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February 23, 2008
Around the Rim
News and Notes

by John Perrotto

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Seemingly everything about Pat Knight is opposite of the famous father he has succeeded as coach at Texas Tech.

The younger Knight is a people person, one who mixes mixes with everyone and even enjoys dealing with the media. If you didn’t know that Bob Knight, the man who won 902 games, more than any coach in college history, is slightly different then you haven’t been paying much attention over the past four decades.

“It’s funny, but the one thing my father has told me over the years that might surprise people is that he wishes he had a better relationship with the media,” said Pat Knight, who took over Feb. 4 when his father announced his surprise resignation. “He said he would have come across as a phony if he tried to repair that relationship after so many years, but he knows that he was often portrayed in a bad light because of that relationship and he thinks people don’t have a true picture of the type of person he really is.”

Yet, father and son fare a few common traits.

Both love basketball and have made it their life. The son, like the father, can be brutally honest. When asked if his biggest challenge as a new coach is trying to escape the long shadow cast by his father, Pat Knight laughs.

“No, the biggest challenge right now is I don’t have a very good basketball team to coach,” Pat Knight said. “We’re not very good. We need to get a lot better. We need to play better and we need to recruit better players.”

Indeed, Texas Tech is a lackluster 14-11 overall and 5-6 in the Big 12. The Red Raiders are No. 46 in the Pomeroy Rankings.

Pat Knight holds no illusions that he can somehow rally his team into the NCAA Tournament this season. Instead, an NIT bid, and possibly a decent run in that tournament, will have to do. However, Knight does see a reason for optimism.

“For the first time since we got here, we have a really good recruiting class in the freshmen,” Knight said. “They were our first choices. They weren’t kids we settled for because the ones we really wanted decided to go somewhere else.

“The same holds true for the freshmen coming in next year. It’s another good recruiting class. What we have to do now is start building on the young talent if we want this program to be successful on a consistent basis.”

Texas Tech has two freshmen who look like potential stars in guard John Roberson and forward Mike Singletary. Roberson is averaging 12.5 points and 3.6 assists a game and Singletary is scoring 8.0 points a game.

However, Knight also quickly points to an inconsistency that is keeping them from reaching their full potential at this point.

“You can tell they still think they are in high school and that they can just coast at certain times during the game,” Knight said. “They play hard for 30 minutes but there is that 10-minute gap where they just don’t play hard. You have to play hard for all 40 minutes at this level if you want to be successful.”

Roberson, in particularly, has a chance to be outstanding. Knight can see him eventually turned in an All-Big 12 caliber performer.

“He has a knack for scoring inside,” Knight said. “The next thing is for him to add some range to his jumper. We need to get him to where he can consistently make the 15-footer and then eventually get him out beyond the three-point line. It will take time but he has a lot of talent.”

Senior guard Martin Zeno is leading Texas Tech with an average of 16.0 points and 4.4 rebounds a game. Junior guard Alan Voskuil is scoring 13.1 points a game and is 44th in the nation in effective field goal percentage at 62.1.

Those who know the 37-year-old Knight believe he has the potential to be a fine head coach because of his knowledge of the game, communication skills and bloodlines. However, some question whether Knight has made his road to success more difficult by deciding to take the Texas Tech job instead of escaping his father’s shadow at another school.

“It’s a legitimate question people have. There was a time where I probably would have preferred to eventually go somewhere else to be a head coach,” Knight said. “But I really enjoy living in Lubbock. I like the city, the like the people and I love the university. When I was approached a few years ago by [Texas Tech athletic director] Gerald Myers about eventually succeeding my father, I figured what the hell, why not do it? I don’t want to be anywhere else but Texas Tech.”

By staying at Texas Tech, Knight will also be assured of having his father around as a sounding board. Having a coach with 902 wins available is quite a resource.

“He is always going to be around or just a phone call away,” Knight said. “You can see the difference already in him, too. He’s just much more relaxed and happier than he was coaching these last couple of years. He still loved the coaching part of it but the rest of it had really worn him out. He was sick of a lot of the politics that goes on with coaching at the college level.”

Knight then paused and laughed.

“He’s so relaxed now that in a couple of weeks he’s going to look better than I do,” he said.

Colonials Making a Run

Robert Morris first-year coach Mike Rice is an excitable sort and admittedly more likely to try to get his point across by yelling than using empirical data.

However, the Colonials have won 10 straight games to tie a school record, are 22-6 overall, No. 145 in the Pomeroy Ratings, and 13-2 in the Northeast Conference, where they are tied for first place with Wagner. Robert Morris will host the Seahawks in an NEC showdown on Saturday night.

Robert Morris was a disappointing 17-11 last season when many expected it to win the NEC.

Defense has keyed the Colonials’ turnaround as they are fifth in the nation in steal percentage (14.0), seventh in turnover percentage (26.3) and 27th in three-point field percentage allowed (31.4). Last season, they were 322nd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (113.1).

Rice and his staff did a statistical study before this season started that showed that in the 14 Division I conferences that include schools from the Northeast, each champion last season finished in the top three in field goal percentage allowed.

“The point was this: Would you rather be the leading scorer on the fifth-place team in the conference or play good defense on a first-place team?,” Rice said. “To our guys’ credit, they chose defense.”

Leading Robert Morris’ defensive effort is senior guard Tony Lee, seventh in the country in steal percentage (5.7) and also fourth in assist rate (44.1).

The "Killer Ps" No More

A bit of inglorious Ivy League history was made last weekend when Princeton lost at home to both Yale and Brown and Pennsylvania split a pair of home games, losing to Brown and beating Yale.

It marked the first time since the Ivy League went to its current travel-partner format in 1956-57 that Princeton and Penn combined to lose as many three games at home in the same weekend. The Tigers and Quakers have gone 4-0 99 times, 3-1 45 times and 2-2 11 times.

Furthermore, it marked only the third time Princeton was swept at home in the same weekend. Cornell and Columbia turned the trick in 1966 and Brown and Yale also pulled it off last season.

Brown also became only the fourth team to ever to win in Philadelphia and Princeton in the same weekend. Yale did it in 1958 and 1987 and Harvard achieved the double in 1985.

Brown coach Craig Robinson, who was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton during the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, was tickled to get the sweep.

“Good teams have to win on the road when they don’t play well and we found a way to win,” Robinson told the Providence Journal.

Team to Watch

This week’s Team To Watch is New Mexico, which has put together a five-game winning streak to raise its record to 21-6 overall and 8-4 in the Mountain West. The Lobos are No. 28 in the Pomeroy Ratings and beginning to look like a solid NCAA Tournament team as coach Steve Alford is quickly turning the program around after coming to Albuquerque from Iowa.

New Mexico has only two players scoring in double figures but senior guard J.R. Giddens, who began his collegiate career at Kansas, is having an outstanding season. He is averaging 15.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a game while standing 16th in the nation with a 26.7 defensive rebounding percentage.

Junior guard Chad Toppert is scoring 10.9 points a game and has the ninth-best offensive rating in the country at 130.6. He is also sixth in effective field goal percentage (66.8) and 57th in turnover rate (11.7).

Giddens and Toppert are a big reason why New Mexico leads the nation in three-point field goal percentage (43.4) and is 13th in effective field goal percentage (55.3).

Games of the Week

The top five games for the week of Feb. 15-21, according to the Pomeroy Ratings, with all times Eastern

No. 15 Tennessee at No. 2 Memphis, Saturday, Feb. 23, 9 p.m., ESPN
No. 20 Arizona at No. 9 Washington State, Saturday, Feb. 23, 10 p.m., CSTV
No. 14 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State, Monday, Feb. 25, ESPN
No. 23 Notre Dame at No. 8 Louisville, Thursday, Feb. 28, ESPN
No. 19 Michigan State at No. 5 Wisconsin, Thursday, Feb. 28, ESPN2

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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