Believed to be one of the Texas Tech basketball team’s best shooters, Kyler Edwards has struggled all year and that’s been a huge problem for the Red Raiders.
Sometimes fans need to be reminded that all players are not going to improve linearly. In other words, a player’s effectiveness when charted on a graph isn’t going to rise in a straight upward line simply because he’s aged another year. That’s what the sophomore season of Kyler Edwards is teaching Texas Tech basketball fans.
A couple of weeks ago, we discussed how the guard was essentially playing at the same level that he did as a true freshman when he was a key reserve on Tech’s National Runner-up team. But since then, he’s regressed to the point that we have to admit that he’s hurting his team significantly.
At first glance, his stats look acceptable. Starting every game this year, he’s averaged 10.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.
But his increase in productivity this season is merely a product of being on the floor more than he was as a freshman. When we examine his season totals from the last two years, it becomes obvious that he’s not even been as good as he was last year, much less anywhere close to showing improvement.
His overall field goal percentage is down to 35.5% after being at 41.5% in 2018-19. And Red Raider fans are well aware that his 3-point shooting has been atrocious. After he hit at a 44.9% clip in his first season, he’s made just 23.7% of his looks from deep thus far as a sophomore.
That’s a huge problem for a team that is limited when it comes to the number of reliable scorers there are for Chris Beard to turn to. We came into the season believing that Edwards and junior Davide Moretti, the only other member of last year’s 8-man rotation to return, would be the pillars upon which this team’s offense would be built.
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What’s more, they were also believed to be the only two reliable outside shooting threats on the roster given that they were the only players that had proven to be able to hit 3s at the collegiate level. Unfortunately, neither has shot as well this year as they did last year.
But where Edwards’ shooting has been a clear detriment for his team, at least Moretti has been able to give the Red Raiders a second outside threat. Though his 3-point percentage has dropped 8.2% from a year ago, the fact that he’s still shooting 37.5% means he’s continuing to provide his team with some much-needed scoring.
He’s now become Tech’s second-best 3-point option behind true freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey. Though his outside shot was thought to be his primary deficiency when he came out of high school, Ramsey is shooting a team-best 46.8% from deep, which is even better than what Moretti shot a season ago.
Regardless, a team needs at least three reliable outside shooters. As we have seen in the last two games when both Moretti and Ramsey had off nights, having three capable 3-point threats is a must if you are going to survive an off night from one of your top options.
Against Baylor, Moretti was the one who could not find the range. He was 3-11 from the floor and 0-6 from deep. Thus, the entire 3-point offense fell upon Ramsey’s shoulders and despite the fact that he hit 5-10 shots from deep on his way to 20 points, Tech managed just 52 points as a team as the rest of the roster was just 2-13 from distance.
Saturday against West Virginia, Moretti was back to his normal self hitting 4-8 shots from behind the arc and 6-12 overall as he scored a team-high 16 points. Unfortunately, his cold shooting from the previous game jumped to Ramsey who was just 3-15 overall and 1-4 from 3-point range to finish with only 8 points. Again the Red Raiders struggled offensively as they put up just 54 points to lose their second-straight game. Outside of Moretti, Tech was just 2-19 from 3-point range.
In either game, Tech desperately needed Kyler Edwards to take up some of the slack and he couldn’t. A combined 2-11 from downtown in those two losses, he missed all five of his outside attempts against the Mountaineers.
We can forgive a random poor shooting effort from Moretti or Ramsey from time to time because for the most part, they have been solid in that regard. But it is time to start wondering if the Kyler Edwards we saw last year was just a mirage.
Perhaps mirage is not the right term as we know his performance was real and a huge part of last season’s magical March run. But was it a product of playing a complementary role off the bench rather than a primary role as a starter?
Last year, opposing teams sent their best defenders at and built their defensive game plans around Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, and Moretti. Thus, Edwards was often left in a more advantageous spot as defenses helped off of him.
That’s not been the case this year. His usage percentage (how much he either shoots, assists, or turns the ball over when he’s in the game) is up almost 1.5%, his field goal attempts per 100 possessions have risen by 3.1, and he is second on the team in both minutes played (32.2) and field goals (10.1) per game.
However, he’s just 7th on the team in offensive rating, the number of points he would produce on average per 100 possessions. At just 98.3, he’s ahead of only Clarence Nadolny, Andrei Savrasov, Kevin McCullar, and Russell Tchewa.
That’s not going to get it done for this year’s team. This roster was constructed with the idea that Edwards would be one of the most reliable and consistent scorers on the floor and until he begins to live up to that expectation, he’s going to continue to hurt the Red Raiders more than he helps them.