Big 12 Hoops Countdown: Texas Tech

In a weeklong countdown based on the preseason coaches poll, MetroNews previews the basketball teams of the Big 12 …

Texas Tech last season: 8-23 (1-17 Big 12); 241 RPI

On the bench: Billy Gillispie resigned in October amid a personal health crisis and a player mutiny, resulting in the interim promotion of Chris Walker. Extremely interim, that is, with Walker operating under a six-month contract.

“There are a lot of interim coaches out there — they just don’t know it,” Walker joked. “People look at me like I’ve got six months to live, but I feel like I’ve got six months to give.”

Who’s gone: Point guard Javarez Willis (8.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists) transferred to Ohio after making 29 starts, guard Terran Petteway (3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg) transferred to Nebraska after making 11 starts, and forward Robert Lewandowski (6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg) graduated.

Who’s back: Sophomore forward Jordan Tolbert (11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) was an outspoken critic of Gillispie, but will stick around under Walker’s guidance. Senior guard Ty Nurse (8.8 ppg, 1.9 apg) is the only other returning starter, along with sixth man Jaye Crockett (8.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg).

Who’s new: Two juniors coming off redshirt seasons — 6-10 Kader Tapsoba and 6-11 Dejan Kravic — give the Red Raiders a size boost. Among the six-member recruiting class are three junior-college guards: Jamal Williams II, Daylen Robinson and Trency Jackson. The prep signees were highlighted by 6-8 forward Aaron Ross and three-star point guard Josh Gray.

Nonconference schedule: Texas Tech plays all 11 nonconference games in Lubbock, with visits from Arizona, Alabama and Arizona State.

Postseason prognosis: Given the drama and defections from a team that was brutally bad last season, it was stunning to see Texas Tech picked ahead of anybody in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll. Yet the Red Raiders edged out TCU for ninth. Expect Tech to occupy the cellar once the season plays out.

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