Many are predicting that the bottom four teams in the Big 12 are going to be atrocious this coming year. I'm not totally sold on that train of thought just yet, but I'm not exactly optimistic about the overall strength of the back half of the league. We started out our conference countdown series on Wednesday by taking a look at TCU, which figures to be plenty awful this season. Well, Texas Tech probably isn't going to be much better, which is a shame for the Red Raiders because they look like a team that is actually a player or two away from being pretty salty.
The loss of Josh Gray in April was a huge blow to the future of Tech basketball. Gray showed glimpses as a freshman that he could become one of the better guards in the league had he stuck around in Lubbock, but alas, he decided to transfer and left a gaping hole in the back court. First-year Red Raider coach, Tubby Smith, will try to put a patchwork point guard together, but there just doesn't appear to be enough talent on the roster and it's for this reason that I'm picking Texas Tech ninth in the conference.
Unofficial Team Motto For 2013-2014
It's time to cut the fat ... oh who are we kidding, let's get Tubby!
Who's Worth Knowing About
I really like the front court duo of Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert. They're a notch below some of the better big men in the league, but both are productive and could flourish under Tubby's tutelage. Although not a starter on last year's team, Crockett was arguably Tech's best player and I thought the Red Raiders played best when he and Tolbert were on the floor together in more of a small-ball lineup. The strength of this Tech team is easily in the front court and Crockett might just be versatile enough to play on the perimeter, allowing Tubby to mask the lack of quality depth he has in the back court. Two other guys that could be solid are Dejan Kravic and Dusty Hannahs. Both worked their way into the starting lineup for interim coach, Chris Walker a season ago and each showed that they have some game. Kravic finished the year strong, scoring 20 points in a loss to Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. The 7-footer gives Tech another guy in the post that can score and rebound. Hannahs started 17 games as a freshman and at 6'4" is the ideal size for a shooting guard. His overall numbers weren't great, but he did shoot a decent 37.4% from outside and 80% from the charity stripe. Hannahs is the only returning scoring threat in Tech's back court.
Say Something Nice About Texas Tech
Provided the Red Raider faithful is patient, I think Tubby Smith can be successful in Lubbock. He's a proven name with a national championship ring on his finger that has won in the SEC and Big Ten. Texas is exploding with prep talent lately and with Texas and Texas A&M trending downward, that talent is completely up for grabs (or in Scott Drew's case, you might say that it's a buyer's market). Sure some of the shine has worn off Tubby, but he and Tech could be a perfect match for each other. The pressure to win immediately in Lubbock is nowhere near what it was in Lexington or Minneapolis and with some job security, Tubby has shown that he can identify and bring in talented ball players.
And Now An Uncalled For Cheap Shot
This scrappy fella is still a Red Raider.
...and the Dancing Ginger is still going to get far too much air time.
Last Season Against Iowa State
Well, you might remember that bullshit effort in Lubbock. Iowa State traveled to Tech and turned in their worst performance of the year, losing 56-51 in an embarrassingly bad fashion. The 51 points was the only time all year Iowa State was held under 60 and we all yelled profanities at our TV and went to work pissed off the next morning. The Cyclones got revenge in Ames, winning by 20 later on in the season, just two days prior to the Hilton Heist.
Why Texas Tech Will Finish 9th
Really, it boils down to guard play. I don't want to say that Texas Tech has a shit sandwich for a back court, but maybe a Burger King Alaskan fish sandwich, which is a shitty sandwich. While Hannahs has some breakout potential, Tubby is going to have to find a point guard out of guys better suited for coming off the bench. As I alluded to earlier, it really is a shame that Tubby doesn't have better guards at his disposal because he does have a solid front line. Unfortunately, that won't be enough to make up for the deficiencies of the back court.
And Now The Final Prediction
The Crockett-Tolbert combo will be good enough to win a few games here and there and if a quality lead guard can emerge, Tech might just find themselves a little higher up the conference ladder. I don't see it happening, nor do I see the Red Raiders winning more than 4-5 conference games.