College Basketball Nation: TT-UW 120309

Will TTU become a player in the Big 12?

December, 3, 2009
OK, so who had Texas Tech undefeated through eight games?

Ummm, nobody?

Pat Knight coached a wonderful game Thursday night in leading the Red Raiders to a 99-92 victory over No. 10 Washington to jump-start the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.

Texas Tech’s John Roberson scored 25 points to lead the Red Raiders, who nearly won the game in regulation when Mike Singletary let a 3-pointer fly at the buzzer. The crowd stormed the court but the officials, led by Tom O’Neill, made the right call in sending the game into overtime.

[+] EnlargeJohn Roberson
AP Photo/Geoffrey McAllister John Roberson scored a season-high 25 points Thursday night.
This could have been the perfect way for UW to come back and snuff out the Red Raiders with momentum suddenly back in their favor. But the Raiders followed what was a poised Knight under duress to pull away and outscore the Huskies 19-12 in overtime. Texas Tech looked like it had a ball playing this game, enjoying every minute of it in playing for Knight.

But the questions going forward are these: How will Texas Tech handle the success and can the Red Raiders be a player in a loaded Big 12?

The schedule gets even tougher with TCU and Wichita State on the road next (the latter likely a harder outing than the former), home to an erratic Stanford and then at surging New Mexico to close out the month. If the Red Raiders can survive this stretch with a 3-1 record, they will be on their way toward at least a bubble-bound bid process barring a total collapse in the league. The problem is the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Right before league play begins at Oklahoma State, TTU has to take on Conference USA co-favorite UTEP.

But what we saw Thursday night is a team that won’t quit, will play scrappy and will be a tough out no matter who comes to Lubbock.

What we saw from Washington wasn’t awful, though. The Huskies were playing a true road game, a difficult one and the only one the Huskies will play in the nonconference. Washington plays a neutral site game against Georgetown on Dec. 12 in the Wooden Classic in Anaheim. U-Dub may need to win that game to get something significant on the résumé in the nonconference. A home game against Portland after the matchup with the Hoyas suddenly looks tougher after the Pilots' run to the title game in the 76 Classic in Anaheim.

Washington is still the favorite for the Pac-10 title with Cal fading and facing injury issues. But the Huskies are likely destined for a mediocre seed, even if they were to win the conference title again. The Pac-10 is heading for its worst season in maybe a quarter-century with the possibility that only two or three bids could be had come March.

Senior Quincy Pondexter has matured into a solid leader and was averaging 20 and 11 even prior to Thursday's 31-point performance at TTU. The UW guard play has to be solid with Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy, but making better decisions with passes, having better shot selection and limiting fouls (Gaddy fouled out Thursday) still must happen for the Huskies to become a more dangerous player come March.

Knight was right

December, 3, 2009
Watching Texas Tech's double-court storming win against Washington tonight, I kept thinking of Pat Knight's words at Big 12 media day. In Kansas City a month ago, the Red Raiders coach insisted this year his team would be different because this year he finally had players.

Taking a cue from his pop, Knight didn't mince words about his earlier teams. He said emphatically that the players he had on the roster previously weren't good enough to win in the Big 12. They didn't defend well because they couldn't; they didn't run an efficient offense because the players weren't talented enough to do it.

I'll admit, at the time I thought it sounded like a cop out. Knight was feeling the heat in Lubbock and I thought maybe he was reaching for excuses.

I was wrong.

He was right.

Armed with good players -- his players -- and able to run the kind of game he wants to run, Knight has Texas Tech headed in the right direction.

Texas Tech is playing terrific defense -- something that's gotta please poppa. Before Washington put up 92 in overtime, Texas Tech had given up more than 61 in a game just once.

The Red Raiders are 8-0 and have scalped the best team in the Pac-10 in Washington and exposed the supposed rising team in the same conference, Oregon State.

The Big 12 is pretty loaded this year, so I'll be curious to see how Texas Tech measures up in league play, but there is no doubt Knight was right. He's got players and he's got a team.