As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just about one month from now - and to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, written by Torres Online. college basketball writer Zac Krull (with Torres pitching in to lend a helping hand here or there)
In case you missed it, we've already previewed the Memphis Tigers, then hit the Illinois Fighting Illini, Wyoming Cowboys, Xavier Musketeers, Michigan State Spartans and Alabama Crimson Tide. We also covered Dayton, a Top 25 team at A-10 Media Days.
Today, we move to the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Mark Adams hit it big in Year 1, making the school's third Sweet 16 in five seasons. And with a deep roster full of new faces, there's no reason Texas Tech can't get back there again in 2023.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
How it went down in 2021-2022
When Chris Beard arrived in Lubbock in the spring of 2016 to take over as head basketball coach, everything immediately changed for the Texas Tech basketball program. Texas Tech hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament in nine years and the furthest they’d ever gone in the Big Dance was making it to the Sweet 16 in 2005. Beard however brought the program to new heights during his five-year tenure, bringing the Red Raiders all the way to the National Championship game in 2019, along with an Elite Eight run in 2018.
We all know what happened two April's ago however, as Beard decided to leave for Texas Tech's cross-state rival and his alma mater Texas. In what has become a very famous story in Texas Tech circles, Beard offered his entire Texas tech staff the opportunity to “hop on that plane” and go with him to Austin.
The one person who refused this offer was assistant coach Mark Adams, who at the age of 65 was making a risky decision in the next step of his coaching future. He said at the time:
“He recruited me as hard as anybody to go down to Texas, and … you know when we get on that plane with him — and well — you know…Texas Tech is where I want to be a coach,” Adams said. “But [Beard] made a real hard push which I appreciate. I was flattered by that.”
“But I want to stay here.”
Well, he did stay. And despite not being a Division I head coach in close to 30 years - and even spending time as the owner of the Lubbock Cotton Kings, members of the Western Professional Hockey League - he thrived in Year 1. Texas Tech finished with an overall record of 27-10 enroute to a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet 16 appearance.
More importantly, Adams put his own stamp on the program.
Adams' defensive principles were the backbone of Beard's time in Lubbock. That defensive intensity didn’t go anywhere, as Texas Tech led the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at 66.6 points per game, while using the patented “no middle” philosophy. Also, despite having nine players that averaged over 15 minutes per game last season, Adams always made sure Texas Tech had length on the floor at all times to get into the passing lanes and force as many turnovers as possible.
Texas Tech had several moments to remember throughout the season, but the if there's one number that stands out, it's a record of 18-0 at home. Not only did Texas Tech finish the season with a perfect record at the United Supermarkets Arena, but the atmosphere has become among the best in college basketball.
This was evident when Chris Beard made his highly anticipated return to Lubbock last February, and it was clear very early on that Texas or anyone else in the country would not have been able to go into Lubbock that night and win. The fact that Texas made the game remotely competitive was impressive, considering the atmosphere and clear hatred for Beard in that building.
Although it’s unlikely that special night in Lubbock could ever be matched, it is clear that Texas Tech’s home court advantage is extremely impressive, while being one of the tougher visiting arenas for anyone to come into and win.
And it's clear that the best of the Adams era is just beginning.
After a Sweet 16 run in 2022, Adams has another squad capable of making a deep run in 2022-2023.
What You Need To Know About 2022-2023
Key Returnees: Kevin Obanor, Daniel Batcho, KJ Allen, Jaylon Tyson (transfer, redshirted last season)
Key Losses: Bryson Williams, Terrance Shannon Jr., Kevin McCullar, Davion Warren, Adonis Arms, Marcus Santos- Silva, Clarence Nadolny, Mylik Wilson
Key Transfers: Fardaws Aimaq (Utah Valley), De’Vion Harmon (Oregon), Kerwin Walton (North Carolina), D’Maurean Williams (Gardner Webb)
Key Recruits: Elijah Fisher, Richard Isaacs, Lamar Washington, Robert Jennings
National Title Odds via Betfred Sportsbook: +3000
Texas Tech will be losing seven of their top eight leading scorers from last year’s Sweet 16 team, including two star players who elected to continue their careers at different schools (Kevin McCullar at Kansas; TJ Shannon at Illinois). Luckily, a year ago at this time Texas Tech went into the regular season with a new head coach and without its leading scorer the previous season (Mac McClung) and as mentioned above, things worked out fine.
Texas Tech will have a ton of new faces, but last season Adams did a really good job in bringing in specific players from the transfer portal who he knew would fit in perfectly with this Texas Tech team. In the 2022 off-season, the Red Raiders added three marquee transfers from the transfer portal who should make a major impact straight off the bat, with each being heavily recruited by teams across college hoops.
Six-foot, eleven-inch big man Fardaws Aimaq was one of the top players on the market this offseason, after a terrific last two seasons at Utah Valley. Unfortunately, Aimaq got hurt in the preseason, but Adams said at Big 12 Media Day that the hope is that he will be back by January. Aimaq led the Wolverines in scoring last season, averaging 18.9 points per game and rebounding with 13.6 boards per game, his rebound total second only to Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe.
On the perimeter, Oregon transfer De’Vion Harmon should get the keys to the offense, as Texas Tech’s primary ball handler. This will be something to monitor for Texas Tech, as each of the last two seasons McCullar was Texas Tech’s primary ball handler, but he also wasn’t a true point guard. McCullar did a great job distributing the basketball, while leading an elite defense and consistently getting in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers. With Harmon, that point guard role should be somewhat better offensively, but there are no guarantees it’ll work. Harmon averaged 10.8 points per game at Oregon last year, after averaging 12.9 points and 2.1 assists at Oklahoma two seasons ago. Consistency will be the key for him this season, and it could be a key for this year's Texas Tech team.
There aren't a ton of returnees, but Kevin Obanor is Texas Tech’s leading returning scorer from last season and whether he takes a step forward or not will be another key to the Red Raiders' season. Obanor was one of the stars for Oral Roberts during their magical Sweet 16 run in 2021, but was up and down in his first season last year in Lubbock. He hit plenty of big shots at opportune times when Texas Tech needed them, but also taking some head scratching shots that were completely out of rhythm. We do know that Obanor will not be afraid to take any shot at any time, but the question will be is that a good thing for Texas Tech? Or is he better in a complementary role when he doesn’t have as many opportunities to score the basketball? He shot a career worst 33.6 percent from three-point land a season ago.
Also returning is forward Daniel Batcho. Batco was a former highly-coveted recruit who committed to Arizona, got hurt and left following Sean Miller's departure in the summer of 2021. He was limited in Year 1 under Adams at Texas Tech while he eased himself back in from knee surgery. However, Adams has routinely mentioned all off-season how big of a role he could have for this team.
Finally, it's worth noting that Texas Tech signed its highest-rated recruit ever in guard Elijah Fisher, who elected to reclassify and play college ball this season. He arrived late in the summer in Lubbock after playing for his native Canada in international competition.
Texas Tech will be representing the Big 12 in arguably the most loaded and star-studded field in the history of the Maui Invitational.
College Basketball’s best will be returning to the legendary gym of the Lahaina Civic Center, for the first time since 2019, and in Texas Tech's opener they will get Creighton - a squad that begins the season ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll and was picked to finish first in the Big East standings.
Should Texas Tech win, it appears as though Arkansas, which should also be ranked in the preseason Top 10, will be waiting for the winner of that one, assuming they could get by Louisville. San Diego State, Arizona and Ohio State, who all have aspirations of making it back to the NCAA Tournament after getting their last season, will also be in attendance along with a sneaky good Cincinnati team that has realistic tournament aspirations in the second year of the Wes Miller era.
Aside from Maui, Texas Tech will be taking on Georgetown - who didn’t win a single game during Big East play last season - in the Big East-Big 12 Battle and draws LSU on the road in the Big 12 SEC challenge for the second time in three years. The Red Raiders went into Baton Rouge in 2021 and stole a win from LSU with a dramatic comeback victory in the final minutes.
The best part about playing in the Big 12, is that in most years the conference games by itself are going to give you enough opportunities at quality wins to build a tournament resume.
Texas Tech will have even more chances than some of its Big 12 brethren, considering the loaded field of the Maui.
What to Expect in 2022-2023
Heading into the 201-2022 season, Texas Tech was picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 and the preseason poll, and they did one better finishing in third. This year they were picked to finish tied for fifth, and it's quite easy to see the scenario where they surpass that during the season.
Right now, I predict Texas tech to finish sixth in the Big 12 behind those four teams mentioned and Oklahoma, with the Red Raiders finding a way into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed. Mark Adams proved last season that he is capable of leading a team to the NCAA Tournament and exceeding expectations in the process.
This version of Texas Tech will take a slight step back compared to last year's team considering the amount of talent they lost. With that being said, the players that Mark Adams brought in to replace those guys should fit in well with his system and the Red Raiders will have enough to get back to their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament dating back to 2018, after they only made it once since 2005 in the 13 years prior to that.
Over the course of the last few seasons, Texas Tech has become one of the more consistent programs in all of college basketball with an elite culture, a passionate fanbase and arguably the best home court advantage in the sport. Red Raider fans have to be excited about the future of the Mark Adams era, considering Year 1 couldn’t have gone much better, especially compared to their newest rival being led by the Red Raiders former head coach.
Read previous previews here:
No. 30 - Memphis Tigers
No. 29 - Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 28 - Dayton Flyers
No. 27 - Wyoming Cowboys
No. 26 - Xavier Musketeers
No. 25 - Michigan State Spartans
No. 24 - Alabama Crimson Tide
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