Nobody really rose to his defense when he was fired at the University of Minnesota and many saw his new job at Texas Tech as being well outside the center of the college basketball universe.
Well, Tubby Smith's Texas Tech team has been creating more than a little excitement lately. The Red Raiders defeated No. 21 Baylor 84-66 on the road Saturday night after beating No. 14 Iowa State in overtime earlier in the week.
It was the first time since 2007 that Texas Tech beat Top 25 teams in succession. Tubby's team is 5-7 in the Big 12 and 15-9 overall with its next game at home against Oklahoma on Wednesday night. Right now, you can consider Texas Tech a bubble team for the NCAA tournament field with its RPI rank at 32. (The Gophers, by the way, are at No. 234 in RPI among 351 Division I teams.)
“Whether it’s the Big Dance or wherever, we’re now believing and understanding," Smith told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal after Saturday's victory.
In his first two seasons at Texas Tech, Smith's teams went 14-18 and 13-19 -- and won only nine of 36 games in conference play.
“Our players are maturing and starting to understand,” Smith told the Avalanche-Journal's Krista Birtle. “They’re experienced enough to know what we need to do in order to get the win. Guys are growing up and getting stronger every day.”
But the road to a tournament berth won't be easy. In addition to No. 3 Oklahoma, the Red Raiders also have games remaining at Kansas and West Virginia, both of which have been ranked among the Associated Press Top 10 this season.
Smith told the Dallas Morning News after beating Baylor: "As for a certain number of wins, I don't think we have one set. If you have a chance to make the postseason, I think you have to give yourself a chance by playing well this time of the year and get wins."
And not that we'd be the ones to ask the question, but someone in the stands at Sunday night's Minnesota-Iowa game held up this sign: