#53 Texas Tech Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Texas Tech Red Raiders
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #53
Conference Rank: #6 Big 12
Texas Tech got a taste of the NCAA Tournament last season. The team started slow and was 2-6 in Big 12 play at the end of January. But the middle of February, when the Red Raiders beat ranked teams Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma in the span of one week, proved to be the turning point. Texas Tech went on a roll from there and reached the NCAA Tournament. It was a short trip to the NCAA Tournament, but it was a nice stepping stone for better things to come. However, the program will have to move on without Tubby Smith. Coach Chris Beard steps in to take over the team after spending one season at Arkansas-Little Rock. Before that he was at Angelo State and McMurry and Texas Tech is a pretty big job for somebody with very little Division I experience, but he has already brought in some top notch talent.
2015-16 Record: 19-13, 9-9
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Beard
Coach Record: 0-0 at Texas Tech, 171-50 overall
Who’s Out:
Texas Tech lost their top two scorers from last season. Toddrick Gotcher led the team with 10.9 points and knocked down a team high 62 three-pointers. Devaugntah Williams was another capable shooter on the perimeter. He was right behind Gotcher with 10.8 points per game and was the player who could attack the basket effectively. Without those two, the backcourt has a little rebuilding to do. C.J. Williams and Jordan Jackson saw limited action as freshmen and are not returning to the program.
Who’s In:
Texas Tech adds a ton of experience with this class. There are three graduate transfers and two junior college transfers who will make an immediate impact. Giovanni McLean will battle it out for the starting point guard spot. He led Quinnipiac with 12.9 points per game last season. Thomas Brandsma is a 6-5 small forward who has followed Coach Beard all over the place and will finish up his collegiate career at Texas Tech. He is a good outside shooter and should see some minutes. The last of the Division I transfers is Anthony Livingston. He was an All-Sun Belt honoree at Arkansas State and the 6-8 forward has the size and strength to compete in the Big 12. Junior college transfers Shadell Millinghaus and Niem Stevenson will add even more options on the perimeter. Millinghaus and Stevenson are a pair of very talented shooting guards. Stevenson could be starting from day one. The lone incoming freshman is walk-on forward John Brown. Coach Beard has done an amazing job bringing in players who are very experienced. If the pieces all fit together, Texas Tech will be a very tough team to beat.
Who to Watch:
Despite all of the incoming talent, Texas Tech returns plenty of talent, including five players who averaged at least 8.5 points per game last season. Keenan Evans will run the point again, but this time around he has a lot more competition. He averaged 8.7 points and 2.9 assists. Evans will not do a ton of scoring, but he plays solid defense and will find all of the other scorers. The rest of the key returners are in the frontcourt. Small forward Justin Gray finally had a healthy season and can be a consistent outside shooter. Aaron Ross is a pretty good shooter too. The 6-8 senior did not start a single game last season and may not again, but he is the team’s top returning scorer at 10.3 points per game. His ability to stretch the defense with his three-point shooting is a very valuable asset. Zach Smith will step back into his starting position at the power forward spot. He averaged 10.0 points and led the team with 7.3 blocks and 1.5 blocks. Norense Odiase makes his biggest impact on the defensive end, but he started to turn into a decent scorer last season too.  
Final Projection:
Texas Tech is loaded with talent and experience and that is without even mentioning seniors Matthew Temple and Devon Thomas. There are only two eligible underclassmen on the roster and both are walk-ons. The bigger question is can Texas Tech come together as a team and compete week in and week out in a very tough Big 12. It will be a rough road to the NCAA Tournament, but Coach Beard has obviously built this team to succeed right now. And he has done an amazing job of it in such a short time. This team will be a tough out, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered too and that could keep this group in the NIT.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Keenan Evans, Junior, Guard, 8.7 points per game
Niem Stevenson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Justin Gray, Junior, Forward, 8.7 points per game
Zach Smith, Junior, Forward, 10.0 points per game
Norense Odiase, Junior, Center, 8.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.0 (200th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.9 (121, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.8 (133, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.8 (135, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.8 (289, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.6 (172, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.2 (33, 1)
Rebound Margin: 0.3 (183, 6)
Assists Per Game: 13.1 (193, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.0 (108, 3)