No. 7 Texas Tech opens postseason vs. last-place WVU
Normally, a 12-hour rule is imposed on Texas Tech basketball players to reconcile their emotions following a game, no matter what the outcome.
After claiming a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship, however, Chris Beard made an exception.
The third-year coach let the No. 7 Red Raiders (26-5) rejoice for a full 24 hours before concentrating on a quarterfinal matchup Thursday against West Virginia (13-19) in the Big 12 tournament at Kansas City, Mo.
West Virginia, the 10th and last seed, upset seventh-seeded Oklahoma 72-71 in the first round Wednesday. Next up, the Mountaineers will try to halt Texas Tech's nine-game winning streak.
The regular-season championship, which Texas Tech shared with Kansas State, was the first for the Red Raiders since 1995-96, when they captured the Southwest Conference title in the last year of that league's existence.
"You've got to give all of our players the credit," Beard said. "They're the ones that believed. You can imagine the outside noise. It starts in the recruiting process when people say, 'Man, you can't win the Big 12 at Texas Tech.'
"I've always disagreed. You get the right people in the locker room, it's all about culture and it's all about belief and expectations."
An offseason pact was made that essentially bound everyone in the program to the same goal, winning a Big 12 title. When Beard was discouraged by his team's effort, he vowed that a championship would be won, but perhaps not this season.
"We have a bad practice, he's like, 'Hey guys, I'm going to win this you-know-what and it's either with you or without you. But eventually I'm going to win it,'" senior forward Norense Odiase told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "It's just crazy to see that today. We actually did it, man. It's crazy."
Prior to Beard's arrival, Texas Tech finished fifth or better in the Big 12 just five times. From 2007-08 through 2016-17, the Red Raiders finished no better than seventh. Yet Beard detected the program's potential from 2001-11 while working as an assistant under Bob Knight and then Pat Knight.
With a solid recruiting class corralled for next season, the Red Raiders do not look to being fading anytime soon. As for the Big 12 Tournament, they are the second seed but are co-favorites with Kansas State.
Texas Tech features the Big 12 player of the year, sophomore guard Jarrett Culver, who averages 18.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
The award was just another reason to project Culver as a potential lottery pick in the next NBA Draft, though he is not yet ready to declare for the pros.
"I'm just focused on while I'm here, I'm doing what I can (to win)," Culver told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Whenever the time is, I just pray about that time. Whenever it is, it will be."
West Virginia hopes to have a prayer against the Red Raiders after scraping past the Sooners. Oklahoma's Christian James sank a buzzer-beater that appeared to tie the score, but when a video review revealed that his foot was on the 3-point arc as he took the shot, the basket was changed to a 2-pointer, giving the Mountaineers the win.
West Virginia junior guard Jermaine Haley recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds while adding four assists, and junior forward Lamont West scored a team-high 14 points.
The Mountaineers field a young squad following the dismissal of Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris plus Beetle Bolden's exit from the program after he missed time due to an ankle injury.
West Virginia center Sagaba Konate hasn't played since Dec. 8 because of a knee injury, but the (Morgantown, W.Va.) Dominion Post reported Wednesday night that he will be a game-time decision Thursday. Konate is averaging 13.6 points and eight rebounds per game.
--Field Level MediaHome