Basketball Anyone? Breaking Down the Big 12: Texas Tech

Let's all take a deep breath after the Colorado football meltdown and focus on the hardwood.  Continuing The Ralphie Report's breakdown of Big 12 basketball, we shift our focus to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  Bobby Knight stepped down a season ago in the midst of a mediocre season and handed the reigns over to his son and assistant coach Pat Knight.  You can bet that Pat will have a very similar coaching style to his father; Pat has been at Texas Tech since 2001 and played under his father at the University of Indiana.  He coached the last 11 games for the Red Raiders and went 4-7.  It was an extremely up and down 11 games for Texas Tech as they lost to teams such as Nebraska and Baylor but then upset nationally ranked Texas and Kansas State.  While the Red Raiders return three of their four leading scorers from a season ago, I don't think they will make much noise in the difficult Big 12 South.  The younger Knight seems to be doing a solid job recruiting good talent in 2009 but this season will be difficult in Lubbock, Texas.

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Last Season's Results:  Whenever a coach departs in the middle of the season, the team is bound to struggle.  For Texas Tech however, it was not really a question if Bobby Knight would leave but when.  The General really started to wear down in recent years and he even realized it.  He began grooming his son, Pat, for the head coaching job so when he decided to retire it wasn't completely catastrophic.  Texas Tech went 12-8 in Papa Knight's 20 games and finished up the season 4-7 under Pat.  They had some very good wins last season but their year was plagued by inconsistency and the aforementioned coaching change.  As I mentioned before, Tech returns three of their four leading scorers for 2008-09.  Leading the team in scoring a season ago was Martin Zeno with 16 points a game.  Zeno's production will have to be replaced as he has moved on from Texas Tech and graduated.  Alan Voskuil should help replace some of Zeno's lost points as he averaged 13 points a game.  John Roberson was the other Red Raider in double figures last season with 12 points a game.  While their guard play was tremendous a season ago, their interior play really struggled.  Their leading rebounder was Zeno, a shooting guard, with 4.5 boards a game.  They were killed inside and that may be their major flaw again this year.

New Faces:  Improvements are being made in Texas Tech and the 2008 recruiting class is evidence of that.  There will be five new Red Raiders this season, including two junior college transfers to give them a little more experience.  Headlining the class is Darko Cohadarevic.  Cohadarevic, originally from Serbia, is a 3-star recruit from Seward County Community College in Kansas.  At 6'9'', 240 lbs, Darko should be able to step in immediately and start for Tech.  He averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds a game for Seward last season.  He's a very fluid big fella, and at 22 years of age, he should be mature enough to handle being thrust right into the action.  Tyree Graham, Robert Lewandowski, Nick Okorie, and Corbin Ray round out the recruiting class for Pat Knight's squad.  Graham and Okorie should make impacts this season for the Red Raiders at the guard position.  Okorie is another junior college transfer from South Plains Community College and likens his game to that of Martin Zeno.  He will more than likely be the back up shooting guard but will see quality minutes.  Tyree Graham was an all-stater in his senior season at Southern Durham High School in North Carolina.  He struggled qualifying academically for Texas Tech but finally got the grade and will be ready when the season starts.  Lewandowski and Ray will need a year or so to full develop and contribute but you have to like what you see if you are a Red Raiders fan.

check out the rest of the Red Raider breakdown after the jump...

2008-09 Impact Players:  Each year during the Bob Knight tenure saw the Red Raiders have one go-to player.  Last season it was Martin Zeno and this year the Texas Tech faithful are relying on Alan Voskuil to carry this team.  Voskuil, a native Texan, played in every game last season and started in 25.  He scored 20 or more points in four games and ended the season averaging 13 points a game.  Voskuil is a classic shooting guard who has excellent range and can light it up from anywhere on the court.  He shot a sizzling 44% from beyond the arc and made at least four three-pointers in seven games for the Red Raiders.  He will be a crucial piece of an athletic, yet inexperienced back court.  Whenever I watched Texas Tech last season, which was only a handful of times, I was always impressed by the play of John Roberson.  A silky smooth sophomore, Roberson is a pure point guard.  He led the team in assists and was third in scoring as a freshman last season.  He has an extremely high basketball IQ and his court vision is outstanding.  Even though he is a sophomore, he has great experience playing at this level as he averaged 30 minutes a game last season.  The talent is plentiful in the back court for Pat Knight's team but the major question lies with the big guys in the front court.  Another super sophomore for Knight's team is Mike Singletary.  The 6'6'' small forward plays with a serious mean streak and will do whatever it takes to get his team a win.  While he is not the best shooter in the world, Singletary plays bigger than he is and that helps in a system that emphasizes toughness.  He scored seven points a game a season ago and that should improve as he will slide into the starting lineup.  Whoever draws the match up against Singletary better get ready to get beaten up because he is a fierce competitor and is not afraid to mix it up.

Projected Starting Lineup:  Pat Knight should be very excited about his back court this season.  He has four guys that on any given night can steal the show.  The starting guards will probably be Voskuil and Roberson but newcomers Graham and Okorie will get plenty of action and make a significant impact.  The bigs for the Red Raiders, although inexperienced and full of question marks, have plenty of upside and could be a force in the Big 12 if they develop properly.  Singletary will get the nod at small forward and Darko Cohadarevic should be the starting center although he is better fit for the power forward spot.  Rounding out the starting five for Tech will be Trevor Cook who started 11 games for the Knight's a season ago and averaged five points a game.  Don't be surprised if you see D'Walyn Roberts start a few games for Texas Tech.  He's a freak athlete who was very highly recruited coming out of high school.  If he is able to show solid improvements, he may just work his way into the starting lineup eventually.

Projected Season Results:  Looking at the Texas Tech schedule for next season, they only really play one meaningful non-conference game.  They will be taking on one of the best teams in the nation in the Pittsburgh Panthers in November's Legends Classic.  They play Stanford in Palo Alto but the Cardinal should be rebuilding this season after losing their coach and the Lopez twins.  They'll struggle in the Big 12 South, as they have to play Baylor, Texas, and Oklahoma twice.  I'd say that the ceiling for this team is about seventh in the Big 12 but they could also fall to around tenth.  Iowa State and the Buffs should have the bottom two on lock.  Tech was ranked as the tenth best team in the Big 12 preseason rankings but I'm a little more optimistic with this team.

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