Hoops Talk
February 12th, 2016

Last nights victory over Cal Irvine was memorable for many reasons. A record tying 14 "3's"; a record student crowd of over 1400 hundred; sole possession of first place in mid-February; NCAA bracketology showing UH in the Big dance; etc, etc etc

It was a night to remember. In a game that many, including me, thought would be close and played in the 60's, it was anything but. The Rainbows took it to Irvine on both ends of the floor. Everyone is talking about the three's, but I was evenly impressed by the lock down defense on Irvine's guards and big men. It was a Big West Player of the Year night for Bobbitt, with strong support from Thomas and Valdes. Irvine was the top team in the league defensively, but they were no match for UH last night. And as predicted, they remain offensively challenged.

If you listened to Hoopstalk or the pregame, I said the key for UH was to make 10 threes and shoot better than 50% from beyond the arc. They had 10 threes with 16 minutes left in the game, and ended with a three point percentage close to 50%. Will Irvine get some measure of revenge next Saturday? Its quite possible as UH will not shoot like that again, especially there, but for one night, the magic returned to the Arena unlike anything I have seen in years.

There is still much basketball to be played. UH has 4 more road games, including games at Irvine and Long Beach ( watch out for the Beach). Irvine has an easier schedule with Hawaii and Long Beach at Home. But for now, and until next Saturday, UH is the top dog. ( I know, they have Fullerton Saturday nite and Northridge on the road next Thursday, but they are both bottom-feeders).

Its been several years since UH basketball fans have been looking at predictions for the NCAA Tournament. I remember those days and how much fun it was to see UH in the mix. I still don't think an at-large is possible because of UH's mediocre RPI and poor strength of schedule, but an NIT bid and/or a Conference Championship is certainly within reach. The next goal is to hopefully crack the top 25. It wont be easy because most of the remaining games are against poor teams, but its going to be hard to ignore a potentially 24-25 win team.

 

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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February 1st, 2016

Well what can say about Saturday night's defeat at the hands of a below 500 Long Beach State team?

Well, you can start by saying Hawaii never did show up. Except for Quincy and Thomas, the rest of the team played poorly. Valdes was not ready to come back from his injury, Fleming hurt his ankle but was clearly outplayed by Faust and whoever else the Beach put on him, Jankovic committed two really dumb fouls and shot 2-9, and Bobbitt lost his shot (3-9) and more importantly, his composure ( more on this later).

As a team two things I was concerned about came back and haunted the Bows. Poor three point shooting ( 6-25) and poor free throw attempts ( 20-34). These two items have hit or miss, but lately, more hit than miss. The confounding stat was rebounding. An average Long Beach State team just destroyed the Bows off the boards 47-28. Inexcusable and unexplainable unless one team just wanted it more.

Is the season over? of course not. Irvine lost at home to Santa Barbara so Hawaii still sits a half game behind the Anteaters, but Long Beach is looming in the rear view mirror. It just makes Thursday's game at Santa Barbara, as Donald Trump would say, HUGE. Hawaii just got by the Gauchos a few weeks ago here in Hawaii, and they are playing better basketball, witness the win at Irvine.

The loss really doesn't bother me as much as the loss of composure and incidents between team-mates and players and coaches that I either witnessed or heard about after the game. I am told there were words exchanged between coaches and Fleming and Valdes ( that will happen in a frustrating loss), but Bobbitt's tangle with Jankovic was totally uncalled for, embarrassing to the program, and potentially exposed some serious divisions within the team.

To recount, late in the second half, as Hawaii was clawing back into the game, Jankovic missed an easy bucket and then , in frustration, got his 4th foul going for the  basketball. It was a stupid and totally unnecessary foul that put him on the bench. Bobbitt then started calling Jankovic out for the foul yelling at him up and down the court. Yes he was angry, but you don't show up a team-mate in that situation.

But that's not all. At the next time-out, Bobbitt and Jankovic started jawing at each other again on the bench and had to be separated by a team-mate before blows were exchanged. A few minutes later, at the next time out, Jankovic came off the bench to greet Bobbitt and exchange a hand, but Bobbitt blew right past him. And to top it off, when the game ended, Jankovic went to the locker-room and did not stand with his team-mates for the alma mater.

If this is the way this team is going to react to adversity, watch out. Hopefully, Coach Ganot can put things back together, but he has a big job in front of him. Winning is great, but losing with class is something you expect from UH. These kinds of divisions between team-mates and players and coaches need to be addressed if this team is to get back to playing winning basketball.

I don't think anybody realistically thought Hawaii was going to go undefeated in Conference. Yes to lose in front of the first sell-out since 2004 is tough, but its only one loss. This team is still one of the best in the Conference and the tough part of its schedule is coming up. Its time to put this loss behind them, and get ready for a tough game at Santa Barbara. Hopefully  the guys can follow the leadership of Thomas and Smith and focus just on basketball

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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January 20th, 2016

After two weeks of Conference play, its beginning to look like a two team race. First, UC Irvine. The Anteaters are 4-0 and theirwo road wins last week against Santa Barbara and Long Beach is scary. They have not lost a home game, are 8-5 on the road ( including neutral site games) and have played a tough out of conference schedule. With Mamadou, all 7'6 " of him, in the middle, and Alex Young and Luke Nelson in the backcourt, they are showing they deserve their pre-season number 1 ranking. They are holding teams to 63 points per game and 37% field goal percentage.

On the other hand, there is UH. The Rainbows are off to their best start in 15 years. They lead the league in field goal percentage and scoring margin, and are averaging 80 points per game. It will be one immovable force vrs another when they meet. Interestingly, it wont be until the second half of the season.

Last week, the Rinbows won two on the road. They beat Riverside  easily without Valdes and with a late arriving Bobbitt thanks to strong games from Fleming, Smith and Thomas and then got a little lucky in their overtime win at Fullerton thanks to a strong second half from Jankovic and another good game from Fleming.  These are not the strongest teams in the league, but winning on the road is never easy ( just look at the upsets the past two weeks among the top 25).

The schedule makers have done UH a huge favor with the early part of the Conference schedule. They meet a poor Davis team on Saturday, the only game this week, and then have another week to prepare for a home game with Long Beach.  UC Davis has a single road win and is 1-2 in the Conference. The Beach is 2-2 in the Conference with losses at some mighty tough places to play, but theyeither score 90 or 60 and cant seem to hold onto a lead.

Fans are lining up behind this Rainbow warrior squad and rightfully so. Its a different star or two every night, and they continue to play together and play hard. They are ranked 13th this week in the College Insider.com Mid-major media poll, one spot ahead of Irvine. They ot three votes this week in the AP poll ( down one vote after winning two road games) and no votes in the Coaches poll ( 1 vote last week). The schedule turns a lot tougher after this Saturday, but by then hopefully Valdes will be back. I still maintain the team has little depth so an injury free season is critical.

Hoopstalk tonight will have Coach Ganot as our guest. Hopefully every weds thru  the final Four on ESPN 1420 at 7 pm. 296-1420 is the number.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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January 15th, 2016

One thing you have to notice about this UH team. Its that someone always seems to step up when someone else is struggling( or not playing). Last night, it was two guys who have not been offensive powerhouses so far this season, Thomas and Smith. Quincy scored 17 points, a career high,  mostly on his patented drives to the hoop and Thomas chipped in with 15 points, including 2 huge threes. Add the scoring from Jankovic and Fleming, and it more than made up for the loss of Valdes and the poor offensive night from Bobbitt.

Riverside was never really in this game. So far, they have been a major disappointment ( 0-3) to start the league. But one team is beginning to make its presence known. Irvine went to Long Beach and came from 10 back to win 58-54. That is a HUGE win. Another nice road win was Santa Barbara's win at Cal Poly.

Tomorrow UH plays at Fullerton. Not a powerhouse by any means, but without Valdes, certainly a tougher game than Riverside. The good news is that Bobbitt will not step on the court hours after landing on the Mainland and should bounce back. I am surprised Riverside hadn't either scouted Smith or simply couldn't stop him, but I think Fullerton will try to keep him out of the paint or foul him before he gets to the hoop. Jankovic and Fleming are proving they will be double digit scorers in practically every game.

Still don't see much bench strength on this team. Yesterday, Tummala played 12 minutes with one bucket, and Filipovich and Drammeh, in relief of Valdes, played a total of 17 minutes and had 3 points combined. Another injury to a starter would be devastating. But the top 6 are as good as anybody in the league, and if Thomas can stay out of foul trouble( he played 33  minutes last nite), he will be a force in the paint.

One negative. After really showing some maturity on the court so far this season, Issac received another technical. He led the Conference, by far, in "T"'s last season, and officials are onto his on court chirping. You got to love his enthusiasm, but one day an ill-advised technical may cost this team a win. Lets hope yesterday was just a onetime event.

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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January 11th, 2016

After two home wins to open the season, UH takes to the road for only the second time this season. Cant believe there is another team in the Country that has been fed on so much home cooking. But the Bows have shown they are for real at Home, and for the first time in a decade they have garnered a few votes in the National polls.

UH's wins against Cal Poly and Santa Barbara were significant in many ways. Both of these teams have given the Bows problems in the past. Cal Poly is a tough physical team whose defense frustrated Hawaii over the years. This year's team is not that solid defensively, and could not keep up with Hawaii offensively.

The Gauchos have defeated UH here in Hawaii the last two years with Alan Williams, their all-conference big man. They really miss him this year, and in a tough struggle, UH used its strength inside to overcome poor outside shooting to seal the victory.

In order to make a run at the Conference Championship, you have to hold court at home and split on the road. The past few years, the Bows could not win the big games at home. The win against Santa Barbara proves they can this year. Now, can they win on the road.

The games this week are against the bottom half of the league so we should learn a lot very quickly how they will fare off Island. One potential big problem is the toe injury to Aaron Valdes. A rare basketball injury ( turf toe), but not uncommon in football and it could linger for a while. Frankly, UH has little depth, and Aaron gives the team full effort on both ends, even if his offense has been inconsistent. If he is out for any length of time, it will adversely effect UH's chances of success.

Pretty clear Irvine and Long Beach are the teams to beat. They played difficult away games pre-season, and appear ready to flex their muscles in league play. But this looks  like it could be UH's best team in 15 years. They need to be more consistent from the line, shoot better from "3", and find a third scorer in some games. But their defensive intensity and strong inside play will make them a difficult team to beat. They are playing for this year, and they just might do it.

If Aaron plays this week, I predict two UH wins. If he doesn't, look for a split.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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January 4th, 2016

Its nice for UH to come out of the pre-conference portion of their schedule with the best record in years. Its nice that they played Oklahoma tough and beat some other teams we have heard of. But none of that really matters in the end. All that matters when you are a member of the Big West is whether you win the league tournament , and the NCAA bid that goes with it, or win the regular season crown and the NIT bid that goes with it.

Lots of speculation on how good, or not so good, the rest of the Big West is. I think the non-conference records are just so-so. Some wins against middle level schools, lots of bad losses to good squads ( with a few exceptions). I think Long Beach will be good, although its always hard to tell with them because of the really tough schedule they play leading to losses, Irvine has been a disappointment, although still some talent there, Riverside could surprise, and UC Santa Barbara is learning to play without Allen Williams.

But one of the sites I study, a site that sets odds for college basketball on a daily and season-wide basis, has a real pleasant surprise for UH fans. It picks UH to win both the regular season crown and the Tournament. Team Ranking has UH as a 30% favorite to win the Tournament, with UCSB at 25%. Then its Irvine and Long Beach. The rest don't have much hope.

As far as the regular season goes, it has UH with a 11.3 win season and a 37% chance of coming in first. Right behind is UCSB with 10.9 wins and a 29% chance. UC Irvine is predicted to win 10 games.  I cant remember the last time UH was picked by anybody to win the league ( Big West or WAC) or the tournament.

Now its time to prove it on the court. as I said on the broadcast the other nite, I think UH will be a favorite in every home game. I think they will lose 3-4 games on the road ( at Long Beach, Irvine, UCSB and maybe Riverside. But we will see how they get out of the gate this weekend, starting with Cal Poly and UCSB. Cal Poly is struggling with a 6-7 records, but always gives UH fits with its disciplined style of play. UH has averaged only 61 points against them in 6 Big West contests. Cal Poly has played a fairly tough schedule. They lost by 2 at UNLV, 5 at UCLA, ,but lost badly at USC and St Mary's. They have no really good wins. They can score, but defensively they are not the Cal Poly team we know and love. More on UCSB on Friday.

Ok all of you draft king fans. Predictions please on UH's League record. I say 11-5 . 10-6 could still win the Conference. Your thoughts?

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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December 28th, 2015

Ok. I have been telling folks I cant provide an opinion as to how good this year's team is until after the Diamond Head. Why? Because the first eight games didn't really tell me very much. Blow -outs against inferior and Div 2 squads, a last second miracle win against an average Nevada team, and a bad loss on the road to Texas Tech. But after last week's game, I now have an opinion. This team is pretty good.

Game 1, a big win over an up and down  Northern Iowa team . Up by beating North Carolina and Iowa State, and down losing by 20 to New Mexico) who came in last at the Tournament). UNI lacks any decent frontcourt and rely totally on threes. When they fall, they win, When they don't, they lose. is that simple.

The came the game against Number 3 Oklahoma. The Sooners are very good. They have a great backcourt. Perhaps the best shooting guard in the country. But the Bows hung tough and if a loose ball or two, a missed free throw or two, o ran ill-advised technical on you know who, had gone the other way, UH would have had one of the biggest upsets of the year. That game proved to me UH can beat any Conference foe at home.

Then the nice win against an average Auburn squad that and had one really solid player. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he either shot them in or out of games last week. In the UH game, 30 minutes of shooting them out was not overcome by 10 minutes of shooting them in.

The Bows were led by Rod Bobbitt. I guess he likes playing Div 1 schools and being on ESPN. He was great. Deserved to make the All-Tournament team averaging 30 points in the last two games. Found his outside shot, and basically led the offense. Cant say the same for Valdes. He had a very poor tournament offensively. One thing about Aaron, however, he generally plays within himself and gives great effort on both ends of the floor.

Thomas continues to be a foul machine and it has to improve. When he finally got a few minutes to play against Auburn, after sitting most of the first two games with foul trouble, he showed what he can do if he stays on the floor. Both Stefans played well in spurts. Jankovic had a strong outing against Auburn and Jovanovic played well in limited minutes.

Fleming was hot and cold, but played hard with only a few on-court incidents, including the one very costly "t". Smith free throw shooting woes continue, but his defense was solid. He will never be a scorer for this team. And Tummala continued his streaky shooting, but got additional minutes because of Thomas' foul situation.

This week the Bows end Non-Conference with two easy games and they should go into League play with the best record in the league with only two losses. if you had asked me what I thought UH record would be going into Conference, I would have said 8-3. What did you all think? Has this team surprised you or is it where you thought they would be?

Finally, the NCAA sanctions have come out and everybody is talking about it. Too harsh? Is the team being punished for the sins of prior coaches and players? Is the NCAA a joke? Should UH appeal? Is Gib and his attorney really serious when they state he was " very pleased" with the results and that he was " vindicated"? The bottom line is that under his watch UH committed several violations and now will suffer the consequences for years to come. Its really sad, but lets stop talking about what to do about the sanctions next. lets move on and support this team and this program. Its is going to need all of our fan support. Under the new coaching regime ( and new AD), I know we can expect full compliance with NCAA rules, whether you agree those rules or not. What matters now is how this team comes together, and if last week is any indication, they will have a highly successful year

 

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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December 16th, 2015

After several less than challenging opponents, we will finally get a glimpse as to how good this team is  next week in the Diamond Head Classic. Hopefully, whatever issues kept Bobbitt on the bench last week will be resolved by next Tuesday, but I am not that optimistic that we have seen the last of his attitude problems. The team definitely will need him against decent competition.

Tuesday's games feature Auburn vrs New Mexico and Harvard vrs BYU in the day games, and Oklahoma vrs Washington State and Northern Iowa vrs Hawaii at night. The overwhelming favorite has to be the Sooners, who are ranked number 3 in the nation. In the other bracket, I like the Lobos.

Auburn is 5-2 but is likely to lose to Xavier this weekend. The Tigers have beaten UAB and Coastal Carolina, but have lost to Colorado and Middle Tennessee State. Not exactly a murderer's row. New Mexico, on the other hand, is also 6-2, but has beaten New Mexico State and UH first round opponent, Northern Iowa. Their losses have been to number 11 Purdue and USC.

Harvard, the team I am hosting, has had a tough start. After losing their best player to injury for the year, they are 3-6. One of those losses, however, was to Kansas by only 6. BYU, their opponent, is 8-3 with one more game to play. The Cougars lost to Big West foe Long Beach State and Utah, and have beaten Utah State and a bunch of cupcakes. I will go with my heart and pick Harvard to win that game.

In the nightcap, Oklahoma comes in undefeated. They have beaten Wisconsin and Villanova ( in the Pearl Harbor Classic), and have one more game this Saturday against Creighton. They are a final four team. Their opponent, Washington State, will be playing in the Consolation round for certain. These Cougars are 6-2 with an easy game against Texas State this weekend. They have lost to Gonzaga( not your mother's Gonzaga team), and have no real signature wins so far.

And in the last game of the first round, our beloved Rainbow Warriors ,7-1, with only one near quality win ( Nevada), take on last year's NCAA darling, the panthers of Northern Iowa. The Panthers lost most of their starting five, but are still picked to challenge Wichita State for the Horizon League Championship. Their signature win so far was against the Tarheels.  They are 6-3 with a win against another former NCAA darling, George Mason, but they have lost to Colorado State and Richmond, as well as New Mexico. The will likely lose this Saturday to top ten ranked Iowa State.  I like Hawaii to win this one. It wont be easy, but UH always plays well in this event. Unfortunately, the prize for winning is a date with the Sooners. But that is for another column.

Tonight on Hoops Talk, 7 pm on ESPN 1420, our guests will be BYU head coach Dave Rose and Carolina head coach Roy Williams. You wont want to miss it.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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December 9th, 2015

Last nights easy win over Hilo and Saturday's game against HPU prove very little about where this team stands once it starts to play the " big boys". Frankly, the jury is still out on how good this team is. The one point win against Nevada and the loss to Texas Tech, the two best teams UH has played to date ( and frankly neither is all that good), have to be compared to the blow-out wins against the lesser opponents.

Last night, Aaron played a dominating game on both ends. Fleming continued his improving play, and Filipovic showed he could provide some solid minutes in relief of a poor performance by Bobbitt. Speaking of Bobbitt, his body language last night as well as his towel over the head attitude, was a major disappointment in a player who up to last night had begun to show some needed maturity. Hopefully it was a one game aberration as it reflected poorly on him and is something that Eran has to stop quickly.

Some things are becoming pretty obvious. One, this team really struggles at the line ( 60%). If it doesn't get up over 65% ( nothing to write home about), it will cost the Bows a win or two. Second, although he plays hard at both ends of the court, and has a strong move to the hoop, Quincy Smith is a very poor shooting " shooting" guard. It is almost painful to watch him try to score from outside the paint and , and when you add his poor free throw shooting into the mix, I wouldn't be surprised to see Fleming move into that starting spot. And the team has to improve its interior defense.

Mike Thomas continues to provide some solid minutes and gives this team a little bulk in the paint.  Jankovic didn't play last night, and he is still trying to figure out where he fits in the offensive schemes. Sai Tummala has been hot and cold. What the team needs from him is consistency.

No one really can be surprised by the teams 6-1 record. They won all the games they were supposed to, and lost the one game they could have won . After Saturday, and except for two more cupcakes right after the Diamond Head, the going gets much tougher. They will open the Classic with Northern Iowa, who beat North Carolina earlier this year. UNI is not the team they were last year, and Carolina was missing their all-American point guard Marcus Paige in that game, but that was a signature win. And if UH is fortunate to beat UNI, next up is Oklahoma who just crushed Villanova at Pearl harbor and is a top 5 team in my opinion.

This team has a chance to do some very good things. The league has shown there is no one dominating team. Irvine is not a lock to win the league. The league has had some solid wins against some " name" opponents, but overall has struggled out of conference. Irvine, Long Beach and Santa Barbara have played some tough opponents in tough places, so it hard to compare their records to UH. But the Bows have many of the pieces necessary to successfully compete in the league, but will have to fix some things going forward. We will all have a better idea where UH stands after Santa leaves on the 25th.

happy Hanukkah.

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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December 2nd, 2015

How many of us have been to Pine Bluff, Arkansas? Today's geography's lesson begins today's blog.

Pine Bluff is the largest city in Jefferson County. Population 49,000. It is the 9th largest city in Arkansas. Lots of farmland and home to the largest bayou in the world. Leading farm products include cotton and soybeans, not to mention catfish. Large number of paper mills give Pine Bluff a distinctive odor.

Not so positive, in 2009, it was ranked as the most dangerous metropolitan area in the US and Forbes as listed it as one the ten poorest cities in the US. The good news, as of 2014, it is no longer listed in the top ten deadliest cities in the US.

The University is the second oldest public educational institutions in Arkansas, and the oldest with a Afro-American heritage.

Notable people from Pine Bluff include basketball player Joe Barry Carroll, Mike Huckabee, and Clark Terry.

The basketball team is currently 2-5. Unlike Hawaii, who played its only road non-conference game last week, Pine Bluff will play 16 road games ( out of 18 games) to start the season. And many are body bag games. They have already played at Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Nebraska, and now Hawaii, with upcoming road games at Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Missouri. They have a 2 point win over SE Louisiana and Seattle University.

They are led by leading scorer JoVaughn Love ( 11.7 ppg) and Ghiavonni Robinson(9.4ppg). They do not shoot well ( 37%), and 30% from three and have out rebounded by 13 rebounds per game. They are averaging only 56 points per game while giving up 77, but much of this can be attributed to the level of competition.

For the Bows, they have three games they should win easily after suffering their first loss. Last year, they beat this team by 28 points and I would be surprised if they don't come close to matching that tonight. Valdes had 28 points in that game. Hawaii will look to improve in two major areas. free throw shooting and interior defense. Even in the four wins, these have been trouble spots.

 

Jeff Portnoy is a member of the UH Board of Regents. The views expressed here are his and do not reflect those of the board.

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