EYES ON NIGHT
When he coached at West Point, Bob Knight gave Mike Krzyzewski some of the tools that allowed him to challenge North Carolina's Dean Smith. Now Knight, in his 40th season as a head coach, is applying some of that same heat. Smith retired in 1997 with a record 879 coaching wins. Knight is third on the all-time list with 854. He somehow got Texas Tech, without a passable big man, to win 22 games and reach the Sweet 16 last season. Knight has Jarrius Jackson, one of the nation's fastest point guards, seven freshmen and a well-traveled junior college transfer: Jon Plefka began his college athletic career by playing baseball at Vermont.
Oscar Robertson and Pete Maravich did it, and now Keydren Clark is bidding to become the third player in NCAA history to lead Division I in scoring for three straight seasons. Clark has been the show for Saint Peter's, as the 5-foot-9 shooting guard averaged 26.7 points as a sophomore and 25.8 as a junior. You don't have to go to Jersey City to see the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference gunner. Clark and the Peacocks are at Loyola College on Feb. 11.
Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith, Steve Robinson and Bill Self used Tulsa as a springboard. Doug Wojcik is just trying to revive the Golden Hurricane, which is coming off its worst two-season stretch since the 1970s. He has some good connections. Wojcik's high school coach was Skip Prosser, and he got the ball to David Robinson on Navy's best teams in the 1980s. He was on the Matt Doherty staff that got canned at North Carolina, but not before they recruited the Raymond Felton-Sean May-Rashad McCants class. Wojcik spent the past two seasons assisting Tom Izzo at Michigan State. His Tulsa staff consists of his brother Dave, who played for Loyola College; David Cason, who was an All-Metro guard at Southern-Baltimore; and Hassan Booker, who led Navy to the NCAAs in 1997 and '98.
BIG FIVE BLUES
Philadelphia is marking the 50th anniversary of the Big Five, the association that turned the Palestra into a shrine. The best city for college basketball, however, hasn't sent a team to the Final Four since Villanova's miracle title in 1985. The Wildcats were picked to win the Big East, but that was before senior forward Curtis Sumpter, their best big man, went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that has him out indefinitely. Villanova remains a matchup problem waiting to happen, as Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry give Jay Wright the nation's best group of guards.
INSIDE THE BELTWAY
Maryland should be reaping the rewards of its Final Four appearances in 2001 and '02, but the Terps might not even be the second-best team inside the Capital Beltway. Second-year coach John Thompson III has made Georgetown a chic choice to break through in the bigger Big East, and George Washington returns all but one player from the team that handled Maryland last season. The Colonials and Terps play Dec. 5 at MCI Center.
THE MEN DOWN UNDER
Will Andrew Bogut do for Australian big men what Hakeem Olajuwon did for Nigeria's in the 1980s? Olajuwon took Houston to three straight Final Fours and put Lagos on the recruiting map. Bogut turned two seasons at Utah into the top spot in the 2005 NBA draft. The Utes will replace him with 7-1, 250-pound Luke Nevill, who's from Perth. Looking for its first winning record in the Pacific-10 since 1994-95, Washington State is leaning on a group of six newcomers that includes Aron Baynes, a 6-10, 247-pound banger from Cairns. You will not see a better big man come through Baltimore this season than Old Dominion's Alex Loughton, who plays at Towson on Jan. 5. The reigning Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year from Perth had 22 points and 11 rebounds against Michigan State in the NCAA tournament.
THE TIMES CHANGED
This season marks the 40th anniversary of two milestones in the integration of college basketball, and both occurred in College Park. Texas Western, which used only black players, beat all-white Kentucky at Cole Field House in the 1966 NCAA final. Also that season, Towson native Billy Jones played for Maryland, breaking the color barrier in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Two decades ago, the league had no African-American coaches. Now it has six: Boston College's Al Skinner, Clemson's Oliver Purnell, Florida State's Leonard Hamilton, Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt, Miami's Frank Haith and Virginia's Dave Leitao.
BIG TEN BREAKOUT
North Carolina's road to the NCAA title went through the Big Ten. Before the Tar Heels beat Michigan State and Illinois at the Final Four, they overcame Wisconsin and a brilliant performance by Alando Tucker. Roy Williams had four of the first 14 players taken in the NBA draft but no counter for the 6-5 forward whose 38-inch hops broke Michael Finley's school record for vertical leap. A foot injury turned Tucker's sophomore year into a redshirt season. Last year, he blended in with a group of upperclassmen. Now, the only returning starter for Bo Ryan will bid for Big Ten Player of the Year.
KENTUCKY'S OLD HOME
The Final Four has never gone more than eight straight seasons without an appearance by Kentucky, but the Wildcats haven't been there since Tubby Smith won it all in 1998 with a roster that was built by Rick Pitino. Last season, a team that was top-heavy with freshmen lost a double-overtime classic to Michigan State in the Austin Regional final. Is the Southeastern Conference holding Kentucky back? Since 1996, Florida (2000) is the only other SEC member to get to the Final Four, and Alabama is the only other program to advance to the Elite Eight.
BIGGER BIG EAST
The Big East got bigger, as it lost Boston College to the ACC but added five teams from Conference USA to grow to 16 members. Commissioner Mike Tranghese acknowledges that the schedule is dysfunctional but shouts down critics who say the conference is destined for a split. Not everyone is buying the party line. "Do I think the structure will be the same five years from now?" Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun asked. "Some will still be playing each other, but the structure won't be the same, no. Based on history, I don't think we will be."
Glen "Big Baby" Davis was 6-9, 325 pounds when he got to Baton Rouge. LSU is now listing his weight at 310. He doesn't want his other numbers to go down, as Davis averaged 13.5 points on 51.3 percent shooting from the field and 8.8 rebounds last season, when he was the SEC Freshman of the Year.