Tonight, the Texas Tech basketball program is set to open its 99th season when Texas A&M-Commerce comes calling. While the Red Raiders will be heavy favorites, what we’ve already seen early in this college basketball season should be a cautionary tale for major-conference schools when facing teams from mid or low-major leagues.
Since the season began on Monday, several big-time programs have dropped buy games on their home court. Of course, the most famous instance was No. 4 Michigan State losing to James Madison 79-76 at home.
The same fate befell a Big 12 rival, Oklahoma State. Monday night, the Cowboys lost at home to Abilene Christian 64-59.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt (a future Texas Tech opponent) lost at home to Presbyterian and DePaul lost a buy game to Purdue-Fort Wayne. In other words, Tech has to be on guard tonight.
Now, the Lions of Texas A&M-Commerce aren’t necessarily the fiercest of opponents. Last season, they were just 13-20 overall and 9-9 in the Southland Conference.
However, they are accustomed to playing big-time programs. Last year, they faced Texas while this season, they have already taken on A&M (a lopsided 78-46 loss). What’s more, on Friday, they will play at Kentucky.
That means that tonight’s opponent for the Red Raiders will have one game of experience under its belt. That gives the Lions a small advantage after having an opportunity to work through some of the expected early-season kinks that every team must navigate.
Additionally, this could be a classic trap game for the Red Raiders. It’s hard to imagine the season opener being classified as such but given that the last time Grant McCasland’s team competed against another school, it picked up a win in a highly-publicized exhibition against No. 15 Texas A&M.
That was over a week ago and since then, the hype train for this year’s team has picked up significant steam. Now, it will be imperative that McCasland and his coaching staff keep the Red Raiders humble and focused not on their win over the Aggies but on taking care of business against four mid-major programs to open the year before heading to the Bahamas and the Battle 4 Atlantis where Tech will face Villanova in the opening game.
No one quite knows what to expect of this year’s team given the coaching change and the nine new faces on the roster. That’s what makes this season so intriguing, though.
The win over A&M, albeit in a scrimmage, has shown that the talent is there for the Red Raiders to be a dangerous team but there will certainly be some bumps in the road as the players learn to play the McCasland way. How long will that process take before becoming a way of life for this team? What does the McCasland way really look like, especially in a major conference? Which newcomers will be spark plugs and which will be afterthoughts come January?
The answers to those questions will be fascinating to find out and we will begin to learn about this team tonight. So as we prepare for another season of Texas Tech basketball with all its ups and downs on the way to March, here are some predictions as to what we will see this season.