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CHRIS DUFRESNE ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Bob Knight has Cal fans seeing red

The ESPN analyst, still as provocative as ever, raised the temperature at Haas Pavilion by wearing a crimson sweater (that's Stanford's color) while working the Bears' game against UCLA on Saturday.

March 02, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE | ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

One man donned a scarlet sweater, the other a crimson cape -- and both outfits had people seeing red.

Bob Knight and Blake Griffin were this weekend's antagonists, inciting hostilities in Berkeley and Lubbock with fearless playfulness and ferocious play.

Knight, the former Army coach, turned Indiana coach, turned Texas Tech coach, turned ESPN analyst, took his precious 1st Amendment rights to California's Haas Pavilion for Saturday's game between the Golden Bears and UCLA's Bruins.

Any game involving Knight ultimately has to be about him, and so this one was, and it was terrific theater.

Even the hippies out on Telegraph Avenue know, though, that free speech in a crowded theater can cause constitutional combustion.

In the famous 1919 Supreme Court case, Schenck vs. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. set limits on future basketball analysts falsely shouting fire in a theater and "causing a panic."

Holmes, though, mentioned nothing about "wearing" fire.

Knight, a career disobedient, took lawlessness to the edge when he sported that fire-engine red pullover, roughly the hue favored by archrival Stanford, into a blue-and-gold Berkeley arena.

Cal fans were so busy razzing Knight -- "Take off that red shirt!" -- they obviously didn't have enough energy left to distract UCLA into defeat.

Anyone who thinks Knight has lost his edge isn't paying attention.

This incident at Haas was not to be confused with another landmark Bay Area weekend court case, Shank vs. Maples Pavilion. That involved USC's losing at Stanford in a game in which the Trojans could barely make a free throw.

Meanwhile, in Lubbock, where Bob Knight once coached before turning tuckered-out Texas Tech over to his son Pat, fans in the Big 12 learned you don't spit into West Texas wind or tug on Superman's cape.

Superman was Oklahoma sophomore Griffin, who figured the best way to shake off the brain bruise that forced him to miss a game and a half was to throw himself over the scorer's table in pursuit of a loose ball.

Maybe Griffin misunderstood. Doctors cleared him to play . . . not for takeoff.

Yet, it seemed only fitting that the play of the year would come from the player of the year.

Griffin was concussed -- my new favorite word -- in basketball battle last Monday, leading to losses to Texas and Kansas that may have prevented a Sooners rise to No. 1.

Griffin returned Saturday and left bits and pieces all over the court in Oklahoma's 78-63 win. He finished with 20 points, 19 rebounds, a sore back, a bloody nose and more respect than he had last week -- which hardly seemed possible.

Asked if he was nuts for doing his "Fosbury Flop" into the stands, Griffin said afterward, "I am a little bit, I guess."

Anyone who doesn't think Griffin is player of the year is crazy.

Weekend wrap

Hard to forget: 1) Tears running down West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins' face upon his return to Cincinnati, where he coached for 16 years before being unceremoniously dumped. 2) The 2000 season, when Cincinnati might have won the national title had not Kenyon Martin broken his leg just before the NCAA tournament. 3) Louisville Coach Rick Pitino wearing a white suit in Sunday's victory against Marquette. Next up: the lead in "The Music Man"?

Looking forward: Villanova at Notre Dame tonight. The Irish's NCAA hopes appeared DAD (dead after departure) after they lost by 26 points at UCLA on Feb. 7 -- Notre Dame's seventh straight loss. The Irish, though, are 4-2 since and sit at 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the rugged Big East. Getting to 9-9 in league play with wins over Villanova and St. John's this week would put Notre Dame back in tournament discussion. "Monday is huge for us," Irish Coach Mike Brey said after Saturday's loss at Connecticut.

Looking west: Four Pacific 10 schools have probably locked into NCAA berths: Washington, UCLA, Arizona State and California, with Arizona suddenly on the fringe after losing three straight. The Wildcats (18-11, 8-8) close the regular season this week at home against Cal and Stanford. The most dangerous team in the league is Washington State (16-13, 8-9), which probably won't make the NCAA tournament as an at-large entry but seems perfectly capable of earning the Pac-10's automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. The Cougars have won three in a row -- against UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State -- and close next weekend in Seattle against Pac-10 leader Washington. The Huskies are looking to clinch their first outright conference title since 1953.

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