Texas Tech basketball: The greatest flaw Red Raiders must address in 2020-21

A look at last season’s national rankings reveals that rebounding was Texas Tech’s greatest flaw.  But is the roster equipped to improve in that area in 2020-21?

In the game of basketball, not being able to rebound is as aggravating as not being able to throw strikes in baseball or make shorts putts in golf.  Unfortunately, that area was the 2019-20 Texas Tech basketball team’s greatest flaw, a fact which made watching games rather aggravating for fans.  Now, we have turned our attention to the upcoming season and it is no wonder we are curious if this year’s roster will be better suited to compete on the glass.

When you look at the national team rankings, it becomes obvious that Tech was not only one of the worst rebounding teams in the Big 12 but in the nation.  (As we look at the stats, keep in mind that there were 353 teams competing in Division I last season.)

First of all, consider that Tech was No. 282 overall in total rebounds per game.  Grabbing just 33.4 on average, the Red Raiders were 8th in the Big 12.  Meanwhile, the national leader was Buffalo, which grabbled 41.9 per game.

What hurts when thinking about Buffalo is that the Bulls were led on the glass by Josh Mballa, who was a Red Raider in 2018-19.  The 6-foot-8 forward couldn’t get on the floor for the Red Raiders as a true freshman but exploded as a sophomore grabbing 9.6 rebounds to go along with scoring 10.8 points per game this past season.  Certainly, one has to believe that he could have been a huge help to the Red Raiders in both areas.

So now, the question we have to ask, is whether or not this revamped roster is ready to perform better in this most critical aspect of the game.  Of course, when you consider that Tech ranked No. 281 in total rebounds, No. 262 in defensive rebounds per game, and No. 245 in offensive rebounds per game, there isn’t far to go to show improvement.

First, let’s look at the players Tech lost versus the ones that have joined the program.  The departed players, Chris Clarke, T.J. Holyfield, Davide Moretti, Jahmi’us Ramsey, Russell Tchewa, and Andre Savrasov averaged 18.7 boards per game.  Top among them was Clarke who led Tech with 6.6.  As a group, they averaged over half of the team’s total from last season.

The good news is that the three veterans Tech will ask to help fill that hole averaged 17.5 rebounds per game in their most recent seasons.  The leader is 6-foot-7 forward Marcus Santos-Silva, who averaged 8.9 boards per game this past season.  Meanwhile, Joel Ntambwe, who sat out the 2019-20 season, grabbed 5.5, and Georgetown transfer MacMcClung pulled in 3.1.

Next, let’s look at what the freshmen might be able to add to the equation.  That starts with a redshirt who could be a surprising cog this season, Tyreek Smith.

After missing all of last year with a broken foot, he is back to full health and he could make quite the difference given his elite athleticism and leaping ability.  The 6-foot-8 former 4-star recruit averaged nearly 11 rebounds per game combined on the high school and AAU circuits.

On the other hand, there is 7-footer Vlad Goldin, who will add some serious size off the bench should he be called upon.  However, when I recently watched a pair of his games from last season, he was far from dominant on the glass.

But while Goldin may not be a beast on the boards yet, two of his 2020 signing classmates were much stronger in that regard.  In high school, Micah Peavy of Duncanville averaged 11 rebounds per game and Chibuzo Agbo of San Diego, CA averaged 9.  Thus, look for both 6-foot-7 forwards to be factors on the glass right away as true freshmen.

Even 6-foot-4 guard Nimari Burnett is willing to mix it up on the boards.  The McDonald’s All-American averaged 6.5 rebounds per game thanks to a wingspan that is nearly seven feet.

But while all these first-year players seem willing to battle for boards, the truth is that the returning players must also improve when it comes to rebounding.  And that’s especially true of Terrence Shannon Jr.

Playing last year at 6-foot-6, he was able to pull down only 4.1 rebounds per game despite being the best overall athlete on the roster.  This offseason, he’s reportedly grown at least an inch and has put on at ten pounds of muscle.  That should allow him to be a monster on the glass, so long as his effort matches his physical tools, which wasn’t always the case last year.

One player whose effort was never in question last year is Kevin McCullar Jr.  Given that his minutes are almost certain to increase significantly, expect him to pull down far more than the 3.2 rebounds he averaged as a redshirt freshman.

In all, Tech was outrebounded in its 13 losses this past year by an average of 5.6 per game.  What’s more, in only four of those games were the Red Raiders not beaten on the boards.

To put it simply, that area of the game was Tech’s greatest flaw in 2019-20 but it appears that this roster is better equipped to compete on the glass.  If that proves to be what plays out this upcoming season, Red Raider fans should be far less frustrated when watching games in 2019-20.