The Texas Tech men’s basketball team is prepping for its first Final Four appearance, the latest feat in the Red Raiders’ record-breaking season.
The team raised some eyebrows after it was predicted to finish seventh in the conference in the Big 12 Preseason Poll but brought home a share of the regular-season championship for the first time in program history, according to Tech Athletics. The Red Raiders earned a 26-5 record in the regular season and went 14-4 in conference play.
Two Red Raiders broke individual records to help contribute to the team’s historic season.
The projected NBA lottery draft pick, sophomore guard Jarrett Culver, was the first player in program history to be named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, according to Tech Athletics. Culver is also the first player in program history to score 1,000 after his freshman and sophomore seasons. Culver sits at 1,096 points in his first two years at Tech.
Graduate transfer Tariq Owens wrote his name in the school record books with his ability to block shots this season. On Dec. 1, Owens broke the single-game block record after sending eight shots back in Tech’s game against Memphis, according to Tech Athletics. Owens has blocked 88 shots this season, giving him the single-season school record. Tony Battie has held the single-season block record since 1996-97 with 71 blocks.
With the 75-69 win against No. 1-seed Gonzaga, the Red Raiders will make an appearance in the Final Four for the first time, according to Tech Athletics.
The school record-breaking basketball team has been led by head coach Chris Beard, who has turned the program around in his three seasons at the helm.
Prior to Beard, the men’s basketball team never earned a win in Morgantown, West Virginia, or Lawrence, Kansas, according to Tech Athletics. Beard broke both losing streaks after coaching the team to an 85-73 win in Lawrence last season and a 62-59 win in Morgantown this season. Beard also coached the team to its first win in Austin since 1996 with a 68-62 win against Texas.
Along with the big road wins, Beard coached the 2018-19 team to 11 conference wins, the program’s single-season high, according to Tech Athletics.
In his second year as head coach at Tech, Beard led the team to the nation’s best and the program’s single-season record with eight wins against AP Top 25 teams in the 2017-18 season, according to Tech Athletics.
Beard also coached this year’s team to the program’s second-best regular season record, going 26-5 this season, according to Tech Athletics. After winning four games in the tournament thus far, the 2018-19 team has tied the program record for the most wins in a single season with 30 wins. The only other time a Tech basketball team won 30 games in a season was in 1995-96.
Beard’s guidance also led to the first back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in program history, according to Tech Athletics. After coaching the 2017-18 team to the first Elite Eight appearance in program history, he now has led the team to its first back-to-back Elite Eight appearances.
After his first two years as the team’s head coach, Beard racked up 45 wins to tie him with Bob Knight for the most wins in program history for a coach in their first two seasons, according to Tech Athletics.
Along with all the things Beard has accomplished in a short period of time, he also coached the first one-and-done NBA prospect in program history and the second NBA draft first-round selection with Zhaire Smith, according to Tech Athletics.
The record-breaking season for the Red Raiders has led them to the furthest tournament run in program history which culminates in their matchup against Michigan State on Saturday with a trip to the national championship on the line.