Key Losses: F Devonne Giles (11.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), G/F Curtis Marshall (6.7 ppg), G Ronald Ross (17.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated UCLA 78–66, defeated Gonzaga 71–69, lost to West Virginia 65–60 in the regional semifinals
New Britain, CT/Santa Fe (FL) CC
Plano, TX/Plano Senior
Bedford, TX/L.D. Bell
Plefka began his collegiate career by playing one season of baseball at Vermont and one season of basketball at James Madison. He also gave an oral commitment to play football at Rutgers coming out of high school. Voskuil is a solid shooter, averaging 18.7 points as a high school senior, while Martin, a swingman, is a scorer who averaged better than 20 points as a prep. Wilkerson, Buttell, Prince, Lowhorn and Thornton give the Raiders sizable building blocks for the future, although several will probably redshirt this season.
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As he enters his 40th season as a collegiate head coach, Bob Knight needs 26 victories to surpass Dean Smith and become the winningest coach in men's college basketball history.
Knight has won at least 26 games in a season eight times in his career, so it isn't out of the question that he could reach the milestone this year. On the other hand, this season could also feature as many youthful breakdowns as historic countdowns.
Texas Tech loses two of its top four scorers from last year's Sweet 16 team, and the Raiders will feature eight new players on the roster. There may still be enough talent in place for Tech to make its fifth consecutive postseason appearance, but even the legendary and occasionally volatile leader of the Raiders may have to practice patience as this young team grows up.
The Red Raiders were sometimes soft in the middle last season, and Texas Tech will enter this year with far more unknowns than proven performers.
Tech, which didn't start a true center last season, must replace 6-foot-8 forward Devonne Giles, who started 32 games, and may be without one of its biggest returning inside players, sophomore Damir Suljagic, during the early part of the season. Suljagic underwent surgery in June to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. Suljagic, who showed flashes of being a strong inside presence as a freshman, will probably not return to action until late November or December.
But the news is not all negative for Tech's post presence. The Raiders return 6-9 forward Darryl Dora, who averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. Dora possesses the athleticism and touch to be a more prolific scorer, as he proved when he scored eight points in the second half of Tech's second-round NCAA tournament win over Gonzaga.
Even if Suljagic returns on time and Dora continues to improve, the Raiders will likely need significant contributions from at least one of their incoming big men. Jonathan Plefka, a versatile, 6-8, 241-pound forward, is probably the most likely newcomer to provide an immediate impact after transferring from Santa Fe (Fla.) Community College.
Former walk-on Ronald Ross, who averaged 17.5 points per game last season, will certainly be missed. But Jarrius Jackson appears poised to take over Ross' leadership and scoring roles. Jackson, an outstanding outside shooter, averaged 15.3 points per game last season and shot a scorching 45.8 percent from 3-point range. He also led the Raiders in assists and shot 80.3 percent from the free-throw line. Toward the end of last season, Jackson was also particularly effective driving to the basket and kicking the ball out to teammates for open jumpers.
One of the most pleasant surprises from last year's squad, swingman Martin Zeno, also appears to be ready to accept a bigger role after averaging 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest. Zeno was one of the more impressive freshmen in the Big 12 last season, making a name for himself with a 24-point, 50-minute effort in Tech's double-overtime win against Kansas.
Like the frontcourt, however, the Raiders have some uncertainties in their backcourt. Juniors Drew Coffman and LucQuente White each played in at least 22 games last season, but both guards will be asked to play more significant minutes this year. Freshmen Terry Martin and Alan Voskuil could also factor into the rotation early in the season.
With the return of Jackson and Zeno, the Red Raiders certainly feature some proven firepower. But the roster has undergone a major overhaul since Tech lost to West Virginia on March 24 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. The eight newcomers on the squad form an impressive recruiting class, but with so many new faces, it may also take time for Tech to jell.
With a little luck and a lot of magic performed by Knight, Tech should once again be a factor in the Big 12 race and could easily reach the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.