In the span of five days in late January, Bob Knight's Texas Tech team knocked off both Kansas & Texas A&M and it looked like the General had an unlikely contender for the Big 12 title. Since then, however the Red Raider season has been coming undone. A heartbreaking double-overtime defeat at Oklahoma State yesterday marked the fifth straight loss for Tech. It's the first time that's happened to Coach Knight since 1972. His 1985 team in Bloomington that failed to make the NCAA Tournament and fell apart down the stretch never lost five in a row. His team last year in Lubbock that finished sub-.500 never lost five in a row. But somehow a team capable of beating Top 10 teams in succession has turned the trick.
The prospects of Knight garnering a record 28th career appearance in the NCAA Tournament are rapidly dimming, though the strong start means they still have a chance to recover. Tech is 15-10 overall and 4-6 in Big 12 play. If they can win four of their final six games they would at least have a shot at using the conference tournament to make a run for an at-large bid. The Red Raiders go to A&M next, so you can realistically pen in another loss there. They also go to Texas which has to be tentatively written off. They have home dates with Colorado and Baylor, bottom feeders in the Big 12 which have to be marked as wins. So the swing games will be a home date with Oklahoma State and the finale at Iowa State, who trail the Red Raiders in the conference standings. If they sweep both of those games, they go to Kansas City at 17-12, and perhaps two wins and a 19-13 record overall could get them a bid. Three wins would probably push them over the top, and four W's would mean they'd won the tournament and the automatic bid.
In the big picture, if you'd told me that Tech would be 15-10 right now with an outside shot at March Madness, it would have been about what I expected. The team is still young, as Knight recently steered away from the reliance on juco players he used to inject quick juice into the program upon his arrival prior to the 2002 season. So overall, the Red Raiders are about where you'd expect, but it's still a little disappointing, given the high hopes that their back-to-back big wins engendered.