When Texas Tech University Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt speaks of programs under his watch reaching elite status, look no further than what six teams accomplished during 2018.
The men's programs in basketball, golf and track, as well as the baseball team and women's tennis team each finished in the top eight nationally through either tournament play, national rankings or both.
“From our record-setting success in March Madness, NCAA men's track & field, men's golf, women's tennis and another trip to the College World Series in Omaha, the 2017-18 academic year was a special one for Texas Tech Athletics,” Hocutt said. “We strive each and every day to be an elite athletics program at the national level, and we could not be prouder of the success our programs experienced this past year.”
The spring began with the men's basketball team making history with its highest finish to a season. The Red Raiders, under the direction of head coach Chris Beard, picked up two wins in the regional round in Dallas before heading to Boston to face No. 1 seed Villanova.
Despite a valiant effort, the Red Raiders lost to the Wildcats 71-59 in Villanova's toughest test of the tournament. Led by senior point guard Keenan Evans, the Red Raiders finished the 2017-18 season ranked No. 6 in both the USA Today Coaches poll and the Associated Press poll.
The team's 27 wins were the second-highest in school history behind the 30-2 mark of the 1995-96 squad. Evans was named just the third consensus NCAA All-American and was a finalist for the Bob Cousey and John Wooden Awards. Freshman guard Zhaire Smith was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft in June.
Even though Beard lost a large chunk of starting experience to graduation entering the 2018-19 season, Texas Tech is off to one of the best starts in school history, compiling a 10-0 mark and earning a No. 12 ranking heading into a Dec. 20 matchup against No. 2 Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It is only the second time in program history the Red Raiders have opened the season 10-0, the last coming in 1929-30 when they started 12-0.
Shortly after the end of the basketball season, the Texas Tech baseball team began its quest for another Big 12 Conference title and trip to the College World Series in Omaha. While the Red Raiders missed out on the former, they were not denied the latter.
Led by All-American third baseman Josh Jung and one of the best offenses in the country, the Red Raiders blasted their way through the Regional and Super Regional rounds – both hosted at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park – to earn the program's third College World Series appearance in five years. Once there, Texas Tech defeated No. 1 overall seed Florida in the opening round.
The Red Raiders finished the season ranked No. 5 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll while head coach Tim Tadlock was named the American Baseball Coaches Association/Diamond Midwest Regional Coach of the Year and DI Baseball Coach of the Year. It was the second straight season and fourth time in the last five years Texas Tech has won at least 45 games.
The 2018 team scored the most runs (529) and hit the most home runs (82) of any Texas Tech team since 2004, had the most hits since 2001 (695), the most RBIs since 1997 (492) and best overall batting average since 2006 (.309). Texas Tech pitchers also struck out 565 batters, good for second in program history.
Outfielders Grant Little (six) Gabe Holt (five) and Jung (five) garnered multiple All-American honors and joined designated hitter Zach Rheams and pitcher Caleb Killian as first-team All-Big 12 honorees. Holt also was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Texas Tech also set a new program record with 11 players taken in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June.
As the weather warmed up late in the spring, so did several other spring sports teams. The men's golf team certainly did.
After finishing seventh at the Big 12 Championships in late April, the Red Raiders put together a terrific run through the postseason. Beginning in Columbus, Ohio, Texas Tech overcame a slow start to surge into the top five, tying for the low round on the final day to earn the program's 12th berth in the NCAA Championships on a very familiar course in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
At the NCAAs, Texas Tech sat in third place through the first half of the first round and shot to the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes before qualifying for the eight-team match-play round as the No. 3 seed. In match play, the Red Raiders fell to No. 6 seed Alabama, 3-2, to end their season.
Senior Fredrik Nilehn was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and also the men's golf scholar-athlete of the year. Despite battling injuries, he won two tournaments and never finished lower than 15th in any tournament, finishing as a semifinalist for the Haskins, Hogan and Nicklaus Awards.
One of the best seasons in Texas Tech women's tennis history ended with the Red Raiders qualifying as one of the final eight teams at the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
After tying for second in the Big 12 Conference, Texas Tech surged through the postseason before facing rival Texas in the Round of 16. But the Red Raiders did not let the Longhorns stop their quest, ending UT's 19-match winning streak and its season in the process, to advance to the final eight.
The Red Raiders ran into No. 3 Duke in the quarterfinals and fell, 4-1, ending their season at 23-7.
The following week, senior Gabriela Talaba reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA singles championships before her season ended. Felicity Maltby and the doubles team of Sarah Dvorak and Sabrina Federici were knocked out in the round of 32.
To wrap up the spring, the Texas Tech men's track & field team put a capper on the 2017-18 athletic season with a tie for fifth place at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The team finished with five first-team All-Americans and seven second-team All-Americans, including two-time honorees Divine Oduduru and Odaine Lewis. Oduduru captured the individual title in the men's 200 meters with a time of 20.28 after running a 20.33 to qualify for the finals. Lewis took second in the triple jump and third in the long jump. His mark of 16.73 meters in the triple jump was a personal best.
Trey Culver finished fourth in the high jump, clearing 7-feet, 3-inches.
On the women's side, junior Zarriea Willis earned first-team All-American honors with a sixth-place finish in the high jump.
The tone for a stellar outdoor season was set early in the spring as the men's track and field team surged on the national stage, finishing sixth at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in College Station. It is the second-highest finish in program history.
Fueled by the program's first Big 12 Conference indoor title just a couple of weeks prior to the NCAA championships, the Red Raiders claimed a pair of individual silver medals and finished the weekend with six first-team and five second-team All-American honors.
Texas Tech was led by Culver, who finished just short of his third straight indoor high jump championship by finishing second. He cleared four out of five bars on the first attempt before finishing at a height of 7-6.
Oduduru earned first-team All-American honors by finishing second in the 200-meter in a time of 20.21 and sixth in the 60-meter at 6.62. Andrew Hudson finished sixth in the 200 in 20.73 to earn first-team All-American honors.