The Last Raid
This is the final season in the 81-year history of the Southwest Conference, four of whose schools will join the Big Eight next season. One of the four, Texas Tech, is hoping to leave the Southwest in style. The Red Raiders, who last week were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1985, stayed unbeaten in conference play with a 95-76 win over Houston last Saturday, raising their overall record to 14-1, the best start in Red Raiders history. All of this has been achieved by a team whose coach, James Dickey, didn't have a guaranteed parking spot a couple of years ago and whose star, Jason Sasser, was nicknamed O.C., as in Out of Control.
Dickey, 41, was an assistant on the Kentucky coaching staff that was canned after the 1988-89 season because the Wildcats had gotten into trouble with the NCAA. He was out of coaching for a year and then was hired as an assistant on Gerald Myers's staff at Texas Tech for the 1990-91 season. Dickey got his first shot at being a head coach when Myers was forced out after that year.
Just in case Dickey got carried away with his new status, the city of Lubbock was there to humble him. His assigned parking space outside the Municipal Coliseum was next to a dumpster. Often, sanitation workers would leave the empty dumpster sitting in Dickey's space.
Dickey took that slight in stride and has built a solid team. Last year, after tying Texas for the regular-season title, the Raiders lost the conference tournament final to the Longhorns in OT and missed out on an NCAA bid despite a 20-9 record.
But this year, with four seniors back, Texas Tech looks like a lock for the NCAAs. The best of those seniors is Sasser, a 6'7" forward who had so much trouble handling the ball at times in his first couple of years in Lubbock that Red Raider broadcaster Jack Dale started calling him O.C. Now O.C. is I.C. more often, and the results have been impressive. Aided in part by the improved outside shooting of Koy Smith and Cory Carr, Sasser had scored in double figures in 77 of his last 78 games through Sunday. "We're more balanced this year," Dickey said. "That should help Jason down the stretch."
Former Colorado coach Joe Harrington resigned last week after five-plus years in Boulder, taking with him a reputation as perhaps "too nice" a guy, one whose players walked all over him. That doesn't sound as if it will be a problem for his successor, Ricardo Patton, a Colorado assistant who was named interim coach. Last Friday evening, before the Buffaloes were to face Big Eight power Kansas the next day, Patton had his troops watch Glory, the Civil War movie about a unit of black soldiers who marched into' battle and perished together. Then Patton had his players spend the night sleeping on cots on the basketball floor at the Coors Events Center. The Buffs put up a valiant effort before succumbing 80-78, eliciting this reaction from Patton: "I don't accept moral victories. I told our guys that in the game of life, there is a first place and a second place. And second place is dead."
Pity the poor folks who came out in high winds and rain for Maine's home game against New Hampshire last Friday night in Orono. The game was about to tip off at 7:30 when the power went out in Alfond Sports Arena, delaying the start by an hour and 16 minutes. Then the game went to four overtimes. It was just after 11:30 when the visitors finally put away the Black Bears 106-103. But that wasn't the longest game Maine coach Rudy Keeling ever saw. He was an assistant coach at Bradley in 1981, when the Braves went an NCAA-record seven OTs in a loss to Cincinnati....
Quote of the week: Kentucky coach Rick Pitino after his Wildcats' astonishing 129-97 rout of Louisiana State, which included an 86-42 margin at halftime: "Our blocking out could've been better."