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Viva the Matador’s way-too-early guide to 2019-20 Texas Tech basketball

Fresh off a national championship loss, the Red Raiders will be sporting a young, athletic team next season

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

That loss hurt. A lot. I won’t spend too much time reliving what happened because by now the game has already been recapped, relived, and discussed by many. The 2018-19 Red Raiders were the best basketball team in program history. There is no debate. The 2017-18 team had the flashy plays. The 1995-96 team had the most dominant regular season in program history. Neither team had anywhere near the overall success of this team, and thankfully the base has been built for a national powerhouse in Lubbock, Texas. With that being said let’s take a look at some of the key players that the Red Raiders will lose next year:

Jarrett Culver

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The stats: 18.6 points per game, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists

The impact: Culver will leave as one of the greatest players in Texas Tech history. He will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft. Unfortunately, his last game of his college career was extremely poor from a shooting perspective, however Culver’s legacy will be one of a local hero, and his primary offensive role will be tough to replace next year. Culver has physical characteristics that match Terrence Shannon and Kevin McCullar, however both players must improve their jumper to reach Culver’s level.

Matt Mooney

The stats: 11.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.3 APG

The impact: Mooney was one of the best perimeter defenders in the Big 12. His hustle will be hard to replicate, however his role offensively should be supplemented by one of the outstanding young guards. Matt’s clutch buckets in the Final 4 paint a bright image on his ability to be a catalyst offensively, however he had his struggles in January and February before having a great March. Regardless, the pride of Wauconda will leave a large hole at the two guard slot.

Brandone Francis

The stats: 6.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.4 APG

The impact: Francis will leave as one of the most important figures in Texas Tech basketball history. He hit clutch shots to beat #2 West Virginia last year, had a huge senior night against Texas, and was instrumental in this tournament run. It will be hard to replace Brandone’s sixth man role, however Tech is bringing in a ton of capable scorers.

Tariq Owens

The stats: 8.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG

The impact: Tariq will leave Texas Tech as the best shot blocker in school history. He shattered Tony Battie’s blocked shot record with 92 total blocks, and put together a season full of swats and slams. He might’ve been the most versatile defender in the country, as he had the ability to guard the perimeter and the paint due to his length and lateral quickness. Tech will struggle to find a rim protector as good as Owens, as none of the current pieces have the size and verticality to match Owens.

Norense Odiase

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The Stats: 4.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .9 BPG

The impact: On paper Norense Odiase should be easy to replace. The 6-8 senior center was not the most agile defender, was not a vertical shot blocker, and was not a huge offensive threat. On paper you’re losing a good rebounder. In reality the Red Raiders are losing THE heart and soul of this team. When Odiase came into Texas Tech in the summer of 2014 he was the player that was supposed to be the centerpiece of a Tubby Smith rebuild. He had arguably the best freshman season of any 2014 recruit, which was a stacked class. Unfortunately three foot injuries and some back issues hampered the rest of Odiase’s college career. Regardless, the fifth year senior transformed his body and proved to be an inspiration for these Red Raiders. Norense Odiase was not the best player of this group of departing players, but he will have the biggest legacy within the program.

Next let’s looks at the projected outline of next season’s team:

The Returning Players

Davide Moretti

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Gonzaga vs Texas Tech Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Stats: 11.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.4 APG

Season review: Moretti shook off a somewhat rough non conference to put together one of the best shooting seasons in Big 12 history. He averaged a 50/50/90 line in Big 12 play, which is the first time that has been done in 22 seasons of conference play. He had 22 games in double figures in his last 25 games, and Moro put together multiple games of 20+ points. I wrote about his importance and success multiple times throughout the season, and after initially favoring Kyler Edwards as a potential starter I realize why Chris Beard had so much faith in the Italian.

Potential Role Next Season: Moretti certainly has the potential to take over as THE guy for the 2019-20 version of the Red Raiders, however I have my doubts. The premise has nothing to do with Moro’s specific ability, but rather the fact that he had an extremely low usage rate (15.7%) despite being Tech’s most efficient player and best shooter as a second option. Despite having obscene amounts of success, Coach Beard did no give Moretti more shots, which may indicate potential discomfort with Moretti as the primary initiator. Still, the Italian sharpshooter will play a vital role in next year’s team.

Kyler Edwards

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Virginia vs Texas Tech Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The stats: 5.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.1 APG

Season Review: Through the first month of the season it looked like Kyler would emerge as the main bench scorer for these Red Raiders. A huge game against Northern Colorado (19 points, 7-7 shooting) was the highlight of his on-conference, however he looked stagnant at the start of conference play. Three scoreless nights in four games provided a rough start to Kyler’s conference season, and he ended it by having seven points in the last five games. Thankfully, those struggles were ended come tournament time. Edwards had a great first four games of the tournament, and he looked like a crucial piece in the Final 4 for Texas Tech. What followed was arguably the biggest two games of the freshman’s life. Against Michigan State he put up six points off a three and an and-one opportunity, which helped alleviate the pain from a rough night shooting from both Culver and Moretti. Against Virginia Edwards reached double figures for the first time since December.

Potential Role Next Season: This is extremely tough to project. Edwards might be the most talented scorer on next year’s team, however with Moretti being an established starter and Jahmius Ramsey literally being the highest rated player to come to Tech it’s hard to envision Edwards starting. I would expect Kyler to slot into the main sixth man role, playing around 25 minutes a night and having the green light at all times. While Edwards would not be considered a starter, he would be one of the team’s most important pieces as a player that can provide a high volume of points on any given night.

Deshawn Corprew

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Michigan vs Texas Tech Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Stats: 5.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, .8 APG

Season Review: Corprew was a mainstay in the rotation for most of his first year in Lubbock, becoming a fan favorite due to his hustle. Unfortunately, his minutes dwindled down the stretch due largely to the emergence of Kyler Edwards. Corprew had a few games in double figures, most notably putting up 12 to help the Red Raiders knock off TCU. Corprew shot 40% from three on over one attempt per game, and his defensive versatility allowed him to play in many lineups.

Potential Role Next Season: This is another tough player to project. Corprew was one of the most efficient players for Tech (115 ORTG),however his playing time down the stretch suggests that there are still areas Deshawn needs to progress in. The problem for Corprew is the players coming in next year. Khavon Moore, Kevin McCullar, and Terrence Shannon are all coming in as wing/guard players that are higher rated prospects. Corprew will have to fight for his minutes next year.

Malik Ondigo

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Practice Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Potential Role Next Season: While Ondigo did not play much this year, a lot of that can be attributed to having both Odiase and Owens. Malik is a longterm project that will continue developing. This year he got occasional important minutes, and it would not surprise me if he was a rotation member starting next year given that it will be his third year under Coach Beard and he just about cracked the rotation early in the season.

Josh Mballa

NCAA Basketball: Texas-Rio Grande Valley at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Potential Role Next Season: Mballa will still be developing next year. While he actually had some good moments of play this year (scoring three points in two minutes vs. Kansas, scoring the last points in the Coliseum), it was obvious Mballa still needed more time to develop. The Frenchman will likely get some spare minutes as a big, and might fight with Khalid Tomas, Russel Tchewa, and Malik Ondigo for two rotation spots.

The New Faces

Some of these players are already on campus, while others are a part of the best recruiting class in school history. In Khavon Moore’s case we’re assuming the two minutes against Iowa State never happened and he’ll receive a medical redshirt. Ultimately, at least four of these players will likely fit into the rotation in some capacity next year, with one to three of them starting depending on how Beard manages his rotation.

Khavon Moore

Maybe the biggest off court storyline during this season was the mysterious status of Khavon Moore. In November it was rumored that Khavon would be back from a severe leg injury by the start of December. December came and Chris Beard claimed that Khavon would not be cleared until after Christmas, and he was unsure if Khavon would play at all. In early January it seemed like Moore would start playing, and in a Januray 16th loss to Iowa State he made his debut, playing a whopping two minutes and failing to record a single statistic. Afterwards it seemed as if Khavon Moore would get more playing time the next few games, however the excitement would be short lived, as Khavon was announced out for the rest of the season in mid February. Since then the message boards have been full of speculation that the highly rated freshman is a selfish, entitled player that would not buy into Beard’s system, much of which is due to a strange tweet that has since been deleted and his disappearance from the bench. As it turns out Moore has recently become a father, and has been in Georgia since Spring Break. Considering Moore’s status as a prospect it seems likely that the former four star recruit (and highest rated recruit in Tech history) will play an important role next year if he’s on the team, which I believe will be the case.

Kevin McCullar

The 6-6 Guard from San Antonio was a consensus four star prospect prior to reclassifying to be a 2018-19 prospect. The result skewed his recruit ranking due to a discrepancy in ranking systems and how they rank mid year prospects, but the ranking does not make McCullar any less tantalizing as a prospect. He’s had four months of strength training with coach John Reilly, which should help improve his slight frame. McCullar is listed as 6-6, 195 pounds, which is exactly how Jarrett Culver is listed. McCullar averaged around five assists and 6.6 rebounds per game as a junior and high school. McCullar is not much of a shooter from deep, however his versatility is extremely valuable in Tech’s system. McCullar has the ability to play any position 1-3, and with some added strength could be an all around beast offensively. McCullar explained his decision to commit to Texas Tech with Vivathematadors, and you can see from his responses how excited he is to be a part of this core group.

Andrei Sarasov

Sarasov is another mid-year enrollee for the Red Raiders, having arrived in February from Russia. Sarasov is a prospect with lots of international experience, and his jump shot looks promising. At around 6-8 or 6-9, Sarasov could play the power forward position for the Red Raiders (listed in broad terms- more like a wing in Beard’s system), however he will need to add strength to be a contributor. Sarasov is the ultimate wild card, as not much is known about him due to the lack of college scouting around him. He could crack the rotation next year, or he could be a developmental piece that has to wait in line to become a key part of the team.

Jahmius Ramsey

With all due respect to the players I have listed above the most anticipated debut for the Red Raiders in 2019-20 will be that of Jahmius Ramsey. Ramsey is the highest rated recruit in Texas Tech basketball history, and is arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing prospects in the country. His game revolves around hustle and athleticism, yet he looks like an extremely controlled player given his usage rate (only two turnovers per game in his senior year.) Ramsey is not a point guard, however with the amount of playmakers on this Tech team it may not be necessary for him to be the main man offensively. Ramsey is potentially the most complete player on the team, with his jumper being his only true weakness as a combo guard. His jump shot needs to improve (31% from deep and 64% from the line), however he has shown flashes of excellence shooting and has some of the best interior finishes of any prospect in the country. Jahmius Ramsey is easily going to be the most explosive player on this team, and might be the strongest. His athleticism (vertical, strength, speed) and physical traits make him one of the most unique players in the class, with a realistic comparison being a young, more explosive version of Marcus Smart. Ramsey will have a chance to get significant minutes straight away, and could be the leader for next year’s Red Raider team.

Terrence Shannon

In most years, Terrence Shannon would be the prized possession of this recruiting class. The 6-6 guard/wing from Chicago is one of the most athletic prospects in the country, and his defensive versatility is extremely impressive. In watching Shannon’s tape I see a lot of similarities between him and Dwayne Bacon. Both are great slashers with impressive versatility that can struggle with shooting. The main difference is that Shannon is a better defender than Bacon was as a prospect, and his vertical isn’t quite what Bacon possesses. Shannon will be contending for starting minutes right away, however his development will depend on improving a jumper that is unorthodox and inconsistent. The IMG product has a ton of potential, and getting him was a huge haul for Chris Beard.

Khalid Thomas

The four star JUCO prospect is one of the best players at the Junior College level. As a freshman at Southern Utah he led the team to a national championship appearance, and individually he put up big stats in his freshman season (sophomore stats have not yet been posted), putting up 14 points per game in 22 minutes on 54% shooting and 41% from three. Thomas looks the part of an athletic big that can space the floor and provide competent defense. Thomas should fit into the rotation right away due to his size and length, and could provide valuable experience thanks to his winning ways at the JUCO level.

Russel Tchewa

Russel Tchewa might be the most intriguing prospect in the 2019 class. A 7 footer from Cameroon, Tchewa has the potential to be a special big. He averaged 11 points per game and seven rebounds a game at Putnam Science Academy, the same prep school that produced Josh Mballa and Malik Ondigo. Tchewa looked great against international competition in the summer of 2018, however it’s worth noting that the U-18 competition that Tchewa faced was significantly smaller than what he’ll face at Tech. Tchewa is obviously raw, however we cannot rule out him having an impact next season due to his sheer size and post scoring ability.

Other Notes

  • Chris Beard utilized a ten man rotation in each of the last two years before playing eight this year. From my perspective it appeared to be less than ideal in Beard’s mind initially, as he attempted to work Ondigo into the rotation early on, and he briefly utilized Avery Benson as a short sub for Moretti and Mooney. Eventually Beard settled with a hard eight man rotation, which means that all eight players had defined minutes with no scheduled minutes for any other players. This worked out in the tournament, however it still seems likely that Beard will try to implement a ten man rotation given the amount of fatigue created by the motion coach utilizes on both ends of the court.
  • Next year’s team is not slated to have a senior on the team. While Tech could utilize the grad transfer market, there will likely only be one available scholarship, which could be left open for mid year enrolee situations (I.e. CJ Roberts and Andrei Sarasov). The lack of seniors could cause initial chemistry problems, however it is worth noting that the 2015-16 team only had two seniors under Tubby Smith and still revitalized the program. While no players are technically seniors, the team will have leadership from established veterans Davide Moretti and Kyler Edwards.
  • Chris Beard has never used a starting lineup without a big in his three years at Texas Tech, however he has brought in lineups with no player over 6-6. Against Virginia, Tech played about ten minutes of the second half with a lineup of Moretti, Mooney, Culver, Edwards, and Francis. In 2018 the closing lineup while Zach Smith was injured consisted of Evans, Stevenson, Culver, Gray, and Zhaire. That lineup was among the most successful in NETRTG in 2018. In 2017, Beard played lineups with Anthony Livingston as a stretch five for most of the year at the expense of Matt Temple.
  • Next year’s team does not have a surefire big that will start, however that does not mean Beard will force a player into Tariq Owens’ role. People do not realize that Mark Adams’ “No Middle” philosophy has the ability to be much more guard oriented and aggressive, which is what next year’s team presents. 2018’s defense was much more reliant on perimeter versatility than interior defense, which is what the future defense will most likely look like.

Here is my projected rotation, with starters in bold, rough minutes at each spot in parentheses, and a brief explanation below:

Davide Moretti (27)/Kyler Edwards (10)/Kevin McCullar (3)

Jahmius Ramsey (26)/Terrence Shannon (3)/Edwards (7)/McCullar(4)

Deshawn Corprew (19)/Kevin McCullar (6)/Khavon Moore (4)/Shannon (7)/Edwards (4)

Khavon Moore (20)/Andrei Sarasov (8)/Khalid Thomas (5)/Corprew (5)/McCullar (2)

Khalid Thomas (21)/Malik Ondigo (12)/Sarasov (5)/Moore (2)

To me this ten man rotation allows for a flexible starting lineup with two 40% three point shooters, multiple facilitators, and a versatile defense. The bench is stacked with elite wing talent, and Kyler Edwards is able to take over as the sixth man, which puts him in a variety of different roles. Having Kevin McCullar and Terrence Shannon allows the team to have two versatile pieces off the bench, which helps in the event of match-up issues or foul trouble.

How do you think next year will go? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!