In a recent conversation with my close, personal friend Bobby Knight, we discussed his respect for the Wisconsin basketball program and coach Bo Ryan, and what he liked about how Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino handled his practices and coaching in the preseason NIT, where the former Indiana and Texas Tech coach was doing color commentary for ESPN.
So being the college basketball expert he is, Knight was asked to pick who he thought is the best team in the country right now. His answer: No. 6 Wisconsin, who defeated the Gophers 76-63 at Williams Arena on Thursday night.
"I've seen some good basketball, but I haven't seen what I would consider to be a great team [this season]," Knight said. "I like Gonzaga because of the way they play. I think they play the game the way it should be played. Wichita [State] has come back and they're playing well like they did a year ago. [But] I don't think there is a great team.
"But I really like Wisconsin. I enjoy watching Wisconsin play. You mentioned the three-point shot. The team that I've seen that best uses the three-point shot is Wisconsin. They do a great job with it. They're a very, very solid team. If you were to pick out a team for me to watch play, I have to watch this team play. I would pick Wisconsin because of the way they play at both ends of the court."
Knight coached at Indiana for 29 years, and he said Ryan's success in the Big Ten Conference comes as no surprise to him because Ryan coaches the game the right way.
"He just teaches the game better than most people do," Knight said. "He allows some things to happen and doesn't allow some things to happen. You know, coaching is not magic. You just go out and do the things that could help you win and stay away from the things that could cause you to lose. He's awfully good at that."
On the topic of Pitino, Knight described what he saw out of the second-year Gophers coach earlier this season at Madison Square Garden.
"I watched their workout and watched what they did and I really enjoyed watching them," he said. "I thought they were doing things really well. His dad is a heck of a coach and there's no reason why he shouldn't be, too, which he is. I think he has done a very good job. Last year in the NIT and then I haven't followed the Big Ten very much so I'm not sure where they are, but watching them play at Wake Forest, I liked what I saw. I enjoyed watching them work out and enjoyed the things he did with them."
Still a traditionalist
Knight was asked for his opinion on a number of college basketball topics, including the three-point shot.
"I didn't like it 10 years ago, or nine years ago, or eight years ago, or seven years ago, or six years ago, or five years ago, or three years ago, or two years ago, or one year ago, and I don't like it today."
What about the debate surrounding the one-and-done phenomenon, where players only play one college season and then turn pro?
"Well, it's my understanding, and I don't know whether this is actual fact or just somebody guessing, but the NCAA apparently is thinking about what it used to be like way back when I played, that you didn't play as a freshman," Knight said. "You started playing as a sophomore. That's one of the few smart things that I've seen the NCAA come up with. Right now the worst problem for college basketball, beyond anything, is the NBA. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the NBA is so anxious to take people out of college after one year. I once asked David Stern how much money the NBA lost because of taking guys out of college after one year who weren't ready to play in the NBA and maybe weren't good enough to play in the NBA, so they ended up getting slated away in some minor league somewhere but they're being paid a lot of money. The other thing I can't understand about the NBA is the player's association. I can't understand why the player's association would be so supportive of taking kids out of college, because all it does is it takes away maybe a year or two from one of the older players in the NBA. They nursemaid these kids."
•One reason you won't see Kevin Garnett play more than he has so far since coming back to the Wolves is because he has a knee problem. The joint is worn out from 20 years of NBA play and it isn't really an injury that can be operated on. … Garnett scored 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the Wolves' 100-85 loss to Denver on Wednesday, his second consecutive game in double figures — the first time he has done that since Dec. 19-21, 2014.
•Wolves guard Gary Neal scored 13 points Wednesday, his third consecutive game with 10 or more points. … Gorgui Dieng posted his 22nd double-digit rebounding game of the season with 10 against the Nuggets and scored eight points.
•While no one knows what's going to happen with Adrian Peterson, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas have the most likely scenario being a return to the Vikings, with a deal sending him to Dallas being the second most likely outcome.
•Pat Devlin, the only other quarterback on the Vikings' roster besides starter Teddy Bridgewater, played college football at Delaware, the same school that produced former Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Devlin hasn't played a regular-season snap. In the 2013 preseason with Miami, he completed 47 of 80 passes for 504 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. In the 2012 preseason with the Dolphins, he completed 29 of 49 passes for 246 yards, one touchdown and one interception. … The Ravens hired Andy Bischoff as their offensive quality control coach in January. Bischoff is a former Cretin-Derham Hall coach. He worked under Marc Trestman with the Chicago Bears and came with Trestman when he joined the Ravens staff as offensive coordinator.
• Alex Tuch, the Wild's first-round draft pick from 2014, is having a great freshman season at Boston College, leading the team in scoring with 28 points on 14 goals and 14 assists. The Eagles are 20-11-3 and should be in the NCAA tournament. They recently split two games against Notre Dame, where Mario Lucia, the son of Gophers coach Don Lucia, is the third-leading scorer for the Irish with 27 points (19 goals, eight assists). … The Wild's 3-2 shootout victory over Ottawa on Tuesday set a record as the highest-rated regular season Wild broadcast in FSN history with a 7.12 household rating.
• Now that former Vikings backup quarterback Matt Cassel is heading to Buffalo, he will have a chance to be the starter for his fourth NFL team after the Patriots, Chiefs and Vikings.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org