SI Says Texas Tech is 1 of 8 National Championship Favorites
When Chris Beard left Texas Tech in April, the national reaction to Texas Tech's future was mostly doom and gloom. When Mark Adams was promoted to head coach, that same national reaction remained.
Nobody doubted Mark Adams' coaching ability or defensive prowess, but a lot of people doubted Mark Adams as a D1 program leader.
In a lot of ways, Beard was thought of as some mysterious wizard who brought success to Lubbock for the first time in the history of the city. While I maintain a high level of respect for Beard's accomplishments at Texas Tech, bringing the program its only two Elite 8 appearances, the only Final 4 appearance, and the only National Championship berth, he wasn't the first great coach to lead the Red Raiders in the modern era, and he won't be the last. (Hello to Gerald Myers, James Dickey, Bob Knight, and maybe even Mark Adams with a tournament run this season.)
I say all that to say this when national outlets write about Texas Tech and their basketball team in 2022, there's a certain level of overachievement built-in. That's why Mark Adams is up for a lot of Coach of the Year-type awards, which are generally given to great coaches who exceeded expectations.
It wasn't hard for Adams to exceed the low bar of national expectation, but he has done far more than exceed. He's blown away those measly expectations.
I'm not surprised by Texas Tech's season thus far, but I am surprised by the momentum that's been generated by Texas Tech and Adams. They are in line, if they take care of business, to either tie the best seed in NCAA tournament history for a Texas Tech men's basketball team or even get to the 2-seed line, which would be a program first.
Adams has done that by beating Kansas at home and Baylor on the road; waxing Texas in Lubbock; and beating Tennessee on a neutral court. His résumé has been built, and national outlets are taking notice.
One such outlet is Sports Illustrated.
Let me switch to my best Kent Hance voice: "When SI was looking for a National Championship contender they didn't go to the University of Kansas or the University of Texas or North Carolina. No, they chose Texas Tech."
Of course, they couched the pick with the element of surprise, but they listed the Red Raiders among Gonzaga, Baylor, Duke, Kentucky, and Auburn as teams that could go all the way. The writer opened the Texas Tech segment with, "This pick might surprise you... but per T-Rank, since Jan. 1, Texas Tech has been the No. 7 team in the country (and tops in the Big 12)."
And why, Mr. National Media Member, is it a surprise? "It feels risky to bet on a first-year head coach, but remember: Mark Adams was the right-hand man to Chris Beard when Tech came so painstakingly close to a national title in 2019, so he has been there before."
Mark Adams, D1 Program Leader, is introducing himself to a brand new audience in 2022.
SI.com continues: "The big selling point with the Red Raiders is their elite defense. Adams’s no-middle scheme makes even the best offenses uncomfortable, making it nearly impossible to score in the paint against them despite TTU not having an elite rim protector at the back end. The Red Raiders have length and athleticism at every position and a roster completely bought into defending at the highest level."
All of that is very true, but what makes it true is that Adams was the driving force behind the same elite defense that got the team to the Elite 8 before. I guess now everyone believes it because he's hosting press conferences.
Texas Tech made the list because SI puts stipulations on their "Magic Eight" of title contenders, which say that there needs to be some teams ranked outside of the top 8, meaning a Texas Tech team that sits at 11th in the AP Poll at the time of this story's publication qualifies. The author adds Kansas as a "notable omission," along with Illinois, Providence and Houston.
The bright spot of the Red Raiders this season, according to the SI.com author, is the depth and versatility: "Any given night a new Red Raider has stepped up. Adonis Arms had his moment in TTU’s road win at Baylor. Big man Bryson Williams dominated in two games against Kansas. Davion Warren and Kevin McCullar have had their moments. Kevin Obanor was one of the stars of March last season when he was at Oral Roberts."
The closing line says it best. "Having so many guys who can win you a game is a strong recipe for March."
A National Championship run for Texas Tech means that Obanor and Williams find consistency, McCullar and Shannon Jr. get fully healthy, and others toward the bottom of the roster keep popping their heads up for big moments. Think: Nadolny against Kansas in Lubbock, or Batcho against Tennessee and West Virginia in Morgantown.