My series of explaining the road that each of the four teams took in order to get to the Final Four. In this series, I will go over what storylines each team had, as well as what the team actually got to the Final Four. The series continues today with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who lost 6 of their top 8 scorers from last year, yet still won the Big 12 regular season title and advanced to the programs first-ever Final Four.
The Red Raiders came into the year as a fringe bubble team, with them being not even being ranked in the preseason, in fact most people didn’t have them as a tournament team. I had them 33rd in my preseason Top-50 team countdown and that was maybe even being favorable. The Red Raiders main returning player was Jarrett Culver, while grad transfers Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney had to step in and start immediately. While Davide Moretti,
The Red Raiders went 12-1 in non-conference play, which helped get them back into the rankings entering Big 12 play. The Red Raiders didn’t start out Big 12 play like they would want as they started conference play 5-4. The Red Raiders finished out Big 12 play though by winning 9 straight games, which allowed them to finish with a Big 12 record of 14-4, which won them a share of the Big 12 title with Kansas State and ended the Kansas steak of 14 straight Big 12 titles.
At the Big 12 Tournament, Jarrett Culver was awarded the Big 12 player of the year award. As for the Red Raiders run in the Big 12 Tournament, it ended with a 79-74 loss in the Big 12 Quarterfinals. Despite the loss, their overall resume was good enough to get them a three seed in the NCAA Tournament in the west region.
The Red Raiders started the NCAA Tournament playing the Northern Kentucky Norse in the first round in Tulsa. The Red Raiders didn’t play well in the first half, as they only led 30-26 at the half. The second half was close early on but the Red Raiders eventually pulled away to eventually win 72-57. In the game, Jarrett Culver had 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists to move on.
The Red Raiders played Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the first half was a game of runs, with the Red Raiders starting the game leading 19-6, with Buffalo following on a 19-5 run to take the lead late in the first half. Eventually though the Red Raiders were able to take a 33-25 lead at the half. In the second half the Red Raiders pulled away, they at one point led by 25, although they ended up only winning 78-58 to advance to a second straight Sweet 16. The Red Raiders had a great performance from Norense Odiase, who had 15 rebounds in the game.
In the Sweet 16, the Red Raiders matched up against Michigan, which was a matchup of the number one defense (Texas Tech), and the number two defense (Michigan). The first half started off really slow with neither team scoring in double figures until there were 9 minutes left in the game. Late in the first half they took a 24-16 lead to hold Michigan to an NCAA Tournament low in first half points.
In the second half, the Red Raiders pulled away, taking at one point a 63-38 lead on Michigan. Eventually they won 63-44, which was an incredible victory for the Red Raiders. They held the Wolverines to 1-19 shooting from deep, which was one of the worst shooting performances by a team in Tournament history. Jarrett Culver once again did most of the heavy lifting as he scored 22 in that game, which helped send the Red Raiders back to the Elite Eight for the second year in a row.
The following game they played Gonzaga to go to the Final Four for the first time in program history. The first half was high scoring and competitive, as both teams were scoring at a high level. Gonzaga wound up taking the halftime lead after a Brandon Clarke dunk before halftime, which gave Gonzaga momentum heading into the break.
After allowing Gonzaga to play their game in the first half, the Red Raiders slowed the game down and took the lead heading into the late stages. With less than 4 minutes in the game, Davide Moretti hit back to back threes to put the Red Raiders up by 6. The Red Raiders led by 6 when Tariq Owens made a big block to give Texas Tech full control of the game. Gonzaga made one last charge but after a Josh Perkins technical foul for reaching in on an inbounds pass, Texas Tech took control and won the game 75-69.
This represents the first time that Texas Tech will be playing in the Final Four, which is an incredible accomplishment. Going into coaching, this is Chris Beard’s third season at Texas Tech, yet he’s already brought this program to new heights never been seen before.