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BIG XII PREVIEW: (No. 12) -- Texas Tech Red Raiders

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<strong>How will Pat Knight fare in his second season in Lubbock?</strong>
How will Pat Knight fare in his second season in Lubbock?

**Before Reading**
Please vote HERE for our upcoming interview/feature candidate.

Written by Mark Allan Peterson

This is the first of a 14 part series on the 2009-2010 Big 12 season.
Parts 1-12 will preview each Big 12 team from last to first.
The final two parts will look at the top players, freshmen and newcomers in the league as well as a look at the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes.

Impact Losses
G Alan Voskuil (13.8 ppg/4.1 rpg/2.1 apg)
F Michael Prince (3.8 ppg/2.7 rpg/15.5 mpg)

Impact Newcomers--(Rivals ranking and Scout score in parenthesis)
F/PG-Aaron-Mike Davis 6-3/190 (***)(86)
F/SF-Jave Crockett 6-6/190 (***)(88)
JR/SG-David Tairu 6-3/177 (***)(91)
JR/SF-Theron Jenkins 6-6/211 (***)(92)
JR/SF-Brad Reese 6-6/200 (***)(94)(Initally committed to LSU)

Projected Starting Lineup
PG-John Roberson, Jr.
W-Nick Okorie, Sr.
W-David Tairu, Jr.
P-Mike Singletary, Jr.
P-Robert Lewandowski, Soph

How should we read the addition of three Juco transfers as opposed to just two incoming freshmen? 10-20 years  ago, a recruiting class highlighted by Jucos (and transfers) was the norm for many, but major programs these days, especially the cream of the Big 12, spend little time on Jucos, instead typically picking up one or two top 150 players.

Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor had a Top-20 team ranking for their 2009 [Rivals] recruiting class. Texas Tech, for the second straight year, has perhaps the worst recruiting class in the Big 12.You have to wonder what Coach Knight is thinking, following a very disappointing first full season at the helm. Perhaps the plan is to get things turned around [not that they needed to be under the previous Knight] as quickly as possible, hence the Jucos. Most likely, it was an occasion of getting the best players possible, regardless of class. Understandably, but it still makes me nervous for Coach Knight and the long-term prospect of the program.

What to expect, then? Voskuil is a significant loss, and the incoming class will have a difficult time filling the void, especially with the many intangible qualities Voskuil brought to the team.

Tairu has the best chance of starting off the bat. The Raiders' best chance at success is to go as small as possible and run the ball. Knight brings in a very athletic group of players, and Tairu is the best scorer in the bunch.

Overall, this is a disappointing class for Knight, perhaps making this a make-or-break season, a la that of former OSU coach Sean Sutton's second [and final] year in Stillwater. Gerald Myers is not one to consider posterity in decision making, and another losing season by the Raiders will most likely mean significant financial loss, leaving him with very little reason to retain his head coach.

Freshman point guard Mike Davis has decent size and will be groomed to replace, or at least get a chance to replace Roberson in two years.

BUT...let's try to stay positive here.

IMPACT PLAYERS                                                                                                                                            
It starts as the point with John Roberson, yet another diamond in the rough for the Red Raiders. How do they find some of these guys?! Personally, I'm a big fan of both Roberson and Singletary, so forgive me if I seem overly positive [for a change]. But, I think I'll be proved right. Expect Roberson to step it up another notch or two. He has All-Big 12 potential and should up his scoring average to around 17-18 ppg.

Singletary was the big break-out story late last season in the Big 12, but this kid has been in the Texas High School spotlight for quite some time. He's an old school baller, able to adapt based on the players and type of play around him, and could be the biggest breakout player [non-freshman, non-newcomer] in the Big 12. Okorie is a great scorer as well, and provides as a safety net to Roberson. D'Walyn Roberts is athletic and could be a big contributor for many other Big 12 teams. Robert Lewandowski, Trevor Cook and the Jucos will in the end make or break the heart of this team. If these guys overachieve, the Raiders are in line for a postseason bid. If not, there's only so much the Big 2 can do.

The fact of the matter is that this could be a very good team. They are much too good to be sitting here at my No.12 spot, but I honestly do not think that Pat Knight should be coaching at THIS LEVEL at this point in his career. In the end, it's coaching and coaching only that separates Colorado, Iowa State and Nebraska from Tech.

However, I love the the potential in coach Knight. Even if he's not ready, I am still a big fan of the offense he's putting in place. It won't win a national title. It probably will never win a Big 12 title. But it will put every game up for grabs (from Samford to Stanford) and makes for a great spoiler team come Big 12 Tournament time.

As I said earlier, there are about five or six guys that will make or break this team, and ultimately this program: Lewandowski, Cook, Tairu, Reese, Big Darko and Jenkins. This will be a strong and competitive team by the time Big 12 play starts IF (a) the three Jucos are able to pick up the offense [and defense!] quickly and accurately, (b) are able to provide double-digit scoring on a consistent basis and, (c)in the case of Darko and Lewandowski, provide as a strong presence inside on D. If not, which I suspect will be the case, this will be a failure of a season.

Risky. Very very risky. The recruiting was never great under big Knight, but it was at least effective. The remnants of Bob's final classes keep this program alive. Pat Knight is throwing all of his marbles in the ability of this new offense to produce, much like Bob did with a very different offense. Will it work? Let me know your thoughts.

11-18 Overall. 3-15 Conference. (12th place, Big 12)

NCAA Tournament: 1% The only way the Raiders will receive a bid will be from winning the Big 12 Tournament (not out of the realm of possibility. See Baylor from last season).
NIT chances: 10% The Big 12 is strong and could send as many as 11 or even 12, in the age of FOUR post-season conference tournaments. If Raiders finish 8,9 or 10...all possible but not NIT bid would then be very possible.
OTHER: 25% Raiders were offered a bid to the CBI after Pat Knight's first season. There is almost no question that Knight would take the offer this time around. It helped to raise the buzz on Craig Robinson, another beneficiary of nepotism.

"I'm fortunate enough to get this job, and I'm not stupid," Knight said. "I don't know if I deserved to be a Big 12 coach right now. Probably not, but I was offered a situation, so I felt like I had to take it.

Coaching Experience
• 1996: Scout, Phoenix Suns.
• 1997: Assistant coach, Connecticut Pride of the CBA
• 1998: Head coach, Wisconsin Blast of the IBA.
• 1998: Head coach (Fired), Columbus Cagers of the USBL.
• 1999: Assistant coach, University of Akron.
• 2001: Assistant coach, Texas Tech University.
• 2003: Turned down for head coaching position, Wright State University.
• 2008: Head coach, Texas Tech University.

No Projection--Nov. 13 - 15--Duel in the Desert
W--November 19--Northwestern State
W--November 21--Lamar
W--November 24--at Stephen F. Austin
W--November 28--Samford
W--December 3--Washington
W--December 8--at TCU
L--December 19--at Wichita State
L--December 22--Stanford
L--December 29--at New Mexico
W--January 1--McNeese State
W--January 3--UTEP
L--January 9--at Oklahoma State
L--January 13--Missouri
L--January 16--at Kansas
W--January 20--Iowa State
L--January 23--Oklahoma
L--January 27--at Texas
L--January 30--at Texas A&M
L--February 6--Oklahoma State
L--February 9--at Oklahoma
W--February 13--Texas A&M
L--February 16--at Baylor
L--February 20--Texas
L--February 23--Kansas State
L--February 27--at Nebraska
L--March 2--Baylor
L--March 6--at Colorado
W--Big 12 Tournament (Game 1)
L--Big 12 Tournament (Game 2)