Can Texas Tech Basketball once again have a better season than in-state rival Texas?
One of the biggest turnarounds over the past three seasons has been the resurgence of the Texas Tech basketball program. The Red Raiders struggled to get to 20 wins and relevance in the conference for quite some time. That was until Chris Beard took over and immediately made an impact.
Texas Tech had been without an NCAA Tournament bid from 2007 till 2016. With head coaching stints from Pat Knight, Billy Gillispie, Chris Walker, and Tubby Smith. Beard has been the guy and officially made Lubbock a hot spot for high-end recruits to come play basketball, which is a very hard task to do.
The UT alumni brought in fantastic players like Jarrett Culver, Davide Moretti, and Zhaire Smith. After being ranked #6, according to KenPom, Texas Tech is expected to have another fantastic year, after a slight letdown last season, with an 18-13 finish.
For Shaka Smart and Texas, the name of the game has always been recruiting at a high level. With the relevancy of great college players in the past, it’s easy to convince kids to come play in Austin. Over the past few years, Smart has built his teams to have shot-blocking forwards and playmaking guards.
Whether it be Mo Bamba, Jarrett Allen, or last season’s Jericho Sims, there is always an elite player down low. Where Smart has struggled with Texas is coaching the youth and player development. Texas has 10 former Top 100 recruits on their roster, yet mustered a 19-12 record on the season.
This has been a trend for the Horns as Texas has had just two 20 win seasons during Smart’s 5-year tenure and a bad record against Baylor and Texas Tech. Optimism is in for Texas as a great recruiting class and a good supporting cast has them ranked as #9 in the country, according to KenPom.
This is a situation where these two programs are seeming to go in different directions. Chris Beard has returned Texas Tech to their consistency of competing in the Big 12, something that has been missing since the early 2000s.
For Shaka Smart, the recruiting has still been elite and can produce lottery picks, based on their high school ranking and enough college production. However, quite of few Longhorn fans are disgruntled with Smart and want an immediate impact very soon from a team success standpoint.
With these two teams in different directions, I believe this is a sign that Texas Tech will have the upper hand. Not only this season but possibly in the seasons following this one.