RED RAIDER BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Can Texas Tech fly high again?

Chris Beard faces task of combining solid returnees with wave of high-profile newcomers.

The Red Raiders ascended to new heights during the 2017-18 season, reaching the Elite Eight and finishing No. 6 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll.

The attention Texas Tech generated helped freshman Zhaire Smith’s NBA stock rise and he ended up going 16th overall in the June draft.

But, somehow, the Red Raiders’ success last season didn’t resonate with pollsters. Texas Tech didn’t even receive votes in the preseason Coaches Poll. Obviously, outsiders expect the Red Raiders to drop off with the departures of Smith, Keenan Evans and four other seniors.

Insiders, though, have high hopes for returnees Jarrett Culver, Davide Moretti, Brandone Francis and Norense Odiase and a wave of newcomers that include high-profile graduate transfers Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney.

2017-18 RECORD/RESULT: 27-10. Lost to Villanova in the Elite Eight.

BACKCOURT

Returners: Jarrett Culver, Brandone Francis, Davide Moretti. Newcomers: Kyler Edwards, Matt Mooney. Outlook: Culver is most likely going to take over Evans’s role as the player who has the ball in his hands at key moments for the Red Raiders. He showed as a freshman that he can score from beyond the arc and get to the basket. But he has options if he wants to give up the rock as Mooney, Moretti and Francis can all bury it from 3-point range.

FRONTCOURT

Returners: Norense Odiase, Malik Ondigo. Newcomers: DeShawn Corprew, Tariq Owens, Khavon Moore, Josh Mballa. Outlook: Odiase is a fifth-year senior who has proven to be a versatile, if not dominant, big man. He’s likely to benefit from the addition of Owens, a legitimate rim protector. Moore, Corprew and Mballa are wildcards as newcomers. Moore is the highest-rated prospect Texas Tech has ever signed, but he suffered a broken leg as a senior in high school and its unclear how quickly he’ll come along this season.

BEST NONCONFERENCE GAME: Duke, December 20 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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