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Could the solution to this basketball team’s problems have already played for the Red Raiders?

The situation could be different if maybe Josh Mballa or Malik Ondigo were still on the roster.

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

There are some real issues with this Red Raider team this season and none of them have been more prevalent than the inability to compete with other big teams in the paint. T.J. Holyfield is getting most of the minutes down there but has been rather ineffective. I know that he’s been battling a shoulder injury that wiped out last season at Stephen F. Austin but that doesn’t explain why there is a lack of anyone else who can fill minutes when Holyfield isn’t playing well.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I know we have Russel Tchewa on the roster and you would be correct that he is a legit 7-footer that could become a very good player for the Red Raiders one day in the future. He is just not ready for big minutes or any minutes at all in Big 12 play yet. What this team could be missing here might have already played for the Red Raiders. Both of them are now at different schools, one averaging nearly a double-double, the other is sitting out this year due to transfer rules and will have a huge impact on his team next season.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Illinois at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to ask the question, would this team be in any better shape if Malik Ondigo or Josh Mballa would have stayed this season?

Both guys would have surely played that center spot and both of them could have played valuable minutes for the Red Raiders this season. Mballa is now at Buffalo where he has started every game and is leading the team with 8.8 rebounds per game. While he would not have started here, I think Mballa would have played a decent role, especially with the center issues we are having now.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Regional - Anaheim - Practice Sessions Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

The same could be said for Malik Ondigo. He is currently sitting out a year at Rice and will be able to play next season. His size at 6’10 would be greatly used this season. Again, I’m not sure how much of a role he would have played, but he is more developed than Tchewa at this point and I think he could have actually helped.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Iowa State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

I ultimately think that if either of these guys would have stayed, it would have made an impact but not a huge one. It may have helped against Baylor and West Virginia but I don’t think it would have swung the game in a huge direction one way or another. There was a reason both of these guys were allowed to go to other programs.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

This argument is definitely something I will be thinking of as the season goes on. If the Red Raiders continue to have major troubles rebounding the basketball, I think the answer to this question might be yes, Mballa or Ondigo would have helped this team. If they can figure out their rebounding and get on a win streak, these two guys will be an afterthought about coming back this season.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I fully trust Coach Beard with personnel and player decisions. He most likely saw that in a sport dominated by athletes that can shoot over the past few seasons, bruising centers are no longer needed to win a championship.

What do you think of this argument? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter @vivathematadors!