Texas Tech Red Raiders Basketball: 2017-18 Season Review
Record: 27-10 (11-7 Big 12)
NCAA: def. Stephen F. Austin, 70-60 (round of 64); def. Florida, 69-66 (round of 32); def. Purdue, 78-65 (Sweet 16); lost to Villanova, 71-69 (Elite Eight).
Seniors losing: F Tommy Hamilton IV (5.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg), G Justin Gray (5.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg), G Niem Stevenson (7.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg), F Zach Smith (6.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg), G Keenan Evans (17.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 116 assists).
Any NBA Bound?: Evans is a borderline draft pick (I personally think he should be no less than a second-round pick). If he isn’t selection he should earn a Summer League and training camp invite.
Any One-and-dones or early entries?: No.
Top players returning: G Zhaire Smith (11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), G Brandone Francois (5.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg), G Jarrett Culver (11.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), G Davide Moretti (3.5 ppg), C Norense Odiase (3.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg).
The player you don’t know about: F Malik Ondigo. With the Red Raiders losing Hamilton, they’ll need some help inside. The former 247Sports.com three-star recruit played sparingly in 2017-18, but that should change next year. At 6-foot-10 he should fit into the inside game right away.
Recruits already in the house: SG Kyler Edwards, 6-foot-4, Henderson, Nev. (Findlay Prep); SF Deshawn Corprew, 6-foot-5, Levelland, TX (South Plains College). Corprew is the No. 2 juco recruit in the country per 247Sports.com. Edwards is a Top 200 recruit in the country.
Commitments yet to sign: SF Khavon Moore, 6-foot-8, Macon, Georgia (Westside HS). Moore committed to Tech on Feb. 26 and is a Top 51 player nationally and the No. 3 player in Georgia, per 247Sports.com.
Summarizing the season: The Red Raiders improved by nine wins from head coach Chris Beard’s first season to his second and they went from missing out on the postseason entirely to reaching the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. That would be the type of performance that would lead to a new head coaching job for Beard. But the Red Raiders eliminated that possibility in March by signing Beard to a six-year, $19 million contract extension. This season was marked by the rise of Keenan Evans to national notoriety, and not just Big 12 acclaim; the emergence of super freshmen Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver; and the missing half-season of Zach Smith due to injury. Texas Tech appeared poised to end Kansas’ run of 13 straight Big 12 regular-season titles before Evans’ toe injury derailed that run in late February. But Tech reached the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament and Evans was healthy enough to move the Red Raiders to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend. It turned out to be one of the best seasons in Texas Tech basketball history.
Looking ahead to 2018-19: Losing Evans is big, but that’s more from a leadership standpoint than a scoring standpoint. Between Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver, the Red Raiders have the players to compensate for the loss of Evans’ scoring. But who steps into that leadership role? That’s a good question. Francois, Moretti and Odiase should all see bumps in their scoring average, and Moretti should emerge as the team’s newest 3-point spot-up threat as a sophomore. Corprew should also have an immediate impact, as he’ll be more mature than the true freshmen coming into this recruiting class. Losing five seniors has its benefits. Beard would appear to have two scholarships to work with and, with this season’s tremendous finish, that should allow Beard to be competitive with the rest of the conference for some of the top tier players that remain. Beard has quickly built the Red Raiders into a program that can be competitive with the elite in the Big 12 year in and year out. Texas Tech will need some time to sort out their offense without Evans, but once that’s done the Red Raiders should settle in as a primary competitor to Kansas’ Big 12 dominance.