Monday, April 8, 2019

Schaible: From a West Virginia humbling to the big stage, Texas Tech stands one game from standing on top

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

By: Brian Schaible
Twitter: @SBNationReports

For a team which stands at 31 wins and six losses, it’s hard to imagine this Texas Tech squad had to regroup following a losing streak.

But, they did.

After racing out to a 15-1 start, with a close loss to Duke as their only blemish, the wheels came off a bit in mid-January.

It started with a home loss to Iowa State followed by setbacks at Baylor and Kansas State. Cutting down the nets in Minneapolis would have only made sense to someone in a deeply hallucinogenic trance.

It was a dream. But a pipe dream at best.

But then things started to turn around. 

They coasted through the rest of the Big 12 schedule. They even avenged a road loss at Kansas with a 29-point throttling of Jayhawks in Lubbock.

And they weren’t just beating opponents, for the most part, they were burying them.

They up by 39 against West Virginia before coasting to an 81-50 victory in mid-February.

The ‘Guns Up’ crew were locked and loaded.

But, as the Big 12 tournament got underway in Kansas City, the Red Raiders were suddenly lacking firepower.

An embarrassing opening round loss to the last place West Virginia Mountaineers had many questioning whether a deep NCAA tournament run was even possible.

The extra few days of rest may have been a blessing in disguise. Texas Tech fully regrouped and knocked off the likes of Buffalo, Michigan, Gonzaga and Michigan State to make it to the national title game.

This team means business.

“Sometimes we like to think we can out-tough an opponent,” said Texas Tech coach Chris Beard. “We battled. We contested. Our objective was not to out rebound Michigan State, it was just to be competitive and get our share.”

One of the stars in the semifinal has been the well-traveled Matt Mooney. His third college experience has worked out like a charm.

“I can’t explain it man, it’s been a heck of a journey,” said Mooney. “You know, I’m living the dream right now. I’m so grateful I got another opportunity. I’m grateful for this coaching believing in me, and these guys, my teammates, welcoming me into the program.”

For Texas Tech to get by Virginia Monday night, they will need to continue their attacking defense and create high percentage shots in the paint. 

“We just want to go in and play our game,” Red Raiders guard Kyler Edwards said. “If we don’t have a shot, we are going to kick it back out to make sure we are getting open looks.”

Somebody will emerge Monday night with their first ever national championship.

It’s a storybook ending no matter which team ends up lifting the trophy.

For Beard, he knew this program could reach new heights.

“I believe that Texas Tech can be part of the fight every year, and that’s what we are trying to do. If you’re in the fight long enough, eventually you are going to win.”