From the wooded north of Minnesota, to the tropical paradise that is the Bahamas, Texas Tech basketball takes its first steps to a Final Four return Aug. 12 at Atlantis.
The Red Raiders play the first of three games on FloHoops.com and the FloSports app Aug. 14 against the Bahamas National Team. This ends a four-month layoff since they came oh-so-close to winning the first national championship in program history.
In the postgame press conference following April’s overtime loss to Virginia in Minneapolis, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard made a firm proclamation about the future of Red Raiders basketball.
“We'll bounce back. In terms of Texas Tech basketball, we're not going anywhere,” he said. “We'll be back in this tournament sooner than later, and we intend to be a part of college basketball as we build the program.”
Beard’s the architect of a sudden rise at Tech, a program that previously made the NCAA Tournament infrequently. The last two years, however, the Red Raiders reached the Elite Eight and national championship.
In the process, Lubbock became proving ground for NBA talent. Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver were selected in the first round of the 2018 and 2019 NBA drafts.
Losing premier players to the pros is a byproduct of the kind of success Texas Tech has recently enjoyed. The three-game, exhibition tour of the Bahamas should provide a peek of who’s next.
Beard and Co. may have lost out on the R.J. Hampton sweepstakes -- the 5-star prospect is indeed tipping off this coming season overseas, albeit in Australia instead of the Bahamas -- but Tech is recruiting strong all the same.
A pair of 4-star prospects, Jahmius Ramsey and Terrence Shannon, have opportunities to factor into the lineup immediately. Davide Moretti, an 11.5-point per game scorer last season, is the top returner from the Final Four run. Gone are Culver, graduating seniors Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Brandone Francis and Norense Odiase.
The tour of the Bahamas will provide live competition to acclimate Kyler Edwards into a more prominent role after putting up 5 points per game in 2018-19.
While there’s a scoring void that either former reserve veterans or the incoming class of freshmen need to fill, the true mark of Texas Tech basketball under Beard is its stifling defense. Because these are the first practices and games of the 2019-20 season, do not expect to see a defense that ranked No. 1 nationally in a variety of categories, included adjusted efficiency, ease off.
In fact, the intensity may be turned up to match the tropical heat. Texas Tech’s March meddle under Beard is forged with fiery commitment to defensive drills in the offseason and preseason.
And while finding another potential NBA-caliber talent like Culver to command the offense will be of emphasis, perhaps the most intriguing replacement of the tour will be that of Owens. The nation’s No. 11 most effective shot-blocker last season, his absent presence in the paint leaves a void for a new Red Raider to fill.