Texas Tech basketball: Chris Beard one of four up for national coach of the year

LUBBOCK, TX - MARCH 04: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders interacts with fans after the game against the Texas Longhorns on March 4, 2019 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech defeated Texas 70-51. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - MARCH 04: Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders interacts with fans after the game against the Texas Longhorns on March 4, 2019 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech defeated Texas 70-51. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

After guiding his team to a share of its first-ever Big 12 regular season title, Texas Tech basketball head coach Chris Beard is one of four coaches up for Naismith National Coach of the Year.

After a second-straight season in which his Texas Tech basketball team has defied expectations, head coach Chris Beard is receiving plenty of national attention.  Already named the Big 12 Coach of the Year, the third-year Red Raider head coach is now one of four finalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year Award.

Beard is joined by 2018 honoree Tony Bennett of Virginia, Kelvin Sampson of Houston and Rick Barnes of Tennessee.  And while all four are fantastic coaches, Beard unquestionably has the strongest case of the four candidates.

After losing six of his top eight scorers from last season’s Elite 8 team, Beard had to completely re-tool his team this offseason.  He brought in four newcomers that played significant roles including graduate transfers Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens as well as JUCO transfer DeShawn Corprew and freshman Kyler Edwards.

Because of the high turnover on the Red Raider roster, Beard’s team was picked to finish just seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll.  Meanwhile, the team that Tech shared the Big 12 title with, Kansas State, was picked second.

And making Beard’s job even more difficult has been the fact that the top signee in Tech’s 2018 class, Khavon Moore, has played only two minutes this year.  The highest-ranked player to ever sign with the Red Raiders at the time he inked his letter of intent, the Georgia native missed the entire season after suffering a broken leg in January of 2018.

But in spite of all that seemed to suggest Texas Tech would take a step back this year, the Red Raiders actually had a better regular season than they did in 2017-18.  Tech set program records for Big 12 wins in a season (14), Big 12 road wins in a season (6) and longest Big 12 winning streak (9).

More from Wreck'Em Red

What’s more, under the guidance of Beard and his assistant coaches, sophomore Jarrett Culver improved his scoring average by seven points a game on his way to earning Big 12 player of the year honors.  Likewise, sophomore Davide Moretti saw his scoring average rise from just 3.5 p.p.g. last year to 11.6 this season as he earned All-Big 12 third-team recognition.

When considering all that seemed to be working against Beard and the Red Raiders this season, it would be hard to make a stronger case for any of the other three coaches up for the award.

Houston’s Kelvin Sampson has led one of the most surprising teams in the nation this year as the Cougars have gone 31-3 to earn the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region.  But while Sampson lost two starters from last season’s NCAA Tournament team (including leading scorer Rob Gray) he still had the benefit of three returning starters, which is two more than Beard had to rely on.

What’s more, Houston’s conference, the American Athletic Conference ranked just sixth in conference R.P.I. this year while the Big 12 ranked first proving that Tech’s path through the regular season was far more challenging.   Additionally, the Big 12 had twice as many teams (6) earn NCAA Tournament bids than did the AAC.

As for Bennett at Virginia, it is hard to look at where his program was at the start of the year and think that his job was anywhere near as difficult as Beard’s.  The Cavilers returned all but two regulars from last year’s team, which was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament before suffering a historic upset to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round.

Virginia returned NBA Draft prospect De’Andre Hunter, who is expected to be a lottery pick this year but was considered a sure-fire first-round pick after his freshman season last year.  They also returned sharp-shooter Kyle Guy and their best big man, Jack Salt, giving Bennett the type of consistency and experience that Beard most certainly did not have the benefit of to begin the year.

Virginia entered the season ranked No. 5 in the A.P. Poll while Tech was not ranked at all making it seem preposterous to judge the job Bennett did this year as being better than the job turned in by Beard. Plus, it seems unlikely that the award would go to the same coach in consecutive seasons given the quality of the other nominees.

Right behind UVA in the preseason polls at No. 6 was Rick Barnes’ Tennessee team.  Certainly, the Volunteers have been tremendous this year, even reaching No. 1 in the rankings, but considering that they returned all five starters from last year, including SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, there was no reason for UT not to be one of the best teams in the nation.  And despite having Williams and star guard Admiral Schofield coming back, the Volunteers did not win either their regular season or postseason conference titles.

Next. Five players to know from the West Region. dark

In the end, it only matters what Chris Beard and his team do in the NCAA Tournament.  The only trophies the Texas Tech head coach wants to win are the ones that are earned on the court.  But Red Raider fans know that the job our head coach has done this year is beyond what any other coach in America has accomplished and it is time Chris Beard is recognized on a national level as perhaps the best coach in the game.