Texas Tech basketball began its season with a practice and a thorough press conference on Tuesday.
Red Raiders coach Chris Beard, who said he didn’t feel so good because he watched film of Duke on Tuesday morning, was nonetheless in midseason form as he joked about recruiting at the old folks home while eating Salisbury steak. At the end of the day, Beard talked about the upcoming season for 19 minutes.
Let that sink in. Texas Tech’s basketball coach talked about the upcoming season to the media for just shy of 20 minutes on a September afternoon.
Beard spoke about developing consistency within the program. And while he also said that each team is different and he doesn’t want to talk about last season too much as this campaign goes on, there are some similarities between the 2017-18 squad and the 2018-19 version on paper.
For example, look at the breakdown between returners and newcomers:
Key returnees: Justin Gray, Niem Stevenson, Zach Smith, Keenan Evans, Norense Odiase. Newcomers: Tommy Hamilton, Brandone Francis, Zhaire Smith, Malik Ondigo, Jarrett Culver, Davide Moretti.
Key returnees: Francis, Ondigo, Culver, Moretti, Odiase. Newcomers: Kyler Edwards, Deshawn Corprew, Tariq Owens, Matt Mooney, Khavon Moore, Josh Mballa.
So to properly put those similarities in perspective, here are the glass-half-empty and glass-half-full scenarios:
Glass half empty — Keenan Evans is gone. He was called a once-in-a-generation player and his shoes will be impossible to fill. The Red Raiders won between two and a dozen games a year ago because Evans took over in the clutch. To make matters worse, there’s also no replacing Gray, Stevenson and Zach Smith and the wealth of experience they brought to the table. And, oh by the way, Zhaire Smith is in the NBA now.
Texas Tech brought in a great recruiting class, there’s no perspective that can cloud that fact, but there’s no guarantee that the team will gel now that it’s missing so much experience.
Glass half full – The only difference between Texas Tech’s five returning players last season and its five starting returners this season is that the current crew has three NCAA Tournament wins to its credit.
Norense Odiase is the only constant in the two groups and that’s a huge bonus as Odiase is a leader extraordinaire.
Kyler Edwards and Khavon Moore come into the program as higher-rated prospects than Culver and Zhaire Smith were a year ago. Owens and Mooney are potential All-Big 12 players. And Corprew and Mballa each give the Red Raiders a boost in athleticism.
Culver will likely be tasked with filling Evans’s role as clutch scorer and Beard is indicating that the sophomore from Lubbock is up to it.
“Jarrett Culver has a chance to be one of, if not the best player to ever play at this school,” Beard said on Tuesday.
And with that, Beard has the ingredients for a Big 12 championship contender.