February 13, 2008

For once, Martin holds experience edge

Wednesday's matchup between No. 18 Kansas State and Texas Tech won't, by any means, be a clash between two legendary coaches. In fact, the two men that will be drawing up the plays posses a combined 23 games experience, 1,250 less than now retired Coach Bob Knight, who left the Red Raiders on Feb. 4 with a shocking retirement announcement. Never the less, the contest has major implications for first-year head coach Frank Martin's Wildcats, who need a crucial road victory in order to tighten their grip on first place in the Big 12.

The void left in Lubbock by Knight's departure has since been filled with a man sharing the bloodline and last name of the coaching legend, setting current head coach Pat Knight's proverbial table with nearly unreachable expectations. The newest Knight's critics are already out in numbers, insinuating that the inexperienced right-hand man of a legend inherited his current title without doing his part to earn it -- a censure that Coach Martin is all too familiar with.

"About eight months ago, that's what they all were saying about me," Martin said. "They said I didn't deserve this job and that I was lucky. They said that I got it because of (Bob Huggins) and the recruiting class. I'm going to answer that the same way I answered my situation. I think Pat is prepared. He's done everything that he is supposed to do as an assistant coach to get an opportunity. Now, the opportunity has presented itself, and it doesn't matter how it got here."

It will be the athletes on the court that ultimately determine Pat Knight's future, however, and the players to watch in this matchup make their livings in very different ways. Red Raider guard Martin Zeno and K-State forward Michael Beasley won't match up on each other on the court, but the effectiveness of each team's star will surely weigh heavily on the game's outcome.

"He's a difficult matchup because he does so many things for them," Martin said of Zeno, who is averaging 16 points per game this year. "He can post up. He can drive you. He's unorthodox in the way he gets his shot off. Heck, he got to the foul line 24 times against Missouri. That's a heck of a lot of free throws for a college player. That's who he is. He attacks you."

"What we're focusing on is guarding (Zeno) on curl screens and all of that stuff," said K-State freshman Jacob Pullen. "He plays with energy and emotion. They just keep screening you to get him the ball."

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