to catch a break.
So is the 2018 basketball team a one-hit wonder?
From the outside looking in, there are a lot of reasons why Tech could be considered a one and done team. The Red Raiders lose Zach Smith and Keenan Evans along with a huge core of senior leadership that carried this team to the elite eight. They also may potentially lose freshman Zhaire Smith to the NBA. Given that most of the talent came from the Tubby Smith era, Chris Beard has yet to prove that he can win with his own recruits. Not to mention what could happen if Beard’s alma mater comes calling, then he could bolt for Austin the moment the Longhorns decide to part ways with Shaka Smart.
At least that’s how the national media sees it.
Those of us who know the program can paint a much different picture of the future. Losing Evans and Smith will hurt without a doubt, but for Beard as a new coach to bring that kind of production out of these players who could have very easily checked out is short of incredible. While yes they are Tubby Smith’s recruits, Beard had to re-recruit them back into the program and motivate them to give everything they had to this school, something we rarely see from new coaches as it’s easy to blame lack of success on rebuilding.
Beard is directly responsible for recruiting and coaching Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver and has a huge recruiting class on the way that could easily bring similar production to last year’s crop of freshman.
Lastly, there’s Beard himself, who’s recently signed a six-year contract with the Red Raiders and by all accounts, is right at home in Lubbock, Texas. While other programs may be able to outbid Tech financially, it’s become clear that this is where the coach wants to be and while yes, Beard spent four years as a student at Texas, we should remember he spent nearly a decade in Lubbock.
Despite the lack of faith (or maybe it’s wishful thinking on their part) from the national media outlets, Red Raider basketball is here to stay. It’s time to prove the world wrong.