MINNEAPOLIS — Asked to answer a question, Chris Beard, head coach of the surging Texas Tech basketball team, posed one about 48 hours before his Red Raiders play Virginia for the national championship.
“Why not us?’’ he said.
During a press conference after his third-seeded Red Raiders upset second-seeded Michigan State, 61-51, Beard was responding to a reporter who noted the unlikelihood of Texas Tech reaching the NCAA title game at U.S. Bank Stadium. After all, the reporter noted, the Red Raiders have reached the Final Four for the first time in school history and were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 conference.
“I respect the question, but why not us?’’ Beard said. “We’ve got good players. We've got a great university. We play in arguably the best league in the country. We won the Big 12 regular-season title. We're a good team. We've got good players.
“Yeah, I think we deserve to be here, as do a lot of other teams. You've got to get fortunate, but we did. I'm looking forward to coaching these guys on Monday night.’’
If Beard sounded a tad chippy, well, so did his players. (Note their t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Never Lose the Chip.’’)
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Chris Beard reacts during Texas Tech's win over Michigan State. (Photo: Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports)
“People are still counting us out,’’ Texas Tech forward Tariq Owens said after blocking three shots in the victory over Michigan State. “…We’re going to earn people’s respect, one way or another.’’
One way Texas Tech earned respect Saturday night was winning despite an off night from sophomore guard Jarrett Culver, who at one point was 1-for-8 for the floor and finished with 10 points, almost nine points below his average.
“Next man up,’’ the Texas Tech center said when asked how Texas Tech responded. “One through 15, we have guys ready, ready to play.
“I know the nation doesn’t know who we have, but we know what we have.’’
So, why not them?
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11.
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