Texas Tech basketball: Why aren’t Red Raiders ranked as high as we’d like?

Feb 19, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Bryson Williams (11) is announced as a starter before the game against the Texas Longhorns at Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Bryson Williams (11) is announced as a starter before the game against the Texas Longhorns at Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

Monday, the newest top-25 polls were released and to the surprise of many Texas Tech basketball fans, the Red Raiders jumped only to No. 9 despite beating both then-No. 7 Baylor and then-No. 20 Texas last week.  Meanwhile, we learned on Saturday that the Red Raiders would be just a No. 3 seed if the NCAA Tournament were to begin today.  What’s more, Tech sits at only 8th in the NET rankings.  Those rankings and seedings, while lofty in the grand scheme of things, are a bit disappointing for fans who hoped to see the Red Raiders climb higher after last week’s two massive wins.

Sure, the poll rankings don’t truly matter in college basketball.  That’s because, unlike in football where only four teams make the playoff, 68 teams get a shot at winning it all in March.

But, where a team is ranked in the NET matters in regard to the Selection Committee as it is a metric that helps seed the NCAA Tournament.  But what’s more, rankings matter to Texas Tech fans as we see the Red Raiders continue to strive for the type of respect that other programs seem to get simply because of the name on the front of their jerseys.

So why are the Red Raiders ranked only No. 9 in the country, just one spot ahead of a Baylor team that they swept in the regular season and still four spots behind a Kansas team that Tech split the regular-season series with?  Well, there are a number of reasons why.

First of all, the Red Raiders have a poor road record.  In fact, they are just 3-5 in true road games this season.  That record includes losses at Kansas State, Iowa State, and Oklahoma, three teams that are unranked and have losing records in Big 12 play.

Now, astute college basketball fans might realize that two of Tech’s road losses are easy to explain and came with extenuating circumstances.  Remember that when the Red Raiders fell in Ames, they had only seven healthy players on the roster.  Despite that fact, Tech lost that game by just five points.

Also, when the Red Raiders lost at Kansas State, they were playing their third game in the span of a week and their fifth game in ten days.  That afternoon, Mark Adams’ team had nothing left in the tank and could not put forth the type of physical effort needed to win road games in the Big 12.  Of course, the average pollster, the one who does not follow the Big 12 on a daily or even weekly basis, will only see two losses to bottom-feeding Big 12 teams and hold that against the Red Raiders taking no account of the context surrounding those defeats.

Additionally, close road losses to now-No. 11 Providence and Kansas do nothing to help the Red Raiders’ resume.  Though they may help perception a bit, those defeats don’t help push the Red Raiders to the heights that those of us in scarlet and black would like them to reach in the polls.  In other words, good losses are about as meaningful as bad losses when it comes to a team’s resume.

Meanwhile, teams that Tech fans measure the Red Raiders against this year, Kansas and Baylor, have much better road marks.  Kansas is 6-2 on the road while Baylor is 6-3.  Thus, both of those teams have an edge over Tech when it comes to road records and that helps their resumes stand out.  What’s more, no other top-10 team currently has a losing road record with the worst outside of Tech being Kentucky at 5-4.

Another factor holding Tech back is that there is only one quality non-conference win on Tech’s resume, December’s 57-52 OT win over then-No. 13 Tennessee in New York City.  In fact, overall, Tech’s non-conference resume is simply lacking.  With a non-conference strength of schedule of just 145th in the nation, Tech is far behind Kansas (No. 58) and Baylor (No. 99).  Taking it a step further, only one team in the current top-10, Purdue, has a weaker non-conference schedule rating with the Boilermakers checking in with the No. 245 non-con schedule in the nation.

That’s an area where the Red Raiders need to improve in upcoming years.  This season, Adams scheduled nine out of conference games that are Quad-4 games, meaning they are games against teams currently in the lowest 25% of all teams in the nation.  By comparison, Baylor has played only six Quad-4 games while Kansas has played just two.  Meanwhile, the only top-10 team with more Quad-4 games on its resume than Tech is Gonzaga, which racks up Quad-4 games by playing in the West Coast Conference.

And speaking of the NCAA’s quad system, Tech has not been as strong in Quad-1 games as other top-10 teams.  At just 7-6 in such contests this season, the Red Raiders are only mediocre against the top competition.  Meanwhile, Kansas is 10-3 and Baylor is 9-4 in Quad-1 games.  All other top-10 teams are at least two games over .500 in Quad-1 games as of the time that this article was published.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that Tech doesn’t have the reputation that other top-10 teams have.  Of the nine other teams ranked in the top 10, you will find bluebloods like Gonzaga (1), Arizona (2), Kansas, Kentucky (6), and Duke (7).  What’s more, you will also find teams like Villanova (8), and Baylor which have recently won National Championships.

The point is that Tech isn’t going to get the benefit of the doubt over any of those programs.  That’s why it took the Red Raiders so long to surpass Baylor in the polls and why Tech can’t seem to jump a traditional basketball school like Purdue (4) or the flavor of the year, Auburn (3).

Remember, Texas Tech doesn’t ever get the unwarranted boost that some programs (we’re looking at you, Texas) seem to get on an annual basis.  And likewise, only dedicated experts and pundits have the proper amount of respect for Mark Adams as a head coach.  But to think that those who watch him only from afar or who simply rely on the reputation of a head coach when ranking teams will give Adams the credit he deserves is unrealistic.

Now, the point here is not to argue against Texas Tech (I too believe the Red Raiders are underrated and under-seeded at this time) but to explain why the Red Raiders didn’t move up very far in this week’s polls and why a team like Baylor is ahead of Tech in the NCAA Tournament seedings.  And there is good news.

Tech has a chance to force its way up the rankings and seed list by winning.  There are two more road games on the schedule that will be Quad-1 opportunities (TCU and Oklahoma State) and there will likely be opportunities for more Quad-1 wins in the Big 12 Tournament.  So don’t free Red Raider fans.

Though Selection Sunday is quickly nearing, there remain opportunities for the Red Raiders to move up.  And given the way Mark Adams has his team playing, it seems to be a safe bet that Tech’s highest rankings this year are still to be reached.