College Basketball Insider: Tubby's Texas Tech team exceeding expectations

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2014 - 10:33 PM

Texas Tech is winning, or at least playing well, in February, unlike Coach Smith’s teams at Minnesota.

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Coach Tubby Smith’s Texas Tech team, with a 5-8 record in the Big 12 Conference this season, is exceeding expectations, which his Gophers team rarely did.

Photo: JUSTIN HAYWORTH • Associated Press,

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When Tubby Smith was fired after the Gophers’ second-round loss to Florida in the NCAA tournament, one of the major complaints among fans and administration was that in his six years at Minnesota, the legendary coach was never able to take the program to the next level.

Now, in his first season at Texas Tech, the 62-year-old coach appears on the verge of doing just that.

After wins over TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma to start the month (I guess it’s not Smith to blame for the Gophers’ perennial February dives), the Red Raiders are 5-8 in the Big 12 — perhaps the best conference in college basketball right now.

Texas Tech also threatened to pull off huge upsets in its past two games.

None of this would be so stunning — Tech is still just tied for seventh in the 10-team conference, after all — if it wasn’t for the fact that the Red Raiders have been SO bad in recent years. Tech hasn’t won more than five conference games since 2008 and has managed a total of just four wins in the previous two seasons. With five more games left on the regular-season schedule, the Raiders even have a shot to dance for the first time since 2007.

And no such spark was expected this season. The Raiders returned some experience but were expected by most to finish near the Big 12 basement.

Suddenly Smith — who coached Kentucky to a national championship in 1998 but won just one NCAA tournament game during his tenure in Minneapolis — is looking like a great hire for a team unworthy even of the term “rebuilding.”

And the sense of hope seems to be palpable. Tech sold out the normally echo-filled United Spirit Arena for its game against Oklahoma State, only the 11th sellout in the 15-year-old building’s history, last occurring in 2007.

“It is wonderful,” Smith told the Dallas Morning News. “It shows the hard work of a lot of people to make this happen. We hope that we can play to the level of support that we have gotten. I am excited, and our players are excited. It also gives validation that we are moving in the right direction with the program.”

Perhaps the most telling improvement can be seen in the Raiders’ recent losses.

At No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday, Tech — which Smith has made into a very sound offensive rebounding team, just as he did with the Gophers — grabbed 14 offensive boards and slowed the pace enough to keep it close with the Cyclones. Tech lost by just six in one of the toughest road environments there is.

Then, against Kansas in Lubbock on Tuesday, the Raiders shot 50 percent from three-point range and had five players score in double digits only to lose on a last-second layup by Andrew Wiggins, nearly upsetting the No. 8 Jayhawks.

Regardless of what the Raiders do down the stretch, it seems obvious that Texas Tech, led by Smith in what most likely will be his final coaching job, is better than we thought it would be. Significantly better.

There weren’t many times at Minnesota people could say that about Smith’s teams.

College basketball short takes

• With Syracuse finally falling, just one undefeated remains: Wichita State. Just how shocking was that Orange loss at home to Boston College, which was 6-17 coming in? ESPN Stats & Info tells us that BPI, ESPN’s version of the Ratings Percentage Index, gave BC just a 1.2 percent shot at beating Syracuse, far worse than last season’s biggest upset.

In that one — TCU’s win over Kansas in February — BPI handed the Horned Frogs a 4.5 percent chance at victory.

• Much has been said, written, spoken and screamed about the NCAA’s new fouling guidelines this season. But as Matt Norlander at CBSSports.com points out, just a month away from the Big Dance, scoring is still way up around college basketball. The number of possessions in an average game is up (from 66.7 to 68.1 heading through Wednesday), points per game are up (67.5 to 71), points per possession are up (1.012 to 1.043) and turnovers per game are down (13.3 to 12.7). All of this change, Norlander points out, without the game becoming a “whistle fest.” Team fouls are up, but only slightly, from 17.7 to 19.3.

• Think storming courts is all passion and good fun? Not for everyone. Arizona has played victim in two court rushes this season — at California and at Arizona State — and in the offseason will be looking into how to prevent such situations in the future, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz.

Apparently Arizona wants to bring up the issue of safety in the Pac-12 meetings this summer. Of course, the SEC has already taken a hard line with court rushes — issuing a fine to any school that rushes. Katz says he doesn’t expect Arizona to pursue anything quite so dramatic.


Big Ten power poll

1. Wisconsin: The Badgers are back at the top, making this the flip-floppiest season ever. But after a four-game win streak that included Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road it’s hard to deny.

2. Michigan: Credit the Wolverines for consistency. They’ve dropped three, but all three are understandable. It’s hard to get this deep into the season without a bad loss.

3. Michigan State: It feels like it’s been a while since the Spartans have won a truly meaningful game (since they were at Iowa nearly a month ago).

4. Ohio State: Suddenly the top has gotten a lot more interesting, with Wisconsin and the Buckeyes perking back up.

5. Iowa: Losses to each of the above teams keeps the Hawkeyes from ranking higher.

6. Nebraska: OK, a winning record in late April with two victories over ranked teams: Who had it? Bueller? Bueller? Tim Miles, color me impressed.

7. Minnesota: That home loss to Illinois has the Gophers barely clinging to the bubble.

8. Northwestern: This is a bad time for a four-game losing streak.

9. Purdue: The Boilermakers haven’t turned blips of optimism into real success.

10. Indiana: Insert joke about the program crumbling here, after a piece of Assembly Hall fell this week.

11. Penn State: The Nittany Lions have been a factor in the Big Ten’s unpredictability.

12. Illinois: The Illini won at Minnesota, but they’re still in the basement.

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 10/20/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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