The Texas Tech Red Raiders were picked by the coaches of the Big 12 to finish No. 7 in the conference before the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
The coaches were way off.
Texas Tech came in at No. 2, shocking most of the country and spending much of the year in the AP Top 10. The Red Raiders earned a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament and made a run to the Elite Eight, losing to eventual national champion Villanova. Under second-year head coach Chris Beard, the program reached new heights — unexpected heights, at that.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Johnson picked the Red Raiders as the biggest surprise of the season.
“It didn’t take long for Texas Tech to serve notice that it will be a legitimate force in the Big 12 under head coach Chris Beard,” Johnson wrote. “There was serious doubt heading into the season over whether Texas Tech would even make the NCAAs, let alone compete with Kansas at the top of the conference. Not only did the Red Raiders end up notching a double-digit win at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 2 and pose a serious threat to the Jayhawks’ league title streak, they earned their highest AP Poll ranking in program history (sixth, in mid-February), secured their highest seed in the tournament (No. 3) since 1996, and made their first trip to the Elite Eight.”
Beard made it clear that he expects the Red Raiders to compete for years to come. Don’t expect to see Texas Tech labeled as a surprise next year if it has significant success. Teams across the country should recognize that something real is happening in Lubbock.