Though coaches are defined by what happens in March, let’s take a look at the most important regular-season wins of the Chris Beard era.
In college basketball, March is what matters. But to get to a place where the last two weekends of that month, and possibly the first weekend of April, are important, programs have to excel in the regular season. And though Chris Beard has become famous for what he’s accomplished in the NCAA Tournament, the regular-season wins he’s amassed have also been impressive.
Thus far, he’s compiled an overall regular-season record of 85-39 in four years. Interestingly, in his debut season of 2016-17 and his most recent season, he put up identical 18-13 records. In the two seasons in between, he was much better with a 23-8 second season and a 26-5 record in 2018-19.
Keep in mind that no major conference in the country has a tougher regular season than the Big 12. As the only high-major league with a true round-robin format, the Big 12 has the toughest path to a title given that every team has to play all nine conference opponents twice.
Prior to 2011-12, when that format was adopted after the league shrank to ten teams, Tech had the benefit of playing the Big 12 North schools only once a season. That was a blessing because those schools as a collective were more typically known more for their basketball than their football, which was the opposite of what the schools in the Big 12 South were thought of as.
Thus, Tech had the benefit of only having to play at Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado every-other-year. But since going to the current format, Tech has been guaranteed a yearly trip to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Hilton Coliseum in Ames, or Bramlage Coliseum in Manhatten, three venues that have been tough for the Red Raiders. What’s more, the annual game against West Virginia in Morgantown has become one of the toughest on the schedule as well.
In other words, Tech simply has to grind through a regular season that few upper-echelon programs can match. For instance, ACC powerhouses Duke and North Carolina play twice each year but they don’t always have to travel to such hostile road locals as Louisville, Syracuse, or Blacksburg. And don’t get me started on a program like Gonzaga, which plays a schedule in the West Coast Conference that would be manageable for even the Cavazos Junior High developmental team.
The point is that what Chris Beard has done in the regular season has been almost as impressive as what he’s accomplished in March and April. So let’s look back at the defining regular-season wins of his run in Lubbock thus far because, while they may not be as monumental as his wins in the Big Dance, they have been epic in their own right.