Here’s Why ESPN’s Too-Early NCAA Basketball Top 25 Makes Sense
ESPN has already dropped the 2019 preseason rankings, and Texas Tech, an Elite 8 team from this season, is not even ranked.
At face value, it seems like a gross miscalculation to not include Texas Tech in next season's preseason rankings, which mean absolutely nothing and are just one man's opinion. But digging into the numbers for even five minutes will show you that there's no reason to give Texas Tech any respect in the 2019 season.
Well, there's one reason: Chris Beard is a great coach. He's one of the best, and he's got the contract to prove that now. However, he's only in year three at Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders haven't been dancing back to back since 2005. Do I think that Chris Beard is building a credible program that deserves the benefit of the doubt? Yes, absolutely. Has he completed that task yet in year two? No!
Assuming Zhaire Smith doesn't return, which is likely at this point in the process, the only returning starter that averaged more than 10 points a game is Jarrett Culver. Including the five seniors, losing six players off a basketball roster is a large number. It's not like Texas Tech is losing end-of-the-bench players, either.
Zach Smith and Tommy Hamilton were arguably your best big men in 2018. Niem Stevenson was a major contributor. Justin Gray is the definition of a glue guy and a role player, and Keenan Evans is an All-American that missed out on Big 12 and National Player of the Year honors because he broke his toe.
Texas Tech finished ranked 6th in the 2018 season. What would they have been ranked without Keenan Evans? Would they have made the tournament without Keenan Evans?
By no means is the future bleak in Lubbock, Texas, but with a roster that's made up of six sophomores and at least two freshman, there isn't a parade being planned for a National Championship next season.
Also, the defensive success that Texas Tech had this season wasn't all about the talent on the court; it's mostly about the culture and attitude within the program.
That culture isn't going anywhere.
That doesn't change the fact that Texas Tech is losing five of their most productive players from 2018, and that doesn't include Zach Smith.
If -- IF -- Zhaire Smith withdraws from the NBA Draft and returns home to Lubbock and the Texas Tech basketball team, then, yes, ESPN is freakin' stupid and Texas Tech should totally be a top 15 team based on the recruiting class and returning starters and the success of the 2018 squad.
That's a big if, though.
The biggest plus here is that Chris Beard loves filling up his bulletin board, and with four Big 12 teams ahead of him on the list (which means ESPN is picking Texas Tech to finish 5th in the conference), there's a whole lot of disrespect you can find here if you wanted to.
I do take one issue with the ESPN list that started this whole thing, which makes the Texas Tech 'snub' so much worse. How in the HELL is Loyola-Chicago pulling a vote for the top 25 here? I mean, that is laughable. The Ramblers have five seniors, and there is no guarantee Sister Jean will be back in 2019, either. That's exactly the kind of knee-jerk pity inclusion that is perceived as respect. It's not respect. It's a novelty.
A Cinderella run in a tournament is not an indication of future success. Multiple appearances, a great culture and not having four coaches in the last 10 years is how you qualify for respect.
Texas Tech is well on their way to earning that respect.