It appears that the nation is finally taking notice of what Grant McCasland and the Texas Tech basketball team are building in Lubbock. After a 2-0 week with wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State to start Big 12 play 3-0, the red-hot Red Raiders find themselves ranked 25th in this week's Associated Press poll.
This is the first time that Tech has earned a national ranking under first-year head coach Grant McCasland. That's a nice step forward for the program considering that most expected 2023-24 to be a transition year.
Thanks to big wins over Texas, OSU, and KSU, the Red Raiders are riding a 9-game winning streak. That's the longest the program has enjoyed since the 2018-19 season when Tech concluded the regular season with nine wins in a row on the way to an eventual National Championship Game appearance.
Of course, the poll is overloaded with Big 12 teams. This week, eight squads from the nation's deepest conference are ranked with Kansas, Houston, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, BYU, and Iowa State also included in the top 25.
As for the Red Raiders, the road is about to get tougher. Wednesday, Tech will be in Houston to face the Cougars before hosting BYU on Saturday. Then, next week, McCasland and his team will be at Oklahoma and TCU for two more brutal tests.
Thus, it seems almost guaranteed that the current winning streak will come to an end shortly. However, by going 3-0 to start league play, Tech has a bit of a margin for error.
The Red Raiders hope to continue their strong play as the competition stiffens in the upcoming days. Since their last loss, an overtime defeat to Butler on November 30, Tech has averaged 81.2 points per game while giving up just 63.3. In Big 12 play, the Red Raiders are averaging 76.6 p.p.g. while giving up 66.3.
Of course, the next game on the schedule will be the biggest test of the season thus far. Playing at Houston with the Cougars angry as they ride a two-game losing streak will tell us quite about McCasland's team.
All time, the Red Raiders and Houston have played 56 times with Houston holding a 29-27 edge. The two schools have played only once in the past 10 seasons, a 64-53 Cougar win in Fort Worth in November of 2020.
Despite being ranked, Tech will still enter its next game as prohibitive underdogs. What's more, a national ranking may put more of a target on the Red Raiders' back.
However, this team appears tough enough to handle any challenge, which is one reason it finds itself earning some national respect this week. If the Red Raiders can continue their hot play and stun Houston and then hold serve at home against BYU on Saturday, it will be fascinating to see just how high Tech can climb in the polls. Of course, that's asking quite a bit.