Key Returners: Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, DeShawn Corprew
Key Losses: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase, Brandone Francis
Key Newcomers: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Chris Clarke (Virginia Tech), TJ Holyfield (Stephen F. Austin), Terrence Shannon, Kevin McCullar, Andrei Savrasov, Russel Tchewa
Note: DeShawn Corprew is currently suspended and not on the official team roster. There’s been speculation that his Texas Tech career may be over, but nothing concrete.
Outlook: How do you follow that? I’m having Red Raider déjà vu after Texas Tech had the best season in program history…for the second consecutive year. The only way to top an appearance in the national title game is actually winning one, and I’m not putting that past Chris Beard. The Lord of Lubbock has worked wonders, not the least of which was (along with Kansas State) ending the decade-and-a-half Kansas reign atop the Big 12. This year’s squad features heavy turnover, but Beard has, like always, gathered plenty of talent from a variety of avenues, and the Red Raiders should continue to be among the Big 12’s elite.
First and foremost, Beard will be tasked with rebuilding a defense that was one of the best in the sport’s history last year. That roster featured an outstanding wing stopper (Jarrett Culver), an eraser at the rim (Tariq Owens), and an on-ball pest (Matt Mooney); this roster may not have such elite individual defenders, but it can still thrive via a man-to-man scheme that wants to switch everything and play with physicality at all five positions. Barring a surprising emergence from freshman big man Russel Tchewa, Beard will roll with versatile forwards in Virginia Tech transfer Chris Clarke, Stephen F. Austin transfer TJ Holyfield, and freshman Tyreek Smith as his primary bigs, all of whom can guard smaller players when called upon. And though Holyfield is not the elastic pogo stick that Owens was, he will block some shots, and Smith has some impressive bounce to him, as well.
Ball pressure is also a distinct feature of the Beard system. Kyler Edwards is getting plenty of attention as a potential breakout player offensively (more on that shortly), but his role on the defensive end may be just as crucial, as he looks the most likely candidate to guard ball-handlers. Newcomer Jahmi’us Ramsey has the quickness and build to be an annoyance, as well, so if Beard can weaponize both players’ skillsets, the Red Raiders’ perimeter defense will continue to be stout. He will also have numerous 6’5-6’6 wings – DeShawn Corprew (assuming he is reinstated from suspension), freshmen Terrence Shannon and Kevin McCullar – to rotate, with Corprew likely to take Brandone Francis’s minutes as a small-ball four at times.
Of note: McCullar and Russian forward Andrei Savrasov both enrolled for the spring semester last year and practiced with the team during its magical run to the national title game. That could give them an early edge to playing time, though Savrasov is still largely an unknown after coming over from his home country. To further Red Raider fans’ anticipation, Beard has even said that McCullar “has the chance to be one of the best players ever to play in this program.” That’s monstrous praise from a coach who is not prone to hyperbole, and McCullar’s potential to play some point guard at 6’6 would make Texas Tech even more lethal.
On the offensive end, Beard handed the ball to Culver, whose development in both vision and self-creation helped the Red Raiders’ offense sneak inside the top 25, per KenPom’s AdjOE. With so many pieces departing, Beard will once again need to re-tool the attack, and one of the strengths of this offense will be its perimeter shooting. Davide Moretti has one of the purest strokes in the country, as evidenced by his tremendous splits: 49.8/45.9/92.4 from the field/three/free throw line. Edwards and Corprew hit 45% and 40%, respectively, from distance last year, and Clarke and Holyfield both have decent shooting strokes in the front court. Regardless of the way Beard choose to structure his offense, the spacing should be terrific with perimeter threats at every spot.
How those shots will be generated is the larger question facing this year’s squad. Moretti and Edwards will be given some of the creation responsibilities, and each flashed that at times last year when given the opportunity (the below shows Edwards in isolation):
However, the player most capable of playing such a role may be Ramsey. He’s a stout combo guard with a smooth jumper and the strength and skill to get to the rim; if he displays the vision needed to consistently find Tech’s shooters, he’ll play a pivotal role from the season’s outset. Oh, and he put up 44 points in one of the Red Raiders’ foreign tour games - so yes, he can score.
Shannon is also a top 100 recruit, but his game is almost entirely based around his length and athleticism – he’ll mostly be asked to cut and dunk. Whispers from the program hint that French freshman Clarence Nadolny may be ready for some early playing time at the point, as well.
The roster’s versatility should shine through on this end, too. Holyfield can be a competent post up threat, something Tech hasn’t really had recently, and Clarke is a matchup nightmare at the four thanks to his ability to both score and distribute off the bounce from the power forward spot - going way back to 2017-18 from his time at VT:
Optimizing both grad transfers could be the key to unlocking an offense that should be less reliant on a single creator than it has in the past two years (Culver last year, Keenan Evans in 2017-18).
Bottom Line: The Red Raiders have plenty of questions entering this year after graduation and the NBA Draft pillaged the roster, but doubting Chris Beard’s ability to answer those questions is like doubting that a Marvel movie will open number one at the box office. Sure, his Division I track record isn’t as long as the MCU, but he won everywhere he went prior to his debut at Little Rock, and he’s firmly entrenched himself among the country’s very best coaching minds. The defense, while not as “event-based” this year without Owens, Mooney, and Culver, will still be formidable, and there are simply too many talented offensive pieces to not have a competent attack. Maybe Beard won’t have a top-16 draft pick emerge for the third straight year, but I’m quite confident Texas Tech will be dancing comfortably once again come March.