Slack Chat: Solving the Frontcourt Conundrum and Season Expectations

It’s another chat!

Ed. Note: We’ve done Part 1 and Part 2 of our staff’s season preview of the men’s basketball team.

Spencer: I had a discussion with Rob Breaux the other day trying to project starters and essentially, Beard has the ability to put 2 full, very salty lineups on the court. As Kyle said, very good problem to have to find your starting 5

Seth: I sort of agree about the lineups and the ability to put two solid groups out there at any one time. Beard really has a ton of options.

And maybe this gets us into the frontcourt, but do you all think the key to this season is what kind of player Joel Ntambwe is? If Ntambwe is the match-up nightmare that I sort of expect him to be, a guy that can take someone off the dribble to an extent, but can shoot outside and be problems for 6’9″ defenders, then from a spacing standpoint, there’s going to be some serious open shots so long as there’s someone that can drive and finish at the hoop or kick it out.

Personally, I think it is Ntambwe and Santos-Silva starting (along with a swing and two guards) and then to have a guy like Tyreek Smith off the bench or even a guy like Agbo, who may be the most overlooked player on Texas Tech’s roster, but from what I can tell may be more similar to Ntambwe in the sense that he’s a big that can shoot from the outside.

danswany: Ntambwe starting at 4, and Santos-Silva at 5 should be the starting frontcourt. You are correct, Ntambwe may be the key… yet, I’m not overlooking that is a really short frontcourt. I’ve missed the athletic length in the frontcourt since Owens left us. He was a guy that hasn’t been able to be replaced, along with the bulldog strength of Odiase.

Santos-Silva is really key in my mind to be the enforcer in the paint at the 5. He’ll have the task of guarding and boxing out the big men. Can he be the plug in the middle that we have been missing in the frontcourt?

Ntambwe will be huge in his ability to also play beyond his size. Even if he can stretch out to play outside the perimeter , he has to be able to help bang around inside for rebounds and blocks.

Smith and Agbo are going to be nice backups in the frontcourt. Along with the lone true sizable length being Goldin. We have frontcourt depth, yet can it be enough to hang with the other bigs in our conference? Give me a few games to scout this frontcourt before I make any real solid conclusions how the game plan will shake out. Though Beard and staff will know how to use these guys to their full capabilities.

Kyle Jacobson: Dan, how worried are you/how big of a problem will it be if we don’t find much depth behind MSS and Ntambwe? What if Agbo is more of a wing? What if Tyreek or Vlad don’t come along very quickly? Especially without the typical preseason, do you worry we’ll find ourselves without any depth like last year when it was pretty much just Holyfield? In this regard, a guy like Tyreek Smith might be one of the most important guys on the roster.

danswany: We didn’t attempt many three pointers last season, ranking #229. And, we ranked #261 in rebounds per game. Without being a outside shooting threat opponents could stack down low and get a lot of boards against us. We sort of shot ourselves in the foot, and Holyfield along with the rest couldn’t carry that load. So it seemed we lacked frontcourt depth.

Also, part of the formula is if you play 4 & 5 in the Big 12 you’ve got to be tough and aggressive. The lack of length and height can be counteracted by scrappy toughness and being able to make it rain from downtown.

I’m not so worried about frontcourt depth if we have guys in the frontcourt that don’t play passive and are ready to battle in the paint.

Seth: So Dan, you brought up a really good point off-chat about the frontcourt, which I won’t divulge here, but I think if we had to find the “thermal exhaust port” (i.e. weak spot for non Star Wars nerds) of Chris Beard’s teams is that he hasn’t developed any big men or he hasn’t had any big men stay on campus long enough to develop. All of the best big men he has either inherited or had transfer in, but in terms of growing your own from high school on up, that’s something that he just hasn’t done. And maybe it’s by design, but as of right now, it is his biggest flaw. And maybe that’s what makes Tyreek so interesting is that as of right now, he’s that guy that I hope grows with the program that the staff can develop into the type of player he wants his big men to be.

michael: I know you didn’t ask me, but my love for a good Star Wars analogy is on the same level as my feelings for Big Russ. Really wanted him to work out long term.

Seth: Josh Mballa averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds, and a block, while shooting 56% from the floor for Buffalo. I think a player like that is pretty useful.

And sorry, that original thought is not just for Dan, but really open to anyone.

Kyle Jacobson: Far be it for me to question anything Chris Beard does in terms of basketball, but the strategy with big men is a bit confusing. Seems like when you take a guy like Big Russ or Mballa, you know it’ll take a year or two to get them polished. We caught lightning in a bottle with Tariq Owens, but short of a grad transfer like that, I can’t help but think having Mballa in year 3 with the program would be beneficial this season, or Big Russ in year 2. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong but it seems like taking a guy like Goldin and letting Russ go is another step back in terms of the amount of development and polish on the roster. But like I said, he’s Chris Beard and I’m nobody so I’m not going to question it too much.

danswany: I was a Big Russ fan, and thought he showed a ton of potential. So, yes I’m in agreement with y’all on this. Time will tell if the big man development is just not there. (edited)

Seth: So to finish this up, I think I’d like to end with a couple of questions: 1) Where do you think Texas Tech finishes in the Big 12 (and why if you have any thoughts about the top teams); and 2) What’s success for this year’s team?

Kyle Jacobson:

1) I think top 3 in the Big 12. There are some great teams as always but I think the top four are Baylor, Kansas, WVU, and Tech. Finishing in the top 3 there is doable and would be a strong showing. Although I might hedge a little bit here and say that our home court advantage may not be what it usually is, and that could hurt.

2) I think success is playing in the Sweet 16. Not saying Tech can’t go even further, but I think that would mark another good season at a minimum.


1) We might hit a learning curve early in the Big 12, yet we should be competing for a top spot finish with Baylor and KU. The Jayhawks are the perennial favorite, but depending on how Tech and Baylor weather the storm we will be atop the conference.

2) Anybody that is recruited to Tech isn’t playing worried about our regular season record or making the tournament. You come to Texas Tech to win March Madness, not just make it to a certain round. As a college basketball junkie it’s absolutely awesome that I now have faith and the expectation of a NCAA National Championship with my team. An undefeated season is nullified as a success if you have an early exit from the Big Dance. Final Four or bust is my outlook nowadays. Wreck ’em Tech!!!


1) It’s tough for me to think Baylor won’t win the Big 12. They are returning four All Big 12 players. I’m attempting to temper my expectations a bit. Going into this season feels very similar to going into last season: a super-talented roster on paper that’s made of mostly new guys or players with little to no in-game minutes at Tech. I would expect a 4th place finish with a chance to make a run at 3rd.

2) Again, I’m going to ease back a bit on any huge expectations. Tech finished 2-5 last season, including losing their last four in a row. I would love for them to finish strong in conference play (at least 2-2 in the last four games). Like Kyle, I would be happy to see this team compete in the Sweet 16. But , you know me, if they make it that far, I’ll forget I ever said this and want the whole dang tamale.


1) I’m high on this team until proven otherwise. I know team chemistry will be an important factor in how this team is successful down the stretch, but I fully expect this team to be at least a top 3 conference team.

2) Success for me for this years team would look like not having any kind of sustained losing streak, especially with games you’re expecting to win. I don’t believe its unreasonable to expect this team win against the Oklahoma schools and lower in the standings, as well as just about all home games.


1) I’ll agree with @Spencer, I have high expectations for this team. I have a different feeling about them than coming into last season. You had some unknown transfers and a freshman you were hopeful about then. Now I think you have a few vets ready to take a step forward, very exciting freshmen, and at least one transfer that’s a known quantity and some potential big hits too. I have a good feeling and a lot of trust that Beard will get them ready to compete at the highest levels.

2) Success for me is a little more tempered than my hopes. I think a Sweet 16 is a good season for any team and I’m expecting that and hoping for more. I do think they will be able to contend for a Big 12 title and look forward to a team that can seal the deal against the conference and country’s toughest competition. Most importantly, I want to see them get better all season long, win close games, and peak late.


1) I’m with all of you. I tend to think this is a top-3 Big 12 team. I also think the Big 12 is absolutely loaded, so even if this is a top-5 Big 12 team, that’s not exactly a bad thing.

2) Consistency will be key with me and the lack of ups-and-downs will be critical. Given the fact that the world is dealing with Covid-19, having a deep team that can score and has depth is critical. I do think that the frontcourt is probably this team’s biggest weakness because there’s not a ton of depth, but teams who have terrific guard-play, which I think Texas Tech has, tend to do well in the Tournament. I’m hoping for the best and think a Sweet 16 run is my highest ceiling (Is it fair to have a ceiling of National Championship if you don’t play for the team?) with an NCAA bid as the lowest end of my expectations.


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