*Tech’s 71-61 loss to Butler was a carbon copy of the loss to TCU in the Big 12 tournament. In both games the Red Raiders opened up considerable leads early, but failed to deliver the knockout blow. We saw a lack of killer instinct. In both games the Red Raiders kept the score close throughout the middle section, but appeared to be hanging on by their fingernails. In both games poor perimeter defense allowed the opposition to go on runs, which stressed Tech’s offense beyond maximum capacity. And in both games the Red Raiders experienced offensive droughts that ultimately proved their undoing.
These losses point to areas Tubby Smith and his staff will have to improve before next season. The first is the lack of mercenary mentality. Winning basketball games is not about being the nicest, most laid back team on the court. Quite the opposite, actually. Next year’s team simply must capitalize on opportunities to blow out the opposition. Failure to do so against competent teams will often prove fatal as TCU and Butler proved.
Second, the Red Raiders must become more consistent on offense. It’s really amazing that the current team had such success given the offensive doldrums that popped up in most of the games the team played.
Tech loses double-digit scorers Toddrick Gotcher and Devaugntah Williams, so improving offensive consistency will not be easy. Current players such as Aaron Ross, Justin Gray, Zach Smith and Keenan Evans will have to improve their proficiency. Incoming recruit Keon Clergeot, and hopefully a second recruit will also be counted upon to add octane to the mix.
With an improved offense, and hopefully more mental toughness borne of experience, next year’s Red Raiders would build significantly upon the foundation laid by the current squad
*It is difficult to explain why Texas Tech absolutely disintegrated in the second half against Butler. The Bulldogs are a solid basketball team, but they are nowhere close to, say, a West Virginia on the defensive end. Yet the Red Raiders committed a plethora of unforced turnovers against Butler, missed layup after layup, and did a terrible job locating shooters on the fast break. Ultimately, this poor focus was what killed Tech. That the Red Raiders lost focus in a close, winnable game in the NCAA tournament is baffling.
*Outscoring teams at the free throw line has been Texas Tech’s meat and mead this season, and a critical component of its offense. But just as TCU made 10 more free throws than Tech in the Big 12 tournament game, so too did Butler, shooting seven and making eight more than the Red Raiders. Much of this can be blamed upon settling for jump shots. Tech is at its best attacking the tin and getting shots from post players inside. For probably two thirds of the Butler game, the Red Raiders were simply too passive on offense.