The Mountaineers complete their long weekend road swing in Texas tonight in Lubbock when they take on Tubby Smith and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. With that in mind, we asked Viva The Matadors' site manager, Seth C. for some insight.
WVUIE97: Tech comes into this game with roughly the same record as WVU. Have the Red Raiders improved over last season? In what ways?
Seth: I think this is a better team, overall. Chris Walker was a terrific person and motivator, but I think Tubby Smith is a much better coach and it's not even close. Texas Tech was in the 200's in the KenPom ratings in 2013 and now Texas Tech is 112th. I know that's something ridiculous to celebrate, but for those of us that have seen years of bad basketball, starting with Pat Knight, then Gillispie and Walker, it does appear that the coaching is better and as a result, a better team.
WVUIE97: What has Tubby Smith done for the program in his short time there so far? Have the fans embraced him yet?
Seth: I think it's really hard not to like the guy. He's terrific with the fans and exactly what this program needed. A father-figure (or grandfather-figure) of sorts. The fans know that they aren't getting getting a coach that has an alcohol problem or was hired because his dad was the coach. This really was a unique opportunity for Texas Tech to have a coach that is a Hall of Famer that can at least get the program back on track. This might be similar to the Knight hire, but at least with Smith, there's no thought that Smith is going to demand that they hire his son.
Seth: Crockett has added a pretty decent jump-shot and a mid-range game that has really helped his game improve. Tolbert has also added a jump-shot that's been a bit of surprise. At the least, both of these guys have added a bit of an outside game that helps keeps defenses honest. Last year, there really wasn't the threat of an outside shot from either.
WVUIE97: Besides those two forwards, who else do the Mountaineers need to be wary of?
Seth: This has been the problem. There just hasn't been much, if any consistency, from the other role players. One guy will have a decent game and the the others won't pick it up. It's been a bit maddening, but that's what usually separates all-conference type of players from just guys. Dusty Hannahs is the outside shooter, Robert Turner is the point guard and Toddrick Gotcher is a guy that does a bit of everything. A guy that's been pretty interesting for me to watch is Aaron Ross, a 6-8 redshirt freshman forward that has a really nice outside shot and is a bit of a match-up problem.
WVUIE97: What kind of atmosphere should WVU expect on Monday night? How do you see the game playing out?
Seth: Texas Tech is still working on getting some sort of crowd back. That usually happens with more consistent wins, so I don't think you should expect any sort of hostile environment. Texas Tech should be much better at home than on the road and I think the Red Raiders will keep it close. I knwo it's not fun to think this way, but TTU, WVU and TCU are all at the bottom of the conference and if one of these three teams can steal these wins against one another, that could help significantly. I'll take Texas Tech here because they are at home for two straight games, while WVU starts with two games on the road.
Thanks again to Seth for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, @SethC_SBN, and be sure to check out Viva The Matadors (and follow them on Twitter, @vivathematador) for more excellent Texas Tech coverage.