(CBS Dallas)- The Texas Tech Red Raiders weren’t on many people’s radars as a potential Final Four team when the tournament began two weeks ago. Yet, as we approach the final weekend, Chris Beard’s group is still standing, having dispatched the top two teams in their side of the bracket in convincing fashion last weekend.
In just his third season with the program, Beard has now led TTU to an Elite Eight and Final Four in back-to-back seasons, bringing the program to heights never before reached. And it’s been done thanks to a defensive scheme that, like fellow Final Four participant Virginia, slowly chokes the life out of opponents.
“I have known him (Chris Beard) since he was an assistant under Bob Knight, and we always talk about Virginia and their pack line mentality, and he has that same scheme,” said CBS Sports color analyst Bill Raftery on a conference call Tuesday. “Add that with some really experienced guys to blend in with potentially a very high draft pick in Jarrett Culver, and it’s a really tough team.”
Though the team has been known for its style of defense, they have plenty to work with on the offensive side of the ball too. Three players average double figures (Culver, Davide Moretti, and Matt Mooney), and they connect on 47 percent of their shots from the field, including 36.5 percent from three. The combination of tough defense and efficient offense makes Raftery’s fellow analyst Grant Hill think the Red Raiders could certainly cut down the nets on Monday night.
“They really get after it on both ends of the floor. As Raf said, everyone knows about their defense, but they’re an underrated offensive team, and they have players who are capable,” said Hill on the same call. “They have shown that in their last two games against Michigan and Gonzaga. They are a team that, [with] the way they play and the way they compete, they have a real chance.”
Raftery agrees with Hill and cites Beard’s connection with his players as another reason that he has been able to get so much out of his team over the last two seasons.
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“He is a very talented guy, just watching him in practice he is very in touch with today’s young people, whether it is music, rapport or dialogue. He is just an outstanding coach, and a lot of it he attributes to Bob Knight, particularly on the defensive end and with his motion offense. They are a very tough out.”