Basketball Barometer Texas Tech's Rise, North Carolina's Fall Remind Us How Quickly Things Can Change

Article excerpt

Byline: Lindsey Willhite Daily Herald Sports Writer

Think college basketball happens to be one giant rerun this season? The same old shows with Duke and Dick Vitale hogging the camera in every episode?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Or, in Vitale-ese: Are you kidding me?

Flip back the calendar to right around this time a year ago.

Isn't that North Carolina standing atop the polls and in the midst of an 18-game winning streak? Isn't that Texas Tech's program shredded to tatters?

And isn't that Bob Knight with no choice but to stand in the corner because no school wants him sitting on its bench?

Darn right it is.

The mind reels at how much the college basketball landscape has changed since last Feb. 1.

Duke and Dick Vitale might not give us a minute's respite, but everywhere else change happens to be the rule and not the exception.

In order to find the sport's biggest movers and shakers - not to mention its mirages and fakers - we examined every college's Rating Percentage Index.

We gauged progress and decline by comparing last year's season- ending RPI to this year's RPI through Wednesday's games.

What did we learn? Something everyone has understood for more than 30 years - that Bob Knight does know a thing or 750 about coaching.

The nation's biggest improvement has been made at Texas Tech under Knight's direction.

The Red Raiders (15-4) finished last season at No. 182, according to CollegeRPI.com. Even though they lost at Nebraska on Wednesday night, Knight's crew checked in at No. 13 Thursday.

Knight has patched together two returning starters from a 9-19 team, two mid-level junior-college transfers, two lightly recruited freshmen and a handful of walk-ons to forge the season's biggest surprise.

Or are they a surprise?

"No," Knight said recently. "They're exceeding your (expectations), but not mine."

Knight's turnaround has inspired a fan-following reminiscent of the program run by his pupil, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

The night before Texas Tech's whipping of No. 6 Oklahoma last Saturday - the Red Raiders' second win over a No. 6-ranked team in as many Saturdays - students camped outside United Spirit Arena.

Once in the 15,000-seat gym, the students displayed red camouflage T-shirts that read "The General's Army."

Knight's success could have been predicted based on his pedigree, but he's not the only former Big Ten boss making a difference.

Former "Michigan man" Steve Fisher has led San Diego State's jump from 154 to 60 in the RPI. …