Texas Tech Basketball Releases Non-Conference Schedule

LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 13: Wesley Harris #21 of the West Virginia Mountaineers shoots the ball over Norense Odiase #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game on January 13, 2018 at United Supermarket Arena in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 13: Wesley Harris #21 of the West Virginia Mountaineers shoots the ball over Norense Odiase #32 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the game on January 13, 2018 at United Supermarket Arena in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech basketball program released the non-conference portion of its 2018-19 schedule Friday and though it is better than last year’s, it is still weak on home opponents.

Texas Tech basketball fans now know every team on the 2018-19 schedule (with the exception of the second game in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City).  While we still do not have the Big 12 portion of the schedule, Tech released its non-conference slate of games on Friday.

The non-conference portion of this year’s hoops schedule is a huge step up in competition from last year’s non-conference games.  Tech will face Duke, Memphis, USC, Arkansas and either Nebraska or Missouri State in the second game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

But while fans will enjoy seeing more marquee out-of-conference games, there is a drawback to this year’s non-conference schedule.  Texas Tech fans will have to fight through a dreadful slate of home games in November and December before getting to enjoy competitive basketball after the new year.

The only Power 5 team on Tech’s non-conference home schedule is Arkansas, which will be in Lubbock for the SEC / Big 12 Challenge on January 26.  But if you take the Hogs out of the picture, the remainder of Tech’s home non-con opponents compiled an atrocious 108-153 mark last season.  That is a winning percentage of just 41.3%.

This scheduling decision is both understandable but also disappointing.  Tech was wise to take on more prominent opponents this season but doing so almost exclusively away from home seems a bit odd for a program still trying to win over fans in the football-crazed West Texas sports landscape.

Certainly, Tech could not afford to have multiple Power 5 non-con opponents come to Lubbock while keeping its exciting neutral site matchups.  And the general fan will never know if Chris Beard and company attempted to find better home opponents in November and December.  But still, season ticket holders deserve better than paying to see the likes of Incarnate Word (7-21 last year), Mississippi Valley State (4-28 last year) or Northwestern State (4-25 last year).

Though to be fair, the Mississippi Valley game is part of the preliminary rounds of the Hall of Fame Classic.  It would have made more sense for Tech to forego one of the neutral site games, perhaps against Memphis, in order to bring a more competitive opponent home to its fans.

While it is nice to have Arkansas headed to Lubbock in January, forgive me if I am wary of giving Tech much credit for scheduling that game.  Per the framework of the SEC / Big 12 Challenge, a made-for-TV event put on by ESPN, Tech will host an SEC team every-other year.  Tech did nothing to schedule this game, it was arranged by ESPN.  So it is hard to point to that game as a reason to give the Red Raider basketball program credit for its non-conference home schedule.

For years, Texas Tech basketball has been desperate for the students and the community of Lubbock to fill the United Supermarkets Arena, especially in the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule.  And this year, there will no doubt be more fans at those games thanks to the success of last year’s team.

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Still, it would make more sense for Tech to really capitalize on that momentum and give fans in Lubbock at least one semi-interesting home game in the first two months of the season.  Last year, Tech played a December game against a Nevada team coming off of a conference title and NCAA Tournament birth.

Of course Tech did not know when it scheduled the Wolfpack in the offseason that they would finish the year as a Sweet 16 team. But they did know that Nevada was an opponent that would draw a crowd and would give Texas Tech fans an exciting game to see.

Plus, Tech also scheduled Rice to be the opponent in last year’s throwback game at the Coliseum.  The Owls made for a nice opponent in that special game as they were coming off of a 23-win season which saw them lead the Red Raiders until the final ten seconds of the game in a one-point loss.

While Rice was a bad team last year, going just 7-24, they were at least a school Texas Tech fans have a general interest in playing as they were a former Southwest Conference opponent.  This year’s opponent in the throwback game is Abilene Christian, which went just 15-18 last year and drew fewer than 8,000 fans when they came to Lubbock last year.

Being as the throwback game is not included in the season ticket package and will feature a very limited number of seats for students, there is reason to believe that there will be far fewer people in attendance this year when the Wildcats come to town.  This game is likely to be the final Texas Tech basketball game in the Coliseum and as such, it deserves a better opponent.

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In the end, the Texas Tech basketball attendance will be better this season because for the first time in program history, an Elite 8 run in fresh in the minds of fans.  However, the program is missing out on an opportunity to deliver better entertainment value to the fans of Lubbock by bringing in a gaggle of teams that generate almost zero interest.