Texas Tech’s two trips to the NCAA Tournament under Chris Beard have both been quite successful. In 2017-18, the 3-seed Red Raiders advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to the eventual national champs in Villanova. The following season, another 3-seed Texas Tech squad made it all the way to the title game before losing to Virginia in overtime.
Was there anything unique about these Red Raiders squads that might help identify successful tournament teams moving forward? Possibly. Both teams ranked highly in terms of experience and low in minutes continuity per KenPom. Teams with more upperclassmen contributors tend to have higher experience rankings, while teams with more roster turnover — and/or more changes in who is receiving playing time compared to the season prior — rank lower in minutes continuity.
Typically, teams with a higher experience “score” rank higher in minutes continuity, which makes some sense logically. Some teams, however, like Texas Tech, have managed to buck this trend, primarily through transfers. 1st-year upperclassmen transfers that receive substantial playing time both enhance a team’s experience and lower its minutes’ continuity.
2017-18 Texas Tech (Elite 8) ranked 142nd in experience and 243rd in minutes continuity. Brandone Francis (Florida) and Tommy Hamilton (DePaul) were both contributing upperclassmen transfers. The 2018-19 Red Raiders (title game) ranked 101st in experience and 277th in minutes continuity, with Matt Mooney (South Dakota) and Tariq Owens (St. John’s) as two key senior transfers.
How have other teams that fit this “Texas Tech” profile fared in the NCAA Tournament? Is this roster approach predictive of success?
Since 2007-08, 15 tournament teams have been top-150 in experience and sub-200 in minutes continuity. These squads have slightly outperformed their seeding, averaging 1.2 wins vs. an expected 1.1. Along with Texas Tech, Nevada and in particular Wichita State, have had memorable tournament performances.
What about the teams, however, that really fit the Texas Tech profile? Seven of the above squads entered the tournament top-30 in KenPom AND had a first-year transfer in the rotation. Although a small sample size, these teams outperformed their seeding by a notable margin, averaging 2.3 wins vs. an expected 1.5.
Do any squads fit the “Texas Tech” profile this season? Two likely tournament teams and two potential tournament teams fit the bill.
Oregon: 37th in experience, 280th in minutes continuity, 41st in KenPom (projected 9 seed)
The Ducks have four upperclassmen transfers playing their first season with the program: Eugene Omoruyi, Eric Williams, LJ Figueroa, and Amauri Hardy. Head coach Dana Altman has an impressive track record of tournament success and should have this team ready come March. At 41st in KenPom, Oregon doesn’t quite check the “top 30” box of the Texas Tech profile.
BYU: 84th, 281st, 22nd in KenPom (7 seed)
The Cougars have two senior transfers that have been starting all season in Brandon Averette and Matt Harms. Alex Barcello is another transfer/senior starter that is in his second year with the program. BYU has shot 40-plus percent from three in each of its last four games and will be extremely dangerous if it can keep anything close to this up. At 22nd in KenPom, no team fits the Texas Tech profile better than BYU.
Boise State: 70th, 246th, 55th in KenPom (11 seed)
The Broncos aren’t a shoo-in to get an at-large bid, and back-to-back losses to San Diego State won’t help the cause. Boise State has four 1st-year transfer contributors in Emmanuel Akot, Mladen Armus, Marcus Shaver, and Devonaire Doutrive. With Derrick Alston leading the way, the Broncos are good enough to make noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Mississippi: 93rd, 213th, 59th in KenPom (Out)
Mississippi is currently in Jonathon Warriner’s “next five out” and is likely in an even more precarious position after a road loss to Vanderbilt. The Rebels have three 1st-year transfer contributors in Jarkel Joiner, Romello White, and Robert Allen. If the team can find its way in the tournament, it has a capable guard in Devontae Shuler that might be able to carry it to a victory or two.
Conclusion: Maybe there’s nothing about the Texas Tech profile that is predictive of success in the NCAA Tournament. If one of these four teams exceeds expectations in March, however, — particularly BYU — it shouldn’t come entirely as a surprise.