If you had told Coach Beard or the Texas Tech fanbase that Arkansas scored under 70 points and that Mac McClung, Terrence Shannon, and Kyler Edwards would all be shooting for the lead or tie on successive possessions at the end of the game, I think everyone would have taken that scenario. However, Mac McClung missed the front of a 1-and-1 opportunity to take the lead, and Shannon and Edwards both missed contested layups.
Tech’s inability to score at times was the team’s Achilles heel going into the tournament, and it showed up at the exact wrong time. The Red Raiders showed incredible fight to get back into the game after Arkansas ran out to a 12-point lead in the second half. However, as has been the case in multiple games this year, it came down to whether Tech could make a game-tying or game-winning shot, and the team failed to do so this time.
Kevin McCullar was once again Tech’s best player on the floor, and his play very nearly willed Tech to a win late. Kevin is the heart of this team, and all season he has made tough, extra effort plays when Tech needed to grit their way through a stretch where the game started to get away from the Red Raiders. Tech was very much in every game it played this year, and McCullar deserves credit for that. His quiet leadership in making the hustle plays to just out-effort opposing players on both ends of the court elevates the rest of the team. Kevin played excellent down the stretch this year, and he will be a reason Tech shouldn’t drop off much, if at all next year.
If this was Terrence Shannon, Jr.’s last game as a Red Raider, it was a good one. Shannon once again gutted it out at less than 100% on a tweaked knee, yet was aggressive going at the basket. Terrence made several grown-man plays in the game. It would have been fitting for his layup at the end to go in to keep the Red Raiders alive in the tournament, so it was extra difficult to see that one not go down, but Shannon, Jr. has been an incredible player for Tech. The NBA will come calling this year, so he will have a decision to make. He has given a lot to cheer for either way, but Texas Tech fans will be hoping to continue to see him in a Texas Tech uniform.
Mac McClung’s start to the season was better than the end, but he was just about everything the Red Raiders could have hoped for as a transfer. He had arguably the most memorable play of the year in burying the three to beat #4 UT in Austin, and he was Tech’s best threat to score and create offense throughout the year. He improved defensively this year, and even when he had some “off” shooting nights, he responded as well as a player can in knowing how to manage himself and refocus. Don’t be surprised if missing that free throw haunts him and he comes back next year and shoots closer to 90% at the line.
Kyler Edwards finished his season strong by scoring in double-digits in six of the last seven games, including this one. Edwards also raised his game as a defender and rebounder this season. Even on the missed layup at the end, getting to the basket for a decent look in that scenario isn’t a play Edwards would have made earlier in the season. Edwards hit some big shots often this season. He also finished the year shooting 41.8% from three, which was a rather successful effort overall at the role he was asked to play in this offense, but improving the other parts of his game turned him into a solid overall starter poised for even bigger things next year.
Marcus Santos-Silva’s career ended on a bit of a low note, but he was a quality addition to this roster and filled a much-needed role very well overall. At no point was Santos-Silva anything but a hard-working, quality teammate, and it was fun watching his game develop as he played smarter, more controlled basketball as the year went on. It was obvious to see the efforts that he put in towards limiting his fouls. Also, he tried to improve at the free-throw line and did end up shooting 73.3% from the line for his last nine games. Santos-Silva’s efforts against Utah State’s Queta and UT’s big men with NBA talent will be remembered. He will be missed.
This was also a day to forget for Micah Peavy, who struggled to get it going offensively. However, better things are certainly in his bright future. Peavy overall showed a whole lot of things to like in his true freshman season, and if he can develop his game in the paint and learn to trust his shot a bit more, the sky is the limit for him. His defensive game is far beyond his years already, and the rest of his game is sound in terms of the fundamentals to where it doesn’t seem like a question of if that light will come on, but when. Once it does, watch out. Peavy looks more than capable of an NBA future and is a prime breakout candidate for next year.
Another player capable of a breakout year is Chibuzo Agbo. Chris Beard noticed that the Razorbacks were somewhat daring players other than Edwards, McClung, and Shannon, Jr. to shoot the three, so he inserted Agbo to do just that. Chibuzo largely came through there, hitting 2-4 late to help Tech climb back in it. Agbo is very physically gifted and has a pure shooting stroke, so his ceiling is very high. There’s an argument that he perhaps should have gotten more minutes this year than he did, but Agbo will become a solid contributor, if not a starter, sooner rather than later. Keep an eye on his development, because it’s going to be fun.
It could be contended that Clarence Nadolny put together the start of his breakout campaign. This was a make-or-break year for Nadolny, and he toughened up, put in the work, and chose the former. Clarence found a fire that not only elevated his own game but positively impacts other teammates as well. This column apologizes profusely for mostly writing him off at the beginning of the year, as Clarence very clearly put in the work to step up and did precisely that this year. Nadolny’s energy and overall quality of play, especially late in the season, was a joy to behold and he’s working his way into fan-favorite status. He will be heavily in the guard mix next year and deserves to be.
A player who will be facing a similar scenario to what Nadolny entered the year with is Jamarius Burton. This was a game in which the stage was too big and the lights were too bright for Burton, as has been the case for him too many times this year. Jamarius had a pair of bad turnovers and honestly should have had a third on a lazy pass that would have led to an Arkansas run-out bucket. This year was effectively a harsh wake-up call that life in the Big XII against high-level opposition is different than it was at Wichita St. Still, Burton has shown flashes and is capable of making the improvements Nadolny made, and here’s hoping he does just that.
Tyreek Smith continues to play the waiting game for his time. Coach Beard going mostly with the veteran Santos-Silva in the tournament is certainly understandable, but there will be plenty of Red Raider fans excited to see what Tyreek can do in presumably a starting role next year. Smith was great overall in his minutes this year and brings the kind of length and athleticism to be a defensive force and a matchup nightmare offensively. Don’t be surprised if he’s a dominant presence and one of the best big men in the league next year.
It was a somewhat unsurprising, albeit disappointing end to a solid, but frustrating season. The ’20-21 Red Raiders were fringing on greatness all year and finished the season without anything that can be remotely considered a bad loss. However, Tech struggled to beat great teams the entire year and continued that trend by falling short here. The good news for Texas Tech is that this team will return much of the roster and should only be better next year.
Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Tech fell a bit short of achieving what it could have this year with the team’s most talented roster ever. Then again, next year’s roster should be loaded with ability as well with some more overall experience added to the mix, so the Red Raiders will very likely be back here again and may well fare much better against the top teams in basketball than they did this year.