That has created a championship culture that, combined with Beard’s postseason success and Hocutt’s willingness to renegotiate contracts, certainly looks sustainable.“He spends a lot of time with the players, developing relationships with them,” Sutton said. “And then he’s done a great job promoting the Texas Tech brand and his system and his culture at Texas Tech with the fan base there.”“Other than that,” said Mooney, “he’s a tough dude. He demands toughness and defense. And he’s a brilliant coach as well.” TULSA, Okla. — Sean Sutton was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State the last time the Cowboys — someone other than Kansas, that is — won the Big 12 Conference regular-season title. That was way back in 2004.Now, Sutton is an aide under Chris Beard at Texas Tech, the Big 12’s newest such champion alongside Kansas State. Sutton sees a direct parallel between the success of Oklahoma State, Kansas and Tech. He knows why Beard’s reclamation project in Lubbock has been so sudden and why, just three years in, it may have staying power. SN’s MARCH MADNESS HQLive NCAA bracket | Live scoreboard | Full TV schedule“He’s made the atmosphere at Texas Tech right now one of the two or three best places in the Big 12 night in and night out,” Sutton said. “I think that was one of his biggest objectives coming in. There was a reason Kansas has won 14 straight championships: It’s one of the toughest places to play every night. It’s hard to beat them. You look back at Oklahoma State, one of the things that made Oklahoma State such a great job was it was sold out every night. One of the best atmospheres in the Big 12, if not the best, during our time there.”Beard has the Red Raiders in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons for just the fourth time in school history. The Red Raiders tied Kansas State for the Big 12’s regular-season title, won the conference tiebreaker for the tournament’s top seed, and as the 3-seed in the West Region meets Northern Kentucky at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Bank of Oklahoma Center.“We don’t take these for granted,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told Sporting News. “I mean, it’s so hard to get to this point.”Beard is Tech’s first coach since Bobby Knight (2002-05) to post three consecutive winning seasons. Since Knight’s final three years from 2005-08 to Hocutt’s quick pick of Beard after just one season at Arkansas-Little Rock, the Red Raiders posted just four winning records, and made the NCAA Tournament just twice (2007 under Knight and 2016 under Tubby Smith).“I think among many goals we had when we got the Tech job,” Beard said Thursday, “we were trying to build a program, not just have a good team. There’s a big difference. Last year we had a great run in this tournament, but we didn’t want that to define who we are as a program. That’s why we’re so proud to be back up here on this stage this year.”Knight’s last three teams were 52-45 before he retired. In three seasons under Pat Knight, Tech was a pedestrian 46-54. Billy Gillispie’s 2011-12 season spiraled into an 8-23 disaster. And interim coach Chris Walker’s only season concluded at 11-20. Smith’s three seasons produced a 46-50 record.That’s 11 seasons of mediocrity that dragged the program down and chased many Tech fans away. But those days are long past. At least, it appears that way not that Tech has sustained some consistent success under Beard.“I think he understood, ‘Hey, if you’re ever going to have a chance to compete for a Big 12 championship … then it starts with creating a home court advantage,” Sutton told SN. “He’s spent a lot of time with the promotions people. You wouldn’t believe how much time he invests to come with a plan to create a great atmosphere night in and night out for the players, because not only does it help you win, but it helps you in recruiting. He came in with a mission, a plan, and you see how hard he works.”“That’s probably why I chose Texas Tech, is I saw something in coach Beard,” said senior guard Matt Mooney, a transfer from South Dakota. “He established a culture here of winning. Holds everybody accountable. When he was recruiting me, I just knew, like, this guy, he’s going to win. He’s going to get it done.”SN REMEMBERS:March Madness heartbreakers | Best March Madness memoriesIn Beard’s first season, Tech went 18-14. Then, last year, the breakthrough: a 27-10 record (second-most wins in school history), a No. 6 ranking in the final Coaches Poll (the Red Raiders’ highest finish ever) and a run to the Elite Eight (Tech’s first).Beard says neither the remote location of Lubbock nor the program’s lack of blue blood status has been a hindrance.“In terms of Lubbock, our city, it’s a huge advantage,” Beard said. “Those of you who have been to Tech, you understand. We have some of the best fans in college basketball. We sell out games, 15,000-seat arena in a great college town. So that’s an advantage.“We have a great basketball tradition at Texas Tech. In my lifetime, coach (Gerald) Myers as a coach and athletic director, certainly James Dickey had championship teams, Bob Knight, most recently Tubby Smith. I mean, we’re trying to take it to the next level. But in recent history, I guess that’s one of the things that we’ve tried to overcome.”Beard, who studied under names like Knight (he was a Tech assistant from 2001-11) and Tom Penders (he was a student-assistant at Texas in 1995), prides himself on the minutiae, on the mundane, on winning the day. He calls it — who better to borrow from than Alabama’s Nick Saban — “The Process.”It’s that singular focus, on the here and now, that has produced immediate dividends in Lubbock — and could lead to longterm success.“Everybody’s in the gym every day putting in work, and it’s constant work every day,” said senior forward Tariq Owens, a St. John’s transfer. “That’s just the culture of our team. Everybody enjoys the work. Nobody gets tired of it. That’s just the main thing that brought me here.”That kind of thinking doesn’t yield college basketball’s next evolution of 3-point excellence. This team won’t set many shooting or scoring records. But the Red Raiders do rank second nationally in opponents’ shooting percentage and fourth nationally in scoring defense.The Process: elite defense, relentless work, attention to detail and enthusiasm for the brand. How could it fail?“Our plan,” Beard said, “is our process. We’ve got a day-to-day process that we believe in, from strength and conditioning to individual work to practice to grades and academics to an unselfish culture. Many things go into our day-to-day process.“We just don’t really have a week plan or a month plan. We just have a day-to-day plan, and our plan is to execute our process. And this team this year, this season, has done that about as well as any team that I’ve coached.”For all that, Beard has rewarded Hocutt and the Tech community with winning, Hocutt last year rewarded Beard with a six-year, $19.05 million contract. Beard went 30-5 in his one season in Little Rock, and Hocutt said hiring Beard was an easy choice after Smith left for Memphis. Hocutt also said presenting that contract to Beard last year was even easier.“Well, he earned that contract last year, just like he’s earned the same opportunity for us to revisit it again this year,” Hocutt said.“Texas Tech’s got a very proud tradition in basketball, and Chris being familiar with Lubbock and Texas Tech, learning under Bob Knight for 10 years, his pedigree was impressive,” Hocutt said. “And then to watch, when he left Tech, his journey as a head coach, going through the different ranks leading up to Arkansas-Little Rock, was a great transition for him in that head coaching chair leading up to here at Texas Tech.”MORE: Career journeyman Chris Beard settles in at TechThe ultimate reward, of course, goes to Tech fans. Going to United Supermarkets Arena is fun again. Last year’s average attendance surpassed 10,000 per game for the first time since 2006-07. This season, home attendance averaged 14,099.