Ever since Bobby Knight left the program, Texas Tech basketball has been struggling to find breathing room. It was in his last full season as head coach the Red Raiders found their way into the bracket. That was in 2007. Now the Red Raiders have had just one winning season since his departure. In an ultra-competitive conference, it’s been difficult to pull in
Without a recruiting class ranked better than seventh in this ultra-competitive conference, not even former national champion coach, Tubby Smith (1998 Kentucky), has been able to save this sinking ship since arriving in Lubbock in 2013.
Tech has looked like the equivalent of Kansas football. But with just five players on the court at a time, it takes just one playmaker to help turn the tide. This is the moment we’ll see if senior guard Devaugntah Williams can be that player.
Video: Just a reminder of Williams’ skill…
As they were last season, the Red Raiders have six wins in the first seven games of the season. It took another one more week before the losses climbed to three and then the onslaught of conference play began thereafter. Now is the time to see if that can be avoided this season and bring hope to the campus which has seen a resurgent football team.
It’s early in the season, so RPI doesn’t always indicate the right levels of success, but sitting at No. 18 according to ESPN has the Red Raiders in prime position to make a push. With the exception of Arkansas-Little Rock and Oral Roberts, almost all of the current ranking’s Top 25 teams have made the tournament.
Williams has been one of the conference’s best performers so far this season — the main reason the Red Raiders have had this amount of success so early.
Despite averaging six minutes more per game this season, Williams has been a much more efficient player as the team’s leading scorer. With 16.1 points per game, he’s right ahead of Baylor’s surging Taurean Prince. Though, Williams’ 41.9 field goal percentage is slightly behind, he has made up for it with his efficiency as a free-throw shooter hitting 90 percent from the line.
At this point last season, Tech didn’t have the luxury of a player that can take command of the game. It was all about bench support. That runs out quickly for a program so low on proven recruits. In Tech’s upset win against Minnesota, Williams had one of his career-best games with 21 points and seven rebounds, shooting better than 50 percent on the night.
It’s performances like that which can drive a team over the edge, just as he did in a 78-73 win against then No. 9 Iowa State last season with a 22-point performance. In their next meeting, Williams was shut down and the Cyclones won the game by 37 points.
Either way, Williams is the team’s X-factor–take him away and it will be difficult for the Red Raiders to turn the corner from hopefuls to a team destined for the cellar. Without having played any conference teams yet, it’s difficult to fully assess, but if these upcoming games against the upper echelon of their non-conference schedule — South Dakota State and Richmond — go to plan, there’s hope that Tech can get over this lull in the program.