If the men’s basketball team is looking for a challenge to start its season, it could not have gotten much of a better challenge than Texas Tech.
The only higher competition, based off last season, would have been national champion Virginia, who defeated runner-up Texas Tech.
Yes, the Panthers open the 2019-2020 schedule Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the same Red Raiders who played in the national championship game after defeating Michigan, Gonzaga and Michigan State, who were all seeded higher than Texas Tech, en route to a championship appearance.
And this year, Texas Tech was given a preseason ranking of 13th in the Associated Press poll, signalling that while the Red Raiders lost some of its core from last year’s run, they still have a lot to offer.
The Red Raiders lost their star player from last season, Jarrett Culver, and are only returning three players from last season’s roster.
Davide Moretti may be the name people recognize the most, as he was a key cog in the team’s success in the tournament last year.
He averaged 11.5 points per game last season, second-most on the team, and Kyler Edwards, another returning guard, averaged 5.5 points per game. The third returning player is Andrei Savrasov, but he redshirted last year.
While the rest of the roster is new to the team, some outlets, such as NBCSports, have pegged Jahmi’us Ramsey, a freshman guard, as a player to watch this season.
Though Ramsey has no college film to prove that sentiment, he averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per game as a senior, and he was listed as a four-star recruit by ESPN.
For Eastern, the opposite is true: The Panthers have a lot of their core returning from last season.
While losing freshmen Ben Harvey and Cam Burrell in the offseason hurts, Eastern returns four of its five leading scorers from last season: Josiah Wallace (15.5 ppg), Mack Smith (12.8 ppg), Shareef Smith (8.5 ppg) and Rade Kukobat (7.6 ppg).
Ben Harvey was third on the team with 10.2 ppg.
Kukobat and JaQualis Matlock also return for the Panthers as the co-leading rebounders from last season (4.8 per game each).
Kashawn Charles, a good three-point shooter, Shawn Wilson, Logan Koch and Braxton Shaw, who missed a good chunk of last season due to injury, round out the returning cast for Eastern.
Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour also seems confident in the five newcomers to the team, especially about the defensive presence they can present.
So Tuesday’s matchup will be the new of Texas Tech against the old of Eastern, and while getting an accurate reading of Eastern’s roster for the season may be difficult (with it facing such a good team), seeing how the Panthers will handle such a big-named team will be interesting nonetheless.
With such a mix of returning players and new players, Tuesday may be a game where Spoonhour mixes up the lineup throughout the game to see how everyone mixes with each other early on.
Texas Tech is not the only big-name team Eastern faces this opening week, however, as the Panthers face Wisconsin Friday on the road.
Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]