Texas Tech out to break the mold Respect-craving team takes on Georgetown

Ncaa Tournament

March 21, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF ATLANTA

TIME:10: 30* TV:CH. 13* TIME: 10: 30* TV: CH. 13 * - APPROXIMATE PUB DATE: 3/21/96 — ATLANTA - Massachusetts is No. 1, Georgetown is the favorite and both of them are envious of what Arkansas accomplished the previous two years.

Texas Tech could have picked a better region than the East in its quest for some national recognition. Being an afterthought is nothing new to the Red Raiders, but even when people should be talking about the most accomplished season in the program's history, all the folks back in Lubbock want to do is shout over some broken glass.

Texas Tech plays a third-round game against Georgetown tonight (7: 40) at the Georgia Dome. The Red Raiders were one of only four teams in the nation that went unbeaten in conference play. They returned to Lubbock after a 19-point rout of North Carolina on Sunday with a 30-1 record and a Sweet 16 berth, but did anyone notice?

"There was more talk about me shattering the backboard then there was about us winning the game," said Darvin Ham, the senior forward who started a Texas Tech explosion by destroying a backboard and the Tar Heels in Richmond.

"People don't expect this out of us, out of a Southwest Conference team," Ham added. "We came into the tournament with just one loss and people were still saying things about the teams we played. We haven't had the media attention that some of the teams here have had, but that's all right."

Actually, the Red Raiders didn't warrant much notice before this season.

Third-seeded Texas Tech's one-point win over Northern Illinois, a 14th seed, was its first in the NCAA tournament in 20 years. James Dickey is the only coach making his first appearance in the Sweet 16.

It's been a low-profile program in a low-profile conference. The Red Raiders aren't even the most visible basketball team on campus, as the women, NCAA champions in 1993, draw better.

Texas Tech did conquer the SWC, but no team from the conference has ever won an NCAA title in men's basketball and it will disband in May, with Texas Tech and three others turning the Big Eight into the Big 12.

Dickey, 41, spent eight seasons as an assistant to Eddie Sutton at Arkansas and Kentucky. The Texas Tech media guide claims that he took a sabbatical from coaching in 1989-90, but when Sutton left Lexington under fire, Dickey was turned down by some smaller schools.

Dickey can call on maybe the best sixth man in the nation in Cory Carr, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who's averaging 16.1 points, but the core consists of four senior starters who arrived in pairs.

The program had one winning season in the previous five before 1992-93, but forward Jason Sasser, the team's leading scorer, and shooting guard Koy Smith stayed home and helped the Red Raiders into the NCAAs.

Ham, a native of Saginaw, Mich., who bounced around the junior college circuit, and Jason Martin, the point guard from Inglewood, Calif., who originally played for Washington State, transferred in a year later.

His players might have to adjust to life in Lubbock, but Dickey, a rodeo enthusiast, didn't. Marty Robbins sang about another west Texas town, but Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison and other musical artists with a country bent got their start in Lubbock.

Martin, Carr and sophomore center Tony Battie were added to the mix last year, which ended in disappointment when the Red Raiders weren't selected for the NCAA tournament despite a 20-9 record and a share of the SWC regular-season title.

"Not making it has been a silent presence all year," said Dickey, whose team wasn't able to break into the national rankings until Jan. 15.

"We felt we were a Top 25 club when the season started. This team has been on a mission not to get respect, but to win as much as they can."

They can achieve both tonight, and diminish the image of the most-hyped play of the tournament's first weekend.

"I don't know how many pieces of glass I've signed this week," Ham said. "I heard they were selling pieces outside the [Richmond] Coliseum after the game. I want a cut."

NCAAs tonight

East Regional

Georgetown (28-7) vs. Texas Tech (30-1)

Time: 7: 40 TV: Chs. 13, 9

Massachusetts (33-1) vs. Arkansas (20-12)

Time: 10: 10* TV: Ch. 9

Midwest Regional

Kentucky (30-2) vs. Utah (27-6)

Time: 8 TV: none

Wake Forest (25-5) vs. Louisville (22-11)

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