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February 13, 2008

Knight hopes to avoid Sutton's struggles

Andrew Skwara is a national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. He'll be working all summer to get you ready for the season and answer your questions every week in his College Hoops Mailbag.
Feb. 7: Mixed legacy
Jan. 30: Beasley's hardware
Jan. 22: Vols happy with Crews back

Texas Tech fans have reason to be wary of their basketball program falling into the hands of Pat Knight.

They can look past Knight's lack of experience; after all, rookie coach Frank Martin has led Kansas State to the top of the Big 12 standings. But the idea of a son following his father and a coaching legend may be more troublesome. They've seen the results of such a move at another Big 12 school.

Since Sean Sutton officially replaced Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State before the start of the 2006-07 season, the Cowboys are 8-17 in league games.

Is Knight doomed to follow the same path?

I examine that question in this week's mailbag, along with whether Tennessee can win its first national title, why the ACC isn't getting more respect and why two talented guards Arizona's Jerryd Bayless and Duke's Gerald Henderson don't get more national attention.

Like son, like son?

How long do you see the two Big 12 coaching sons, Sean Sutton and Pat Knight, surviving? It seems clear the experiment is not working at Oklahoma State, and I don't expect it to succeed at Texas Tech, either.

Kevin from Dallas
Sutton has far more talent to work with and has proven to be a great recruiter. In fact, he won Rivals.com's 2005-06 National Recruiter of the Year Award after helping Oklahoma State reel in the nation's No. 1 class. But I think Sutton will be gone first, possibly by the end of this season.

Sutton is facing a lot more pressure. The expectations at a school with Oklahoma State's rich tradition, devoted fan base and deep pockets (boosters don't come any more powerful than billionaire OSU alum T. Boone Pickens) are much higher. Sutton's first full season at the helm went poorly, with the Cowboys getting ousted in the first round of the NIT. Things have gotten worse in Year 2, with the Cowboys in a tie for last place in the league standings.

The team has been tough to watch, racking up unforced turnovers and playing nowhere near its potential. Unless the Cowboys engineer some kind of dramatic turnaround soon and with OSU's 2008 class currently lacking any top 100 prospects, I heavily doubt that will happen I don't expect Sutton to be in Stillwater at this time next season.

Knight probably will be given a couple of years to prove himself since he's taking over in the middle of a season at a school whose fans care more about how many yards its quarterback throws for than how many assists its point guard dishes out.

How good of a coach will Knight be? I don't think anybody really knows. We'll get a better answer next season, when he'll have to figure out how to replace leading scorer Martin Zeno.

ACC disagreement

I totally disagree with your take on the ACC. NIT-level teams? The following teams definitely will be in the NCAA Tournament: Maryland, Clemson, NC State and Miami, along with Duke and UNC. Why does the ACC, which is the No. 1 conference in the RPI, keep getting underrated?

Kenny from Hurricane, W.Va.

That RPI ranking is a bit misleading.

Unlike most conferences, the ACC doesn't have a pushover or a cupcake, like Northwestern in the Big Ten or Oregon State in the Pac-10. The ACC is the only league in Division I where every team is at least .500 overall. Even last-place Virginia, which won at Arizona, is 11-11.

But the reality is more than half of the teams in the ACC are headed to the NIT or no postseason at all.

Of the teams you mentioned, North Carolina and Duke are the only locks for the NCAA Tournament. Clemson is in solid shape, but still needs to pick up a few more wins before it can feel safe. Maryland and N.C. State are on the bubble.

Miami, which is 3-6 in league play, isn't even on the bubble. The same goes for the six other league teams you didn't mention.

The truth is the ACC has two great teams but also a lot of mediocrity.

Bayless believer

Why isn't Jerryd Bayless getting more pub? Bayless is better than Memphis' Derrick Rose and much better off the dribble than O.J. Mayo.

John from Phoenix

Don't blame us: Bayless moved up to No. 3 at shooting guard in Rivals.com's latest Power Rankings. He also has been our national freshman of the week once and is featured in our weekly five-star freshman tracker.

If Arizona were winning more, Bayless undoubtedly would be receiving more attention. But there's more to the lack of love than just a lack of wins.

USC is a half-game ahead of Arizona in the Pac-10 standings, but Mayo is much better-known among college hoops fans. That's because of the massive hype Mayo generated in high school. Mayo was compared to LeBron James before his junior year even began. He was a legend in the recruiting world. Fans want to catch a glimpse of someone with that kind of reputation.

Bayless' and Mayo's stats are similar. Both are averaging right around 20 points a game, and Bayless has been a better outside shooter. The difference is Bayless isn't surrounded by a massive hype machine.

Big dreams

Can Tennessee win the national championship?

Bill from Big Stone Gap, Va.

I can see Tennessee reaching the Final Four, but I doubt the Volunteers go much further.

Some would say any team in the Final Four has a chance to win it all. After all, you have to be good to make it that far, and with just two games left, it may come down to a few bounces here or there.

But the teams in the semifinals usually are savvy. They don't make a lot of mistakes, and they often prey on their opponents' miscues. That's a problem for Tennessee. The Vols wear down teams with their speed, depth and defensive pressure. But the Vols also can implode because they play with such a wild - and sometimes reckless - style. Remember how they lost a 20-point lead to Ohio State in the Sweet 16 last season?

Guards JaJuan Smith and Ramar Smith, particularly, concern me. They often make baffling decisions with the ball in their hands, the kind you simply can't afford to make against the Dukes and UCLAs of the world.

Unheralded Henderson?

Am I the only person who thinks Gerald Henderson isn't talked about enough? The guy moves like Kobe and has enough power to down a rhino. There's no doubt he's one of the best sophomores in the game, but why not one of the best players in the country?

Ryo from Washington, D.C.

Duke players often receive more attention than they deserve, but it has been the opposite case this season. The Blue Devils are so deep on the perimeter that virtually everyone has to sacrifice some shots and some playing time. Leading scorer DeMarcus Nelson (15.5 ppg), highly touted freshman Kyle Singler (13.8 ppg), sixth man Jon Scheyer (10.8 ppg) and Henderson (13.2 ppg) would be putting up better numbers on just about any other team.

It's the same case at Kansas. Guard Mario Chalmers, small forward Brandon Rush and power forward Darrell Arthur would be go-to scorers at most schools. But at Kansas, each averages less than 30 minutes per game.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.

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