Texas Tech Elite Eight bound with chance for much more

Chris Beard and Tech look mean again. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It took a while for anything resembling offense to appear but when the 40 minutes were over the Texas Tech Red Raiders were headed to the Elite Eight once again.

It was the top two defensive teams in the country and you could tell. Michigan had their lowest output ever in the first half of a tournament game managing just 16 points to Texas Tech's 24. Even the trek to 24 by Texas Tech involved a lucky turnaround three with the shot clock expiring by guard Matt Mooney. Sure, luck on those three, they were gritty and determined the rest of the game on their way to a 63-44 win.

Texas Tech absolutely has a path to playing not only in the Final Four in Minneapolis, but the title game. Defense this time of year can sour even the most impressive of offenses and if Texas Tech can lean on Jarrett Culver just a couple more times there's hope for three more games on the schedule.

An unlikely spot to find the Red Raiders after losing six of their top eight scorers last year including consensus All-American Keenan Evans and the 16th overall pick in last year's NBA draft Zhaire Smith. But the Red Raiders are back in the Elite Eight for the second time in school history with a team even better than last year's surprising squad. Chris Beard's dogged determination to make life hard on offenses has paid off. The best defense left in the tournament belongs to the Red Raiders.

Standing in their way is one of the most impressive Gonzaga teams in recent memory. The Bulldogs dispatched Florida State in a revenge game from the previous year. The Red Raiders have the athleticism to hang with Gonzaga and the defense to throw the Bulldogs top-ranked offense into disarray. It wouldn't be easy but it isn't out of the question to see Texas Tech score just enough to sneak into the school's first ever Final Four.

Should they escape the showdown with their region's number one, a likely rematch with Duke would await. Texas Tech and Duke played earlier in the year and it was an early test for the Blue Devils and the first loss for the Red Raiders who had led at halftime. The Blue Devils poured it on while the Red Raiders offense went cold and the showdown in Madison Square Garden went to Zion Williamson and company.

Thinking Duke and beyond is ahead of ourselves though. Gonzaga is the next test. Loaded with athleticism top to bottom and a coach who has been to the tournament twice as many seasons as Beard has been a head coach the Bulldogs are the toughest team Texas Tech has faced all season besides Duke.

Of all the team's headed to the Elite Eight, four more punch their ticket Friday, Texas Tech might be low on the list of the likely contenders. Maybe even seventh in the likely pecking order of potential champions. Being picked seventh suited the Red Raiders just fine before the season, surely they won't mind it again.

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