#29 Texas Tech Women's Basketball Preview

Texas Tech Lady Raiders

Overall Rank: #29
Conference Rank: #5 Big 12
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Texas Tech reached the NCAA Tournament in 2011 for the first time since 2005. They lost their first game once they got there, but it was a step in the right direction. With four starters returning and a slew of role-players, the Lady Raiders will look to take the next step and win a game or two during the tournament. As long as the offense runs through 6-3 center Kierra Mallard, Texas Tech should not have a problem gaining some success in March. Mallard led the squad with 12.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season. She is an extremely productive player on both ends of the floor and does a great job of staying out of foul trouble.

2010-11: 22-11, 8-8
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kristy Curry (88-73 at Texas Tech, 267-124 overall)

Who’s Out:
Mallard will be asked to do even more this season because of the absence of Teena Wickett. Wickett was a superb complimentary player to Mallard and helped on the glass and cleared up space for Mallard to score. On her own, Wickett was a pretty good scorer and ranked third on the team with 9.6 points per game. The Lady Raiders do not have another post player who will replace Wickett’s production on the glass, so it will take a team effort. The only other departure is Lindie Kimbro, who played in just nine contests last season.

Who’s In:
Amber Battle, a 5-9 guard, is the lone newcomer. She is coming off of a great prep career, which culminated with being named the state of New Mexico’s Player of the Year. Battle is a smart player who can create opportunities for herself and her teammates and do a ton of scoring. However, with so much experience returning, Battle will have to wait her turn, but she does have the talent to provide some quality minutes if she can beat out some upperclassmen for playing time.

Who to Watch:
Casey Morris and Monique Smalls are the stars of the backcourt. Morris will again be the most prolific outside shooter on the team, but shooting from long range is an issue for this team. Morris connected on 1.7 three-pointers per contest, while nobody else had more than one per game. The shooting percentages from beyond the arc are nothing great either and Coach Kristy Curry will need to find another shooter or two to balance out this offense. Smalls will not be the shooting answer. She is the point guard who can set up her teammates for big plays. Christine Hyde might work her way into the starting lineup due to her ability to hit the glass from the wing. Hyde, a 5-10 junior, may not be the best scorer available, but she did average 4.1 rebounds per game in just 17.5 minutes and that will go a long way in replacing the rebounding left behind by Wickett. Chynna Brown proved to be a great offensive spark off the bench last season and the 5-8 junior may play the same role in 2011-2012. She has the potential to be the shooter this team needs, but she can also score by attacking the basket or pulling up for a mid-range jumper.

Final Projection:
Jordan Barncastle spent most of last season at the small forward position. However, she may be forced into action at the four spot this year. That will give Texas Tech a smaller and quicker team, but will be troublesome on the glass and the defensive end of the floor. Barncastle has the size at 6-2, but she likes to hang out on the perimeter. That was great last year when that is what the Raiders needed from Barncastle, but she will have to get a little tougher and hang out in the paint more if Texas Tech wants to put their best players on the floor. Other frontcourt options are 6-0 Kelsi Baker and 6-3 sophomore Shauntal Nobles. Nobles only averaged 10.6 minutes per game as a freshman, but she is still growing into her own and could be in for a big sophomore season. If that happens, Wickett will be replaced and the rest of the team is a year older and wiser and this is a Texas Tech that could make a big splash in March.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Monique Smalls, Junior, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Casey Morris, Junior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Christine Hyde, Junior, Guard, 6.6 points per game
Jordan Barncastle, Senior, Forward, 4.3 points per game
Kierra Mallard, Senior, Center, 12.0 points per game

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#22 Kierra Mallard