By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Murry Bartow spent seven years as the head coach at Alabama-Birmingham trying unsuccessfully to beat Bob Huggins and the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.
Now he gets another shot at them as the East Tennessee State head coach in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday in Columbus.
East Tennessee State's Tim Smith, top, provides a challenge for UC's defense.
"I consider Bob to be a good friend," Bartow said Sunday night. "We know it's going to be a hard game playing Cincinnati in Columbus, but we've got a pretty good basketball team."
Bartow, the Southern Conference Coach of the Year, has one weapon at his disposal that he didn't have at UAB - point guard Tim Smith, a 5-foot-9 sophomore who has the ability to control the game with his speed.
"He's a fantastic player," said Bartow, in his first year at ETSU. "The ball goes phrough his hands. We push it and go.
"He's not that true, cerebral point. He doesn't get you 10 points, six assists and one turnover. Tim is a high-octane guy. He's going to make things happen. You can't overanalyze things and you can't pull your hair out every time he makes a turnover. You've just got to let him go."
Smith, who averages 17.5 points and 4.5 assists, is the fourth-leading scorer in the Southern Conference. He has reached the 20-point mark nine times this season. He was named Most Valuable Player in the Southern Conference Tournament for the second straight year and was runner-up for player of the year in the conference, finishing behind his teammate, Zakee Wadood.
Wadood, a 6-5 forward, averages 14.7 points and 7.8 rebounds.
"He's kind of a do-it-all guy," Bartow said. "He's very athletic. He gets his hands on a lot of balls. He's capable of making the 3, capable of going by you and capable of posting up. He scores in a variety of ways.
The Bucs (27-5) have won 19 of their last 20. They own a 65-51 win at Houston, which UC struggled to beat by three points, and lost in overtime 100-86 to Clemson, a team UC beat 79-56. They beat Elon twice 75-72 and 73-58. UC beat Elon 102-63.
ETSU's other losses were to Texas Tech, IUPUI, American and the College of Charleston.
UC has two members of its program who can help with the scouting report. UC assistant coach Andy Kennedy was an assistant for Bartow at UAB for five years. And UC forward James White played at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, where he played with Smith.
"I was just talking to Andy three or four days ago," Bartow said. "We were hopeful we'd stay away from each other because we're good friends. But we knew the type of seed we'd be. When you're going to be a 12 or 13 you know you're going to play a four or five and you know it's going to be a hard game."
About East Tennessee State
Location: Johnson City, Tenn.
Bid: Conference tournament champion
Coach: Murry Bartow (27-5, first season)
Key players: Tim Smith (17.4 ppg., 4.5 apg.); Zakee Wadood (14.7 ppg., 7.8 rpg., conference player of the year)
Notable: Country singer Kenny Chesney is an ETSU graduate.
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