The Texas Tech Red Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 in the league’s preseason poll. It was not an unreasonable prediction to make. Zhaire Smith and Keenan Evans, two electric and hugely productive players, were gone. What the heck were the Red Raiders supposed to do after rising to a No. 3 seed and making the 2018 Elite Eight? They might not have been starting over, but they certainly figured to take a few steps backward.
This was a reasonable line of thought. This was not clueless on the part of Big 12 voters. Don’t sit here today and think that Texas Tech was outrageously dissed or unforgivably overlooked.
No. This was not supposed to happen, especially at a school which primarily cares about football and has rarely known sustained, long-term basketball success in its history.
Yet, here they are, the Texas Tech Red Raiders: They are Big 12 co-champions with Kansas State after going into Hilton Coliseum and taking down the Iowa State Cyclones. Chris Beard made a very strong argument to eclipse Houston’s Kelvin Sampson as national Coach of the Year, but more importantly, his Texas Tech players delivered a conference championship in the year the Kansas Jayhawks’ 14-season Big 12 title streak ended.
Beard had this to say in his moment of profound triumph:
“I think you’ve got to give all of our players the credit. They’re the ones that believed,” said Beard, in just his third season at Texas Tech. “You can imagine the outside noise. It starts in the recruiting process when people say, ‘Man, you can’t win the Big 12 at Texas Tech.’ I’ve always disagreed. You get the right people in the locker room, it’s all about culture and it’s all about belief and expectations.”
Beard created the culture. The players had to buy into it and turn it into a Big 12 championship.
These Raiders can now paint Lubbock Red. They sure deserve it.
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