Texas Tech Red Raiders
Overall Rank: #75
Conference Rank: #8 Big 12
2006-07: 21-13, 9-7, 5th
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Texas Tech may lose their best perimeter player in Jarrius Jackson, but with Martin Zeno and Charlie Burgess returning, the Red Raiders have little reason to worry about their backcourt. Zeno is a terrific slasher and averaged 16.6 points per game. He also led the team with 3.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per contest. He can do everything, but hopefully he will not have to do quite that much. Burgess will run the point after averaging 2.5 assists per game last year. Keeping the turnovers down a bit would be helpful. What little three-point shooting the team had last year is now gone and Alan Voskuil has the potential to step up and be the long range threat that the team needs.
Jackson averaged nearly 20 points per game and was the only player on the team last year to average over one made shot from beyond the arc. Backcourt roleplayers LucQuente White and Benny Valentine will not be suiting up for Coach Bob Knight during the 2007-2008 campaign. Darryl Dora developed into a decent scorer and the 6-9 forward was practically a perimeter player on the offensive end. Despite the occasional big shot, or at least one famous shot against Kansas, Dora did not put up big numbers. It is Jon Plefka who may be more difficult to replace. Like Dora, Plefka could stretch the defense with his outside shooting, but he was a better scorer and a more effective rebounder. Jay Mitchell, Justin Wilkerson and Tanner Ogden never saw too many minutes during their time in Lubbock and will not be returning.
This is a solid class of newcomers for the Red Raiders. The bad news is the team will need to depend on some freshmen and that can be a dangerous proposition. Yet, the talent is there for this group to be more than simply roleplayers. Point guard John Roberson is still transitioning from a shooting guard to a point guard. And once his decision making ability improves, Roberson will be a good scoring point guard. Mike Singletary has good size for a guard and can help out the frontcourt in the rebounding department from the wing. A.J. Hardeman could add depth on the wing if he becomes eligible. The frontcourt adds four players, three of whom are not freshmen. Rogdrick Craig redshirted last year after transferring in from San Jose City College. At 6-6, he is a good athlete and will get it done around the basket. Another junior college transfer, 6-10, 233 pound center Ricardo De Bem, has the potential to at least be a banger under the basket. Trevor Cook averaged 6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks as a freshman at Texas State. After sitting out a year, Cook is expected to battle for minutes in Lubbock. Like most Texas Tech big men, Cook can step outside and make the three-pointer. Incoming freshman D’Walyn Roberts is a skinny Dora. He has a nice outside shot, but needs to continue to beef up to make any sort of impact under the basket.
Who to Watch:
The frontcourt does return some talent, but there are as many questions as there are answers. And after losing Dora and Plefka the jobs are wide open. Small forward Decensae White has the most potential after having an encouraging freshman campaign. Michael Prince has yet to live up to expectations, but the 6-7 forward is a smart player who will at least provide another body at the three and four spots. Damir Suljagic is in the same boat as Prince, but it is Esmir Rizvic who can suddenly turn Texas Tech into a team with a real post presence. The seven-footer only averaged 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds during his junior year and while the potential is still there for Rizvic to shine, his time is running out.
In the end, this a more athletic team and a faster team than the Red Raiders employed last season. Yet, they are still young and any production they can get out of the frontcourt will be a surprise. Players like Cook and De Bem need to be ready to go immediately and if they can surprise, so can the Red Raiders. Otherwise, a trip to the NIT is likely.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Charlie Burgess, Senior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Martin Zeno, Senior, Guard, 16.6 points per game
Decensae White, Sophomore, Forward, 4.5 points per game
Michael Prince, Junior, Forward, 1.8 points per game
Esmir Rizvic, Senior, Center, 3.8 points per game