After struggling on the road all season, the Texas Longhorns have one final chance to pick up a victory in a true away game tonight in Lubbock. Shaka Smart’s team will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who bring a 5-11 conference record into the contest.
I think we can safely say that this season has been something of a disappointment for Texas Tech. After a breakout season a year ago under then head coach Tubby Smith, the Red Raiders returned much of their roster, which was bolstered by several talented transfers brought in by new head coach Chris Beard. But it just hasn’t worked out as well as had been hoped.
The core of the Red Raider roster is its talented junior class. The most talented of all of them is forward Zach Smith, a do-everything rebounder, shot blocker, and scorer who this season has added a perimeter shot to his arsenal. Fellow juniors Keenan Evans and Justin Gray have played together for a while now, and to the mix Beard added two junior JuCo All-American transfers: guards Niem Stevenson and Shadell Millinghaus.
The Raiders also play several solid seniors alongside these juniors. 6’8 marksmen Anthony Livingston is the best, while senior guard Devon Thomas (who is having a nice year) and big man Matthew Temple also play.
That is a lot of juniors and seniors; the Red Raiders don’t really give any run to any younger players. Texas Tech is one of the most experienced teams in the nation, and these aren’t just experience players — they have some talent as well. So why hasn’t the year gone better?
Some of the problem for Tech has simply been the level of competition. The Big 12 is a tough league, and someone has to take the losses in this conference. But we also have to come to terms with the fact that Texas Tech just isn’t very good defensively. This particular group of players never really has been good defensively. Texas Tech has the second worst defense in Big 12 games (as measured by points per possession) after having the worst defense in the league for the previous two years.
On offense, the Red Raiders are solid. They share the ball, take care of the ball, and can hit shots. But the Longhorns will have a chance to get their offense on track against one of the worst defenses in the league.
The game tips off at 8 PM CST, and airs on ESPN2.