Right now, your Red Raiders are 10-0 and are the No. 12 team in the country. They about to go to Madison Square Garden to play probably the biggest face of college basketball the last three in decades in Duke. There is a lot on the line.
If you remember a year ago, Texas Tech was undefeated playing a tough opponent in Madison Square Garden where they were not favored. We also weren’t quite sure exactly how good the Red Raiders were. And that got me thinking; how much are this year’s team and last year’s team alike?
Well we’re going to break down similarities and differences from the squads so far to see how good is this Texas Tech squad, whether that are properly rated, slightly underrated or perhaps overrated?
Last year, the Red Raiders put the ball in the hands of Keenan Evans in the final minutes or key minutes of the game. The senior had been a prolific scorer the year prior and really became known as the closer and possible Big 12 player of the year.
This year, they put the ball in the hands of sophomore Jarrett Culver, a Lubbock native who was one of the best players on the team a season ago and is a projected first round pick at the moment.
While playing similar competition through the first 10 games of the season, here were their stats through those games:
If you notice, Jarrett Culver’s stats are actually better than Keenan’s for the most part. Now some of it is due to the fact Culver has played slightly more minutes, but he has filled Keenan’s role nicely thus far.
Keenan’s first take over moments of that season came against Boston College and Nevada if I remember correctly. Culver took over against Nebraska and Memphis this season. Both teams have had an efficient clutch scorer at this point of the season.
Last year, the Red Raiders had a lot of veteran players play impact minutes. The starting line-up of Keenan Evans, Niem Stevenson, Justin Gray, Zach Smith and Norense Odiase featured four seniors and a redshirt junior. Senior Tommy Hamilton IV came off the bench.
This year, we see three seniors starting in Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens (both of whom have taken redshirt years while transferring), along with Norense Odiase. Senior Brandone Francis comes off the bench.
Chris Beard made a remark in Saturday’s press conference about the big stage not being a problem because of the amount of seniors and younger players with big time experience. Not as many seniors as last year, but a lot of them still.
Last year, Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith came in and immediately got plenty of minutes and lit it up as freshman. They were almost always the first two players off the bench. Tommy Hamilton IV and Brandone Francis also made a big impact as a newcomer.
This year, we’ve seen Kyler Edwards take a step to becoming an impact freshman. He is usually the first or second guy off the bench and has played well at times this season. Here are his stats compared to the 20+ minutes freshman from a season ago.
As you can see, Edwards isn’t quite having the impact Culver and Smith had, but it’s close. There is a lot of talent with Edwards, but he has had games where he’s looked a little lost sometimes. Smith and Culver made more of an impact to start their careers, but Edwards has done a nice job thus far.
As far as the transfers go, Tech has a lot more this year, and they’ve made a bigger impact than last year’s newcomers had. I’m going to list all their stats because of how different they are. That’s because Hamilton and Francis averaged around 15 minutes the first 10 games, and Mooney and Owens averaged around 24 minutes.
So the freshmen had a bigger impact than last year, and graduate transfers have had a bigger impact this season.
Scheduling Of Lower Competition
Last year, when facing non-tournament teams from minor conferences, the Red Raiders outscored their opponents 82.5-54.2, with an average margin of victory of 28.3 and a record of 6-0. All games were played at home.
This year, we obviously don’t know who’s going to make the tournament, but Tech has won by an average of 78.4-47.1, with an average margin of victory of 31.3 and a record of 7-0. All games were played at home.
This year’s squad is slight better here, with a few less points scored but several points allowed less. Good teams must dominate in games where they are supposed to dominate, and both squads did so in their first 10 games.
Scheduling Of Higher Competition
Last year, when facing teams from a major conference or that made the tournament, Texas Tech defeated their opponents 80.3-69.5, with an average margin of victory of 10.8 and a 3-1 record. One game was at home, one was at a “neutral ground”, and two were on a true neutral ground.
This year, against teams that might make the tournament or are from a major conference, Texas Tech outscored opponents 75.3-60.7, with an average margin of victory of 14.6 and a 3-0 record. One was at a “neutral ground”, and two were on a true neutral ground.
If you look at the rankings of the teams from the first year, Northwestern was ranked No. 20 in a nearly 40 point win, Nevada was ranked No. 22 in an overtime win, and Seton Hall just missed the AP cut in a loss.
From this year, Nebraska just missed in the AP cut in a 18 point win, and USC and Memphis weren’t really closed to being ranked. Even though there’s a loss, I think the last year’s team has a slight edge due to better competition and similar margin of victory.
Both years started off with two or three easy non-conference games before traveling away to a neutral site ground to play a two game tournament. Both times they won by double digits and had the nation paying attention.
Then they had a few easy games back on home before they played another neutral site game far away before finals. The only difference in the next part of the schedule is this year’s team had two easy games and last year’s schedule Nevada. Then both ended their 10th game with a throwback game against an old conference foe.
Going into their eleventh game, the Red Raiders were ranked No. 21 in the country. That was their highest ranking at that point in the season. They were previously ranked No. 22, but lost to Seton Hall. The team then regained their ranking of No. 24 after a win over Nevada.
This year’s team obviously has a higher ranking at this point. Both teams go votes to start the year, but with this team not losing, they continued to climb. They were ranked No. 20 after a win over Nebraska, then jumped up to No. 13 after a majority of the teams in front of them lost. Their highest ranking was No. 11 last week before dropping to No. 12 due to the previous ranking holder defeating No. 4 by 13.
I have to give the edge to this year’s team, but this high of ranking also likely doesn’t happen unless Chris Beard takes his team to the Elite Eight last year. They’re still ranked, just probably not quite as high because of the AP voters that have to notice them.
Stars don’t matter, but they also do, if that makes any sense. Last year’s team was incredibly talented with a lot of future pro players, but recruiting services had the starters as low three stars or unranked. Zhaire Smith and Davide Moretti were four-stars, Francis was a Top 50 player, and Culver was a high three-star.
This year has a lot more known talent. Culver, Francis and Moretti are obviously mentioned above, but Owens was a Top 125 player, Edwards was a Top 200 player, Corprew was a Top 100 player, Khavon Moore was Top 50 player and McCullar was just outside the Top 100. Mooney was unranked and Ondigo was a three-star.
So these years are a different as far as talent goes. Last year had developed talent that had experience from one place, years of Big 12 competition and consistent starter minutes. This year has known talent that have come to Tech either out of high school, through JUCO or through transfers with not a ton of minutes in Big 12 play.
The main difference I would say is the Big 12 experience. Beard mentioned that he has four seniors and an experienced player in Culver, but it wasn’t at all like last year. The 2014 class that were mostly seniors played three years in the Big 12 with the lights always on, including a trip to the NCAA tournament one year.
This year, there isn’t as much of that. Odiase has been here five years, and Culver has a year of Big 12 play and an Elite Eight run, but Francis and Moretti didn’t get a whole lot of minutes during conference and tournament play.
Mooney has been hidden at South Dakota. Tariq Owens has played big games in the Big East, but it isn’t what it used to be and he hasn’t played in the Big Dance. Definitely more big time games from last year’s team.
This year has a little bit more shooters and a little bit better defense, while last year had better scorers and a little bit better offense. Minor differences.
So Which Team Is Better?
So as you see, these teams are very similar with the way they started out, who they played, what their stats were like and what their players were liked. It’s a little like seeing the team from last year.
Except instead of seeing the seniors and watching them play for the last few years, knowing their game and who they are, we have a lot of newer faces. Odiase is the only scholarship player who has been on the team more than a year. Half the team is brand new to the team this year, so there’s a lot of figuring out to do.
I believe last year’s team was slightly better than this year, because of that experience. I think this program will become better in the coming years, baring any drastic change, but this team isn’t quite as good, and that’s expected.
As far as the AP ranking go, I’m not sure they are quite the No. 12 team in the nation, but at minimum I would have them Top 20. Probably a tad closer to No. 15. But this team is good, and so far it looks very similar to that Elite Eight team from a season ago.