Now that FanRagSports’ Jon Rothstein has his Big 12 offseason notebook, I thought it would be a good time to pull together the various preseason Big 12 basketball notebooks from the summer. We’ll tackle Rothstein first, who believes Texas Tech is the sleeper of the Big 12 this year:
Texas Tech. Older teams have always won in college basketball and few are older than the 2017-18 Red Raiders. Chris Beard’s squad returns six seniors from last year’s team that went 18-14 overall and 6-12 in the Big 12, but those numbers are a bit deceiving. This squad lost five league games by four points or fewer and that doesn’t include a nine-point double-overtime defeat at West Virginia. Add two capable transfers — Tommy Hamilton (DePaul) and Brandone Francis (Florida) — and Texas Tech is more than capable of finishing in the top half of the Big 12.
Rothstein predicts that Texas Tech will finish 6th in the Big 12 and thinks Keenan Evans is an all-conference player with Zhaire Smith being an under the radar freshman, with Brandone Francis and Tommy Hamilton IV being two impact transfers.
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander has Texas Tech pegged as the 7th best team in the Big 12:
Chris Beard doesn’t have name players, but Tech was hellish to play in the league last season. A lot of guys return, and two solid transfers are eligible. Remember the name Keenan Evans.
SI’s Molly Geary has her preseason power rankings and also thinks Texas Tech finishes 7th:
The Red Raiders were one of the most experienced teams in the country last season and bring back their top two scorers, Keenan Evans and top rebounder Zach Smith.
Geary also asks a question of each team and wonders if Beard can get Texas Tech to the NCAA Tournament in year two:
Chris Beard’s first season in Lubbock started strong with an 11–1 mark against a soft nonconference schedule and wins over West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU within the Raiders’ first six Big 12 games. But things went downhill from there with a 4–10 mark the rest of the way. Now, Texas Tech will look to make its second NCAA tourney in three years behind the senior duo of point guard Keenan Evans and big man Zach Smith. Shooting guard Niem Stevenson and wing Justin Gray also make up the core of the returners.
The team will feature a number of new faces as well. Florida transfer Brandone Francis, a former four-star recruit who struggled with the Gators, is now eligible, and a number of incoming freshman and juco transfers arrive, including Jarrett Culver and Daniel Mading. The Red Raiders will need to put their disappointing end to 2016–17 behind them as they begin a fresh start next season.
It should be noted that Beard did a podcast with Rothstein and Beard said that getting to the NCAA Tournament is the expectation this year and every year, but he also said that there are four scholarship freshman on the team, one of them being Davide Moretti, which leaves only three others, most likely Jarrett Culver, Zhaire Smith and Malik Ondigo. That means that Daniel Mading didn’t make it to Texas Tech for some reason, or at least that’s the thought? I’m not sure and other than that mention by Beard and looking at some of the offseason workout photos, I haven’t seen Mading.