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Texas Tech Red Raiders: Three story lines for the college basketball season

It’s worth noting and illustrative that five years ago Chris Beard had finished a two-year gig as coach at Division II Angelo State. He goes into his fourth season at Texas Tech secure as one of the top coaches in the country and paid like it – a new six-year contract extension worth more than $4.5 million a season.

Beard has transformed the Red Raiders from pretender also rans into contenders. Despite considerable roster changes the last two seasons, Texas Tech reached the Elite Eight and then lost in overtime in last April’s national championship game.

Again, facing considerable changes, most believe that by season’s end Beard will have another team that will be a tough out. He has proven to be a master mixologist in terms of player personnel. Under Beard, the Red Raiders play unyielding defense coupled with a productive, hard-to-scout motion offense. He expects this season to be a roller coaster.

“Along our journey, it’s going to be important to find some success,” Chris Beard said. “Any coach and any player would agree on that, as you build something, you got to have some success early onto validate what you’re doing. Certainly, that’s the challenge. I’m proud of the consistency we’ve shown in our first three years. We look forward to having another great season this year.”

Top 3 story lines

Two transfers. The Final Four team relied heavily on graduate transfers Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens, who were plug-and-play starters. Chris Clarke (Virginia Tech) and T.J. Holyfield (Stephen F. Austin) are likely to follow a similar path. The 6-foot-6 Clarke has a variety of skills and emerge as the team’s best player. A concern is that he was suspended last season at Virginia Tech. Beard rarely misses on player evaluation but there’s reason to keep an eye on the situation.

Bridge to the past. Italian native Davide Moretti went from a part-time player as a freshman to a starter last season and was a major reason for the Red Raiders’ run to the title game. He became the first player in Big 12 history with shooting percentages of at least 50 (field goals), 40 (3-pointers) and 90 (3-pointers.) If he makes a similar improvement this season, he could become a first-team all-conference selection.

Following a trend? In the last two seasons, Texas Tech has had one-and-done NBA first-round picks – Zhaire Smith and Jarett Culver (a lottery pick). Both were lanky, explosive guards. It’s a stretch to assume Jahmius Ramsey will make it three in a row but it wouldn’t be a surprise. The 6-foot-4 Ramsey provided a glimpse of his capabilities when he scored 44 in a game during the Red Raiders’ foreign tour in August.

Number to know

In the last two NCAA Tournaments, Texas Tech has compiled an 8-2 record. Before 2018, the Red Raiders had won a total of eight NCAA games.

Reasons to hope

Beard endears himself to his players with a caring, no-nonsense style. In the Texas Tech program, hard work is the coin of the realm. He makes sure to recruit players who are willing to earn their playing time.

Reasons to doubt

There is too much uncertainty in terms of having enough size to rebound and defend the rim. Plus, relying again on one-and-done grad transfers to “hit” and become productive is a gamble.

KenPom.com preseason rank: 15.

Next: West Virginia.

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