Basketball

Has Texas Tech Solved the Frontcourt Problem?

One of the biggest questions for me is whether or not Texas Tech has solved its frontcourt issues. As you may recall from last year, the frontcourt largely consisted of T.J. Holyfield, who battled his ass off on a regular basis, but generally played as the lone big man in a Big 12 Conference that is traditionally loaded with big men. And not just big men, but talented, athletic guys that can block shots, and dunk in your face.

There are four teams that I’m really concerned from a frontcourt standpoint: 1) Baylor; 2) West Virginia; 3) Kansas; and 4) Texas. Those are also probably the best teams in the conference. The question for Texas Tech is if they have the big men to battle with the top of the conference, but I think that we need to look closer at who is returning for each team.

Baylor

Baylor’s bigs consist of essentially 8 players and they have a ton of size. An abundance if you will:

  • Mark Vital, Sr. (6-5/250)
  • Jordan Turner, R-Fr (6-8/195)
  • Jackson Moffatt, R-So (6-7/200)
  • Matthew Mayer, Jr. (6-9/225)
  • Flo Thamba, Jr. (6-8/245)
  • Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, R-So (6-8/245)
  • Tristan Clark, Sr. (6-10/235)
  • Zach Loveday, Fr. (7-0/215)
  • Dain Dainja, Fr. (6-9/270)

I’d say of those, Vital, Turner, Moffatt, and Mayer are more wings than bigs, and Thamba, Tchatchoua, Clark, Loveday, and Dainja are the big men. That’s 5 players over 235.

Kansas

Bill Self normally doesn’t carry a ton of frontcourt players, but they are generally really talented and this year is no different. Kansas typically wants a ton of sharpshooting three-point guards and tweener type of players.

  • Tristan Enaruna, So. (6-8/200)
  • Jalen Wilson, R-Fr. (6-8/215)
  • Silvio De Sousa, Sr. (6-9/245)
  • David McCormack, Jr. (6-10/220)
  • Mitch Lightfoot, R-Sr. (6-8/225)

That’s significantly less beef than Baylor. If you wanted to be picky, you could maybe also add in Christian Braun (6-6/205) as an option as a wing. Self always seems like he’s able to protect his bigs and plays them big minutes. De Sousa and McCormack are probably going to be the starters at the forward and center.

West Virginia

Bob Huggins has a monster of a frontcourt, maybe the best in the conference if I’m being honest.

  • Emmitt Matthews, Jr., Jr. (6-7/215)
  • Jalen Bridges, R-Fr. (6-7/220)
  • Taj Thweatt, Fr. (6-7/210)
  • Isaiah Cottrell, Fr. (6-10/240)
  • Derek Culver, Jr. (6-10/255)
  • Seny Ndiaye, Fr. (6-10/235)
  • Gabe Osabuohien, Sr. (6-7/235)
  • Oscar Tshiebwe, So. (6-9/260)

Again, your wings are Matthews, Bridges, and Thweatt, while the bigs are Cottrell, Culver, Ndiaye, Osabuohien, and Tsiebwe. Culver is a best and so is Tshiebwe. That’s 5 players over 235 in weight.

Texas

This is probably Shaka Smart’s most talented team and it’s led by and absolute stud of a freshman.

  • Gerald Liddell, Jr. (6-8/205)
  • Greg Brown, III, Fr. (6-9/205)
  • Brock Cunningham, R-So (6-5/204)
  • Royce Hamm, Jr., Sr. (6-9/225)
  • Jericho Sims, Sr. (6-10/245)
  • Kai Jones, So. (6-11/218)
  • Kamaka Hepa, Jr. (6-9/220)
  • Will Baker, So. (6-11/240)

Brown is going to be a joy to watch as a freshman, one of the more talented players in the conference, and for Texas to return Hamm, Sims, Jones, Hepa, and Baker is very solid. They were all pretty raw last year, but they are all really gifted.

Texas Tech

Definitely more bigs than last year, but is it enough.

  • Terrence Shannon, Jr., Jr. (6-6/210)
  • Kevin McCullar, R-So. (6-5/205)
  • Micah Peavy, Fr. (6-7/215)
  • Chibuzo Agbo, Fr. (6-7/215)
  • Tyreek Smith, R-Fr. (6-7/215)
  • Joel Ntambwe, R-So. (6-8/225)
  • Marcus Santos-Silva, Sr. (6-7/245)
  • Vladislav Goldin, Fr. (7-1/240)

Now, I somewhat doubt some of these weights, maybe they are a bit low because I don’t think there’s anyway that Smith is less than 230 based on offseason photos, and I’d also add that Ntambwe is also bigger than 225, but maybe not. I’m not really expecting Goldin to really play much at all, no offense, but I think that based on his skill level, he’s got a ways to go. Hopefully he sticks around and develops.

That means that I think there are 3 true big men, Smith, Ntambwe, and Santos-Silva with the thought that Santos-Silva is going to play a ton of minutes.

Shannon, McCullar, Peavy, and Agbo are all going to be wing type of players and McCullar plays bigger than advertised, and I’d guess that Agbo will also do that. He’s pretty developed for a true freshman. Peavy was pretty slight coming out of high school, so I’ll be incredibly interested in his progress physically.

Does this mean that Texas Tech has solved whatever frontcourt issues that plagued the team last year? Generally speaking, I think it’s better, but not in the same class as Baylor, Texas, and West Virginia. They all have a lot of size and skill, with Baylor and West Virginia being able to absolutely wreck things inside for a lot of teams.

The x-factors for Texas Tech I think will be a few things:

1. The ability of Ntambwe will to draw out certain defenders on the perimeter and I think he’s going to be a tough cover for a lot of those big men. Beard hasn’t really ever had a traditional post-up guy and I don’t envision that Ntambwe is that guy, but I do envision a scorer who can create match-up issues.

2. Smith, who I think will be a revelation for the rest of the Big 12. He was a guy who was hidden all of last year redshirting and I do think opposing fans are going to wonder who the hell this jumping-jack of a forward is for Texas Tech that blocks shots and grabs rebounds.

3. And how the freshmen adjust to life in the Big 12, Peavy and Agbo. Agbo is more Ntambwe than anything else, a very versatile forward who can hit from the outside, and Peavy is a sleek, maybe more polished version of McCullar (although I think McCullar’s ability to mix it up no matter who he guards and score without having his number called is incredibly advantageous for Texas Tech).

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