KNOW THY ENEMY: Texas Tech Red Raiders (revisited)

TexasTechLogo

As far as my early previews from back in October are concerned, I could not have whiffed worse than I did in previewing Texas Tech.

They were understandably excited over at Double T Nation, despite last night's loss at New Mexico. But I wouldn't go over there for a while to talk hoops, as they're still in total meltdown mode over Mike Leach's keelhauling yesterday.

Follow the jump for a mea culpa on my part, because I was excessively pessimistic about this team's chances the last time I took a look at its roster.

The Story So Far

The No. 20 Texas Tech Red Raiders are a surprising 10-2, after a 9-0 start that ranks among the best in school history.

They jumped out of the gate with home wins over South Dakota, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Oregon State, Northwestern State and Lamar. Then they visited Stephen F. Austin, got a win, returned to Lubbock, beat Samford, and followed that with an upset of then-No. 12 Washington that dominated SportsCenter and launched Tech into the polls.

They validated themselves with a win at TCU, but came back to earth a bit when they made their first road trip out of Texas — falling 83-85 at Wichita State after digging themselves a huge first-half hole and mounting a frantic comeback, but ultimately falling short.

Texas Tech bounced back with a 100-point win over Stanford, which by my calculations vaulted them into first place in the Pac-10, but were dominated from start to finish last night in The Pit, raising questions about whether Tech can be better than an 8-8 team if they can't win in hard road environments.

They still look like a surefire NCAA Tournament team, though — barring a total collapse in conference play.

Current Texas Tech RPI: 34

 

The Coach

PatKnight

Pat Knight
Third Season (sort of*)

28-28 (7-19)

Bio

*Knight became the head coach at Texas Tech following the 20th game of the 2007-2008 season.

 

The Departures

 

Starter

  • Alan Voskuil (35.7 minutes per game | 14.1 points per game | 4.1 rebounds per game)

Reserves

  • Rogdrick Craig (6.7 minutes per game | 2.6 points per game | 0.8 rebound per game)
  • Tyree Graham (14.3 minutes per game | 3.9 points per game | 1.7 rebounds per game)
  • Michael Prince (15.6 minutes per game | 3.8 points per game | 2.8 rebounds per game)
  • Esmir Rizvic (10 minutes per game | 1.3 points per game | 1.6 rebounds per game)
  • Damir Suljagic (8.8 minutes per game | 2.4 points per game | 1.5 rebounds per game)

 

The Veterans

CorbinRay

#4 Corbin Ray
Sophomore Forward
6-7 | 225
Katy, Texas

Bio

3 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

DwalynRoberts

#5 D'walyn Roberts
Junior Forward
6-7 | 200
Dallas, Texas

Bio

25.7 minutes per game | 8.8 points per game | 7.6 rebounds per game

WallyDunn

#10 Wally Dunn
Junior Guard
6-4 | 194
Midland, Texas

Bio

4.2 minutes per game | 2 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

RobertLewandowski

#15 Robert Lewandowski
Sophomore Forward
6-10 | 240
Overland Park, Kan.

Bio

8.8 minutes per game | 1.5 points per game | 1.5 rebounds per game

JohnRoberson

#21 John Roberson
Junior Guard
5-11 | 165
Plano, Texas

Bio

34.2 minutes per game | 13.8 points per game | 2.2 rebounds per game

NickOkorie

#23 Nick Okorie
Senior Guard
6-1 | 195
Houston, Texas

Bio

22.4 minutes per game | 8.8 points per game | 2.4 rebounds per game

TrevorCook

#24 Trevor Cook
Senior Forward
6-9 | 241
Coppell, Texas

Bio

0* minutes per game | 0* points per game | 0* rebounds per game

*Cook suffered a career-ending injury before the season began.

DarkoCohadarevic

#31 Darko Cohadarevic
Senior Forward
6-9 | 242
Belgrade, Serbia

Bio

21.3 minutes per game | 8 points per game | 5.4 rebounds per game

MikeSingletary

#32 Mike Singletary
Junior Forward
6-6 | 217
Humble, Texas

Bio

29.8 minutes per game | 14.8 points per game | 5.6 rebounds per game

My thanks to the Texas Tech sports information department for the photos.

 

The Newcomers

#1 Brad Reese
Junior Forward
6-6 | 189
Laurel Hill, Fla.

Bio

18.8 minutes per game | 6.7 points per game | 2 rebounds per game

 

#2 Mike Davis
Freshman Guard
6-2 | 185
Houston, Texas

Bio

7.1 minutes per game | 1.6 points per game | 1.2 rebounds per game

 

#13 David Tairu
Junior Guard
6-3 | 180
Temple Hills, Md.

Bio

22.5 minutes per game | 12.2 points per game | 3.3 rebounds per game

 

#20 Theron Jenkins
Junior Forward
6-6 | 211
Flowood, Miss.

Bio

11.8 minutes per game | 4.3 points per game | 2.3 rebounds per game

 

#30 Jaye Crockett
Freshman Forward
6-6 | 186
Clovis, N.M.

Bio

0 minutes per game | 0 points per game | 0 rebounds per game

 

The Analysis

Here's what I stupidly wrote about Texas Tech back in October, in italics, interspersed with my observations now:

Although Texas Tech returns several starters and even more returners, I'm not sure this is a team that many teams in the conference should fear. The chief reason for that is the departure of Alan Voskuil, the sharpshooter who fueled the upset win over Kansas with his many treys.

Dumb.

Now that Voskuil has graduated, it will fall to Mike Singletary to provide most of the Red Raiders' scoring. His ridiculous 43-point outburst against Texas A&M in the Big 12 Tournament singlehandedly won the game and nearly broke Michael Beasley's/Denis Clemente's Big 12 single-game record.

True. He's the team's leading scorer, at 14.8 points per game.

That game was a freakish deviation from the mean, though, as Singletary only averaged 12.2 points per game and hasn't yet shown that he is capable of being a 25- to 30-point scorer night in and night out. But he will have help in trying, in the form of honorable-mention All-Big 12 point guard John Roberson. Roberson last year established himself as one of the best point guards in the league and should provide the Red Raiders with the leadership presence they need in the backcourt to challenge most Big 12 teams.

Roberson is Tech's second-leading scorer, at 13.8 points per game, and leads the team in assists, with 68 — more than twice as much as any other Red Raider.

Guard Nick Okorie and forward Trevor Cook both were banged up at various times last season, but now both are healthy and look to secure starting spots in the Tech lineup. I predict that Robert Lewandowski, an Overland Park native, will step up in the post as the fifth starter, after Tech lost a slew of Eastern European big men to graduation last year.

Okorie has started six of 11 games, but Cook suffered a career-ending injury before the season began, leaving the Red Raiders even thinner in the post than I anticipated. Lewandowski isn't starting, although he has played an average of 8.8 minutes in every game so far. It seems Pat Knight, like Jeff Capel, is gravitating toward a smaller lineup, with Singletary playing the 4, to address frontcourt concerns. But that will be a problem for both teams in Big 12 play.

Predicting the reserves is trickier, and that's one of the reasons I think Tech will struggle in 2009-2010. D'wayln Roberts started several games last season before being demoted, and he seems like a sure bet to net some serious playing time. David Tairu is a highly touted juco prospect who probably will have a big impact, too. But it drops off after that.

Roberts isn't just playing a bunch — he's starting. So is Tairu. The emergence of both players as steady options to take pressure off Singletary and Roberson probably is the biggest reason for Tech's early-season success.

Corbin Ray started one or two games, but is not a particularly impressive player. Nor is Darko Cohadarevic, the only remaining Serbian on the roster after the Eastern bloc exodus of 2009, who is Tech's only other sizable, experienced option in the paint.

Ray barely has played at all, but I was severely wrong about Cohadarevic. With the injury to Cook, "Not Donnie" Darko had to step up and has started all 12 games.

Tech is so thin that I have penciled in true freshman Mike Davis as the backup point guard, if that tells you anything.

Not sure if that really is his role, although he is playing some minutes in every game. My guess is that Roberson does the majority of the ball-handling (34.2 minutes per game) and when he is out, Okorie and Tairu probably split point-guard duties.

Brad Reese, like Tairu, is a juco player who probably will factor in somewhere, but he doesn't really project strongly to a certain position right now. Other players who probably won't be a factor, unless injuries pile up, are Wally Dunn, a walk-on guard of little consequence; Theron Jenkins, an incoming juco forward; and Jaye Crockett, a raw forward fresh out of high school.

Reese is playing good minutes off the bench, as is Jenkins. Dunn is a non-factor and Crockett appears to be redshirting.

 

Projected Big 12 Starting Lineup

JohnRoberson TexasTech DwalynRoberts MikeSingletary DarkoCohadarevic
John Roberson David Tairu D'walyn Roberts Mike Singletary Darko Cohadarevic
1 2 3 4 5

 

Projected Top Big 12 Reserves

NickOkorie TexasTech TexasTech TexasTech RobertLewandowski
Nick Okorie Mike Davis Brad Reese Theron Jenkins Robert Lewandowski
1 2 3 4 5

 

The Final Verdict

My thoughts in October:

When your team looks as though it only can field a serious lineup of 7-8 players, in terms of functional, athletic depth, and you play in the Big 12 South, a good season probably is not in your near future. That seems to be the case for Texas Tech. Yes, they showed some drastic improvement at the end of last year — upsetting Kansas at home (a game I greatly enjoyed watching), mounting the frenzied comeback against Texas A&M and nearly knocking off Texas in Austin — but how much of that simply was due to the hot hands of Voskuil and Singletary?

If that's all that it was, Tech will struggle in a deep Big 12 and Pat Knight's seat will be plenty toasty by the end of the season. But if Tech added some underrated pieces and the rest of the team continues to improve, it potentially could move up the pecking order a few notches. I don't see it happening, though. To me, the Red Raiders look like a less talented version of Baylor: a team that is dangerous if it is knocking down 3s, but otherwise is somewhat toothless.

My thoughts in December:

The lineup is as thin as expected — and with the injury to Trevor Cook, perhaps even thinner — but the season prospects look good despite that. Shows what I know. I guess Pat did learn a few things from his dad.

I would say Tech definitely added underrated pieces in its juco transfers and a few freshmen. An upper-half finish is in play for the Red Raiders, and they should enter March at least on the NCAA bubble. Both Texas Tech and Baylor are proving to be more well-rounded teams than I anticipated — they don't have to rely on 3s to find ways to win games, thanks to flexible forwards such as Singletary and Ekpe Udoh.

In fact, Tech is proving to be so offensively proficient — even in high-scoring losses to Wichita State and New Mexico — that they could really hot at a few key points in their schedule and possibly play their way into a first-day bye. I don't expect it, but given that they currently are the fourth ranked Big 12 team, you have to at least allow for the possibility.

Big 12 preseason prediction: 9th

My predicted finish: T-5th (with Oklahoma State; was 10th)

Best-case scenario: 3rd (was 8th)

Against K-State?: Toss-up in Lubbock

 

Previously on KNOW THY ENEMY...

  1. Kansas (T-1st with Texas)
  2. Texas (T-1st with Kansas)
  3. ???
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Oklahoma State (T-5th with Texas Tech)
  6. ???
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Baylor
  9. Iowa State (T-9th with Missouri)
  10. Missouri (T-9th with Iowa State)
  11. Nebraska
  12. Colorado

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