It had to happen sooner or later.
From the day Texas Tech announced the hiring of Tubby Smith as its new men's basketball coach (as celebrated in the amazing photo above), you had to figure it was only a matter of time before he began turning the program around.
As a head coach, Smith has taken Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament, Tulsa and Georgia to the Sweet 16 and Kentucky all the way to a national championship in 1998. He is one of seven active coaches to win 500 games and a national championship.
The man can coach — even at a program as downtrodden as Texas Tech has been the past few seasons.
The Red Raiders:
haven't won six Big 12 games in a season since 2008
haven't won three straight conference home games since 2010
haven't won 14 games in a season since 2010
currently have their highest RPI ranking (103rd) since finishing the 2009-10 season 66th
It took some time for the players to adjust to their new coach, but Texas Tech (13-12 overall, 5-7 Big 12) has won three of its last four games heading into its Tuesday night date with No. 8 Kansas (19-6, 10-2) at United Spirit Arena.
The Raiders' conference victories to date are: vs. Baylor, at TCU, vs. TCU, vs. Oklahoma State and at Oklahoma.
They had won three in a row before playing at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday. And they even hung around until the final minutes in a 70-64 road loss to Iowa State.
The Red Raiders, who are above .500 through 25 games for the first time since the 2009-10 season, fared even better at Oklahoma last week. Tech won, 68-60, in part, by holding the Sooners to 6-for-27 shooting from 3-point range.
Here are the Tech highlights from what was just their second road win of the season:
Obviously, the Red Raiders (tied for 7th out of 10 teams in the league standings) aren't a squad that many would fear, but they do some things well.
In Big 12 play, Texas Tech:
holds opponents to 68.5 points a game (first in the Big 12)
hits 74.9% of its free throws (second in the league to Oklahoma's 76.3%)
limits foes to 31.3% 3-point shooting (second to Kansas State's 30.8%)
comes up with 11.3 offensive rebounds a game (fourth)
Let's meet the players Kansas has to worry about as the Jayhawks try to give KU its ninth straight win against Texas Tech and its fourth straight victory in Lubbock, Texas.
6-7, 210, sr. forward
Smith plays Crockett at small forward to form a big lineup that can create matchup problems for some teams — but Kansas should not fall into that category with a frontcourt of Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins.
Crockett averages 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds this season, and had a career-high 23 points at Iowa State on Saturday.
In Big 12 play, he averages 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds (2.2 offensive rebounds), hits 49.3% of his shots and makes 85.7% at the foul line (second in the Big 12 to Eron Harris's 95.8%). He's currently on a free-throw streak of 16 straight makes — the longest of his career.
Including the non-conference, he is shooting 53.8% from the floor.
6-7, 225, jr. forward
Closing in on career numbers of 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in his third year with the program, Tolbert averages 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game this season.
A 56.5% free-throw shooter as a sophomore, Tolbert has made far better use of his time at the charity stripe in 2013-14, hitting 74% with 73 attempts.
His 50 offensive rebounds (2.0 a game) put him slightly behind Crockett for the team lead.
6-3, 180, jr. guard
Smith's first signee when he took over last spring, Turner (a junior college transfer) has been one of the most successful thieves in the Big 12 this year, averaging 1.67 steals a game against conference opponents.
His 2.8 assists average leads Tech, and he scores 9.7 points a game.
Turner had 16 points and 5 assists in the Red Raiders' win at Oklahoma.
Though he has hoisted 65 3-pointers — second-most on the team — he has only made 29.2%.
6-4, 200, so. guard
A do-it-all type of player, Gotcher has handled point guard, shooting guard and small forward responsibilities at various times this season, while averaging 7.7 points and 3.0 rebounds.
In his most recent effort, Gotcher put up 14 points and pulled down 6 boards on Saturday in a six-point loss at Iowa State.
Gotcher's 20 three-point makes are second on the Tech roster, but he only hits 32.3% from deep.
7-0, 235, sr. forward
The 7-footer doesn't exactly dominate — 6.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season — but he has done slightly better in three career games against Kansas: 9.7 points and 5.0 rebounds (but only 0.3 blocks).
In six of his last seven games he hasn't scored more than six points. In his one productive contest, he had 18 against TCU.
After the Raiders beat the Horned Frogs on Feb. 1, Kravic talked a little about how the team's big men work together.
6-4, 210, so. guard
Actually named after longtime baseball manager Dusty Baker, Hannahs plays 22.6 minutes a game off the bench. What he brings to the floor is a legitimate 3-point shooting threat.
The sophomore attempts 3.8 three-pointers a game, has made 37 from deep this season and has converted 39.4% of his 94 tries.
Hannahs averages 8.8 points and 1.4 assists on the season, compared to 10.8 points and 1.8 assists an outing in Big 12 games.;