Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking an in-depth look at every school in the Big XII. I'll focus on the past (i.e. last season's strengths and weaknesses), the changes (i.e. incoming freshmen, departing seniors, new coaches), and the future.
See past previews: Iowa State, Nebraska, Oklahoma
Texas Tech ushers in the middle tier of our Big XII preseason previews. The Red Raiders are difficult to predict. I'm not going to sugarcoat things: they'll probably be pretty abysmal during conference play. They'll get a few victories, no doubt about that. But the chances of them finishing with a .500 conference record are slim to none. Ignoring a recent sprinkling of NCAA tournament bids (including one visit to the Sweet Sixteen), largely thanks to the legendary Bob Knight, Texas Tech doesn't have a recent pedigree for success. They haven't been horrendous, but they haven't been contending for conference titles either. After the General left, his son graciously took over. Bob led the Red Raiders to five winning season out of six (he left with a 12-8 record during his 7th year), and Pat has compiled a record of 37-42 since taking the helm.
It's not entirely fair to hold Pat Knight up to his father's legacy, but at some point he needs to be held accountable as a coach. Writing him off as "not quite as good" doesn't give him a free pass to lose year in and year out. Last year was his first winning season (4-12 in the conference though). I expect the folks over in Lubbock will start to get a little bit antsy if he doesn't do better this year; although, his dad did put them on the map. It's a tough call, but I'd try to lure him into some administrative position below the athletic director. Keep him on salary but off the court. If he doesn't sniff at .500 in conference play this year (I think 7-9 or maybe 6-10 with a marquee win would be good enough), his seat should start heating up pretty quickly.
More after the jump.
As for the changes, Texas Tech lost close to twenty points in Nick Okorie and Darko Cohadarevic. While both played significant minutes, I don't think they'll be hurt too much by the losses. They bring in two guards, Javarez Willis and Jamel Outler, and a power forward, Paul Cooper, to help ease the pain. I'm not sure Outler will be an instant impact player, but I'm expecting David Tairu to pick up some of the slack. Far more important than the players leaving, are the players returning: Mike Singletary and John Roberson were the two most important players on last year's squad, and I expect them to continue. Together they added close to 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists a game. Those numbers should only go up. If Tairu can have a breakout season, Texas Tech could really surprise some people.
Unfortunately, I'm not seeing any major surprises. While the Red Raiders have the experience to finish around the halfway point in the conference, I just don't see it happening. Frankly, I'm not sure their athletic department does either. Take this quote from a July press release:
The South Padre Island Invitational, one of college basketball's elite Thanksgiving tournaments, has put together another stellar field that includes two teams which participated in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Now, I'm not knocking BYU or Saint Mary's, but two teams from the Big Dance? That qualifies as a stellar field? That's one fourth of the teams! That's a worse percentage than the Big XII as a conference sent last season. Riddle me unimpressed and questioning the use of "stellar."
Regardless, the Red Raiders have scheduled a cupcake nonconference schedule (other than the Washington Huskies for their Big 12/Pac-10 game and a game at UTEP) highlighted by Liberty University (maybe twice), the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, and Georgia Southern. Two games against Oklahoma, and one against Nebraska and Iowa State should provide at least last year's four conference victories. The Red Raiders also play Texas A&M and Oklahoma State twice (winnable games if they're playing well; especially at home). I predict a 5-11 conference record, and the hot seat for Pat Knight.
Follow me on Twitter: @rise_and_fire