Texas Tech basketball: Red Raiders to play in another prestigious event

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 08: The Texas Tech Red Raiders huddle prior to the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 08: The Texas Tech Red Raiders huddle prior to the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2019 NCAA men's Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech basketball team has been selected to play in the 2020 preseason NIT Tournament, the latest prestigious event Chris Beard’s program will be part of.

The beauty of college basketball is that unlike in college football, teams are more than willing to challenge themselves in the non-conference portion of the season.  With a 68-team tournament deciding the national champion rather than just the 4-team event football uses to crown its king, each year we get to see marquee teams square off almost as soon as the season begins because, in basketball, teams are rewarded for playing a difficult slate of games in the first half of the season.  Challenging itself is certainly what the Texas Tech basketball team has been doing in the Chris Beard era and that isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

Friday, CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein reported that the next marquee event that the Red Raiders have been included in is the prestigious Preseason NIT Tournament.  Next season, the Red Raiders will join Arizona, St. John’s, and Cincinnatti as part of the 2020 event to be held at the Barclays’ Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Now officially known as the NIT Season Tip-Off, this showcase is normally held on Thanksgiving weekend, which serves as the unofficial start to the college hoops season.  As the college football regular season winds to a close, college basketball takes center stage around the end of November and through December as high-profile non-conference tournaments bring top teams together at neutral sites.

Previous winners of this event include Kansas, Villanova, Gonzaga, Virginia, Arizona, Syracuse, and Duke.  This year’s field consists of Ole Miss, Penn State, Oklahoma State, and Syracuse.

When you are talking about programs that are quickly becoming a staple of the most prestigious and competitive of these multi-team events (MTEs), you must include Texas Tech.  What’s more, the Red Raiders are starting to make a habit of winning these early season events which simulate a March Madness atmosphere.

In 2017, Tech beat Boston College and No. 20 Northwestern to win the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tournament in Connecticut.  Last season, the Red Raiders won the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City by downing USC and Nebraska.  In fact, the only time Beard has failed to win a preseason MTE while at Tech was in his first season, 2016-17 when his team lost to Auburn by two points before beating Utah State in the consolation game of the Cancun Challenge.

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This Thanksgiving will take the Red Raiders to Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Invitational. That field includes Tech’s first-round opponent, Iowa, as well as Creighton and San Diego State, one of which Tech will play on the event’s second day.

But of course, these MTEs aren’t the only big-time events the Red Raiders are being asked to partake in.  In each of the last three seasons, Beard has taken his team to the Big Apple for nationally-televised games against ranked teams.

In 2017, Tech lost to Seaton Hall at Madison Square Garden 89-79 in an event labeled the Under Armor Reunion.  Last year, the Red Raiders took No. 2 Duke to the wire in a 69-58 loss in the same arena where it lost to the Pirates a year earlier.  And this season, Beard will be taking his team back to MSG to face Louisville, which enters the season ranked No. 5 in both national polls.

Though the 2020 NIT will not be held at The Garden, it will be another opportunity for the Texas Tech basketball program to showcase itself in the nation’s media center by taking on elite competition.  That is another important step in the evolution of this program from national outsider and Big 12 afterthought to yearly contender.

Seeing the Double-T all over New York in the weeks leading up to these games is an invaluable marketing tool for a program just now starting to open the eyes of the nation.  Following last season’s run to the National Title game, there has never been more interest in Red Raider hoops on a national scale and it appears like Beard and AD Kirby Hocutt know that the best place to maximize their exposure is in the nation’s largest city.

It is also a tremendous opportunity for the individual players on the roster.  Just look at what last year’s performance against Duke did for Jarrett Culver.

The sophomore was the best player on the floor in a game that saw the Blue Devils start three freshmen who would all eventually be taken in the first ten picks of the NBA Draft.  By scoring a game-high 25 points and grabbing six rebounds, he vaulted his status among draft hopefuls from being a prospect rated in the mid-20s to a virtual lock to be a top-10 pick, which turned out to be the case when he was selected 6th overall this summer.

Next. Preseason ranking a sign for respect for Beard's program. dark

The 2020 NIT will be another showcase for a program that has made the most of its national opportunities in the last three years.  The Matador Song directs us to “Bear our banners far and wide” and by earning invitations to some of the most notable events the game has to offer, the Texas Tech basketball program is doing just that by guaranteeing that as many eyes as possible will be fixed on the Double-T.