Texas Tech have a history in hoops of being the other guys at best. This season, the Red Raiders look read to be the guys and are putting together the kind of run to make them awfully tempting in the NCAA Tournament. There’s a Euro at the heart of their surge and Emmet Ryan is loving what Davide Moretti is doing
You would think a school that can claim the great Bobby Knight as a former head coach would be more revered than this in basketball but things have never been easy for the Red Raiders.
Prior to this current senior class, trips to the Big Dance were few and far between. Then things really picked up. The freshman year for the elder statesmen of the current crop, they punched a ticket to the 2016 NCAA Tournament. That was their first since 2007. It took them just two seasons to get back and when they did, they went deep in historic fashion. A first win of any kind since 2005, then a first trip to the Sweet 16 since the same year, and that was followed up all the way with a spot in the Elite Eight.
It was historic, unprecedented, and they may be ready to do even better. Now tied for ninth in the 2019 March Madness title odds according to MyTopSportsbooks.com, Texas Tech has leapt up the list thanks to a relative offensive explosion. Earlier in the year, Tech was almost entirely reliant on Jarrett Culver to generate offense. During their current nine-game win streak, they are averaging 79.7 PPG and have had at least three players in double-figures in all nine games. With a defense that still ranks first in efficiency at KenPom, the Red Raiders have showed enough on offense to be taken very seriously as a title contender.
It goes well beyond Culver. Davide Moretti is the only 50-40-90 player in the history of the Big 12 conference. Having come through Stella Azzurra and Pistoia’s systems, he’s now in his sophomore season as a combo guard with the Red Raiders, having been part of the Italian U18 side that took bronze in the 2016 European Championships.
Before making the jump across the Atlantic, he had some serious battle-hardening that can’t be understated. With Treviso he played two seasons in Serie A2. That’s a lot of road trips to some hostile venues where the fans won’t care if you’re a kid just trying to make it.
Whatever the Big 12 can offer in terms of physicality, long road trips, and intimidating crowds, he’s seen it all before back home. In his summer between freshman and sophomore seasons, he suited up for Italy’s U20 side and had 12.9 points per game to go with 2.1 rebounds and 2 assists, including a huge 29 point day against Serbia.
His 48 per cent shooting from deep this season has been eye popping and the Bolognese youngster has seen his minutes jump in turn, from 12 to 30 per game this year with the 26-5 Texas Tech team that took its first ever Big 12 title this year.
He’s not the only Euro on the Red Raiders, France’s Josh Mballa is a freshman with them but he’s still finding his way with the side and is unlikely to feature heavily in March Madness.
Moretti on the other hand could well be the guy for the Red Raiders in their bid to be in that final shot of one shining moment.