Myself and DanSwany discuss the Final Four, both games, and what to look forward to next year:
Michael LaBarre: I found myself struggling to begin this conversation. Not necessarily because of the heartbreaking loss, but more of not knowing where to begin. I guess we should begin around the time we arrived in Minneapolis early Saturday morning. For myself this was my first Final Four and I wanted to sink it all in. The events, the fan fest, everything. Although about 5-6 hours prior to tip-off, I slowly started to get real nervous about the game. It escalated when we were walking towards the arena and was peak anxious right before the first semifinal game. Speaking of that game, what do you remember of it? Seemed like you were having the best time of your life!
DanSwany: I had been to the Final Four before, and was just happy to soak it all in before tipoff with having my team and fans take part in it. Minneapolis was a neat place, and the stadium is very clean and modern. The way that the Auburn versus Virginia game ended was unreal, but enjoying seeing our team and fans warm-up and pile into the stadium was one of my favorite things to spectate. I was a basket of emotions during the Tech vs MSU game, but it was probably one of the best sports feelings I had in the final minute of that game. Knowing we were going to make it to the championship match-up with Virginia. Speaking of, how much fun was it for you once you got past your nervous stages and knew we were about to win that game?
LaBarre: Oh it was a blast. Probably one of the coolest experiences in my life, right up there with watching my Patriots in New England and visiting New York City. Every shot seemed like it was a game changer, even if it wasn’t. I celebrated every bucket. The best part (other than the actual win) was when Mooney got hot and started hitting insane shots. I was punching you, you put me in a couple headlocks. Even though I gave up alcohol for lent, you would never know based on the way I acted. I had so much energy that I had to jump basically all the way back to the hotel to wear it off. Now, you know we have to ask this, but what were you thoughts on the comeback and eventual collapse in the title game?
Swany: The Championship game was a rollercoaster of emotions for myself. I was on the edge of my seat, and almost couldn’t handle the last few minutes. When Odi put in his free throws to give us a 3 point lead, I was close to out of control. Yet, as soon as Hunter shot that 3 to tie the game I came crashing right back down to Earth. Going into OT, I had a bad feeling because we were so close to winning that I tasted it. Then, it all went sour. I had to go a week until I really got over the game, and was just proud we made it there. At what point during the championship game did you feel we were not going to win it all, and how long did it take you to get past the stinging sensation that the loss hit us with?
LaBarre: I didn’t really feel we weren’t going to win it until we feel behind by 3 baskets. I didn’t have a good feeling in OT, but this team never quit and I’ve seen them come back from double digit deficits before. Perhaps not playing an overtime game this year hurt them. It sucked after the game, but I typically get over sports losses pretty easy nowadays. Sports is entertainment, so get real excited when things go right and not too down when things don’t. I used to get real upset, but I changed all that in high school. As long as I don’t think of questions like “What if we did” or “If only he did that”, I’m alright. I was extremely proud of this team and that was an experience I’ll never forget. What will this final four and championship game mean to this program and community?
Swany: Making the Elite Eight last year, and making the Championship game this year has put Lubbock, TX and Texas Tech on the map as a legitimate basketball school. We aren’t going away anytime soon. With Chris Beard as the HC and bringing in top talent, this basketball program has many more great seasons ahead. We should feel excited about the things to come and look forward to this next upcoming regular season. Culver declaring will mean that we have put two players into the NBA, and are a true pipeline from college to the NBA. I’m locked in and ready for the ride. Going to have to watch what happens this offseason, but what’s your prediction in recruiting for the open scholarship spots on the roster?
LaBarre: I’m sure most people want Tech to try and get the best rated recruits still available. When Chris Harris Jr committed to OKST over Tech, I was not the least bit disappointed. This team is going to be young next year, with four juniors and seven underclassmen. The surprising deal is no seniors, which has been a staple in Beard’s program thus far due to a sense of urgency to win now and valuable experience. I figured Tech was going to have two scholarships open, and I want both of those guys to be grad transfers, with at least one being a big man. Kerry Blackshear is my dream commit, but TJ Holyfield would be nice too. Also others like Rayjon Turner as well. Besides, if Tech doesn’t get grad transfers, we don’t have any 2020 scholarships and may miss out of some top talent next year who has interest in Tech. Who do you think could step up next season and step into those key roles?
Swany: Moro will be a junior and considered an upperclassman with a ton of experience as the starter. It all begins with him being the team leader next season. Edwards saw a lot of playing time in the tourney and showed up ready to play. I expect him to be a guy others turn to for leadership. The grad transfers we had this past season (Owens & Mooney) were critical for bringing in valuable wisdom and guidance. So, I very much want to snag a couple more grad transfers that could be inserted into that starting role right away. This offseason, I plan to sit back and watch it all unfold. Lock up that contract revision and extension with Beard, and see who we can pull into Tech from the transfer portal. What are you going to do to pass the time this basketball offseason?
LaBarre: What I usually do. Watch sports. When people ask what I do, I tell them I spend 90% of my free time with sports. And that’s probably not even an exaggeration. The Boston Celtics and Bruins are in playoff runs, Liverpool FC is fighting for a title, and the Red Sox are trying to figure it out. Not to mention of course Red Raider Baseball being one of the best teams in the nation again. But I can’t wait for the season to start up again. It’s unlike any other spot I watch. You know Bama or Clemson will win in football, the Warriors likely in the NBA, the Patriots half of the time in the NFL, and some big money team likely in the MLB. If you have great coaching, passionate players and a strong culture in college basketball, you’ll always have a shot at the title. And it appears Texas Tech is going to have a shot at the title for a long time. This is only the beginning. You’re already ready for next year, aren’t you?
Swany: The Final Four is being played in Atlanta. If all goes well, we will be getting ready to plan a trip there next March. Until then, I will be watching for any Red Raiders breaking news on the basketball team. Wreck’em Tech!!!