Chris Beard Should Have Been The Only Big 12 Coach of the Year

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders talks with Zhaire Smith
LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders talks with Zhaire Smith /

After his team far exceeded expectations this season, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard should have been the unanimous Big 12 Coach of the Year, rather than sharing the honor with Kansas’ Bill Self.

Texas Tech fans have felt that the Big 12 has long disrespected their university for the sake of the higher profile schools in the league.  Now, that sentiment has been given more credence.

Sunday the Big 12 announced that Texas Tech head basketball coach Chris Beard has been named co-coach of the year along with Bill Self of Kansas.  Yet, anyone examining the job the two coaches did this year can see that Beard is far more deserving of the honor than Self and should have been the unanimous choice for the award.

When evaluating the job done by both men, it is clear that Beard did a far better job in 2017-18.  To begin with, virtually every preseason poll predicted Kansas to win the conference.  However, Texas Tech was picked 7th in the preseason poll and some media outlets even picked Tech to finish last.

Needless to say, the job Chris Beard did in taking Texas Tech to second place in the final conference standings is far more impressive than Self doing what was expected of his team.  Experts and pundits that looked at the talent each coach had to work with decided that Texas Tech had far less than KU.

Considering that Self coaches a roster full of 4-star and top-100 recruits, it should be expected that he would have a significant advantage over any other team in the conference.  KU star point guard Devonte Graham was a 4-star recruit and the no. 36 prospect in the nation in 2014.  Meanwhile, forward Svi Mykhailuk was a 5-star prospect that same season.  Guard LaGerald Vick was a 4-star signee in 2015 while Udoka Azubuike was a 4-star McDonald’s All-American in 2016.  That same year, Kansas also inked 4-star prospect Mitch Lightfoot.

In all, seven members of this season’s Kansas rotation were 4 or 5-star recruits.  Compare that to Texas Tech’s roster.

There is not one player on the current Texas Tech roster that was a 4-star signee out of high school.  Thus, there is no question that Beard got more out of less than did Self.

The two schools were separated by two games in the standings and that was only because of the misfortune Texas Tech suffered in February.  In fact, throughout the Big 12 season, Texas Tech faced significantly more adversity than Kansas.

For much of the season, Kansas fans were angry with the NCAA which ruled two 5-star 2017 high school signees Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa ineligible due to qualification concerns.  Eventually, Preston gave up his fight to be instated and went to Bosnia to play professionally but De Sousa was allowed to play in the Jayhawks’ final twelve games.

While not having two prized recruits for much of the season was a challenge for Self and KU, it doesn’t compare to what Beard and Texas Tech had to deal with.

After just three conference games, Texas Tech lost starting forward Zach Smith for 14 games.  Smith was the only Red Raider to be on any all-Big 12 preseason team and his absence forced Beard to insert true freshman Zhaire Smith (who is three inches shorter) into the starting lineup.  The loss of Zach Smith was difficult for Texas Tech to cope with making it adjust its style of play on the fly.  As a result, Tech lost three of its first four games without their senior star.

But still, Tech responded and went on a 7-game winning streak to take over first place in the conference.  With just two weeks to play, the Red Raiders were in a dead heat with Kansas for the regular season crown.  Then, the fortunes of the two teams took different turns.

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Kansas, which had worked De Sousa back into its rotation went on a run to clinch the league title while the Red Raiders dealt with another crippling injury.

Senior guard Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury that rendered him virtually useless in four of the team’s final five games.  Without Evans and his 18 points per game, Tech lost four in a row paving the way for Kansas to seal the league title.

Both Self and Beard had to deal with the absence of players they were counting on to be key pieces this season but the similarities stop there.

Kansas did not have to make mid-season adjustments to replace players it had learned to play with as did Texas Tech.  The job Beard did in getting Zhaire Smith and Justin Gray to play out of position at the power forward spot (arguably the most demanding defensive position on the court) while still being successful was nothing short of amazing.  Texas Tech had to reinvent its entire defensive scheme in the middle of conference play and yet it still spent the entire season in the top three of the league standings.

The plain truth is that the Big 12 is the conference of co-winners.  The league that once branded itself as having “one true champion” has taken the easy road on numerous occasions and in various sports awarding co-winners and co-champions in a manner befitting a youth recreational league, not major college athletics.

Next: Keenan Evans Returns To Form As Tech Beats TCU

This time, the Big 12 again made a dumbfounding decision in judging the job Chris Beard and Bill Self did this year as equal.  Beard took a roster of former blue collar recruits and virtually equalled with Self did with a stable full of one-time blue-chippers.  That’s why anyone who paid attention to the Big 12 this year knows that Chris Beard is the true coach of the year.