Archive for December, 2011

A week of Extreemes

December 28th, 2011

This week, the Rainbow Warriors will play their last two nonconference games before opening the WAC season against San Jose State on Jan 7. These two games present two opponents on opposite sides of the spectrum.

First up is South Carolina State of the MEAC Conference. They are 4-8, but have played a couple of money games at Oklahoma and Pittsburgh in their last two outings.  They come in here 1-7 on the road averaging 63 points while giving up 76. They are led by senior guard  Brandon Riley ( 19ppg). They should present little challenge to Hawaii and it should be an easy win. However, as we have seen, sometimes this team plays down to its opponents witness the tougher than expected wins over Cal Davis, Hilo and NC A&T.

Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is the New Year's Eve game against 19th ranked UNLV. The Rebels will be a very tough opponent. In my mind, the best team Hawaii will play all year, at least at home. They have already beaten UNC when the Tarheels were ranked number 1, and come in here 13-2 against a tough schedule. Their only losses were on the road at Wichita State and ranked Wisconsin. They match up well with Hawaii in that they have a very good 4 man and two skilled, athletic, and " tall" guards who can spread the floor.

 Hawaii has shown it can play with the big boys in its overtime win against Xavier and in playing  Gonzaga tough for 30 minutes on the road, but it will take its best game to compete with the Running Rebels . UNLV, by the way, has a " Wallace" on its bench, as Riley's nephew gets several minutes each game, and Riley will be here to watch the game. If  Zane can get open and score, and if the Hawaii guards can control the tempo, and if Josten can compete in the paint, Hawaii has a chance to win. My guess is that Vegas will come in here a 9-10 point favorite, and for entertainment purposes only, I like Hawaii to " beat the spread". If they manage to upset the Rebels, it will be the biggest nonconference win in sometime, yes, even bigger than Xavier.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

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the Zane Show

December 25th, 2011

i have said repeatedly that on nights when Zane Johnson scores 20 plus points, Hawaii has a good chance to win. Today against Clemson, he did just that leading the Rainbow Warriors to the Consolation Championship. Zane had his best scoring night in weeks hitting 50 percent from beyond the arc. Add another solid performance by Vander to the 8 assists from Miah, and good games from Hans ( offense) and Wiseman ( defense), and it adds up to a good win against a " name" opponent.

The team seemed to find itself offensively this week, and its defense, especially in man, continues to be its strength.  The Bows out-rebounded its opponents and cut its turnovers to a manageable number.

South Caroliona State comes in next in what should be an easy victory, but we have seen this team play uninspired basketball against inferior opponents. Then on New Year's Eve day, UNLV comes into town. The rebels will be ranked and it should be a great basketball game.  As we have seen in year's past, the Rainbow Warriors always seem to get up for the holiday tournament and this year was no exception. I thought they would win two, but i must admit i didnt get the sequence right as I had them beating Auburn, losing to either Xavier or Long Beach State, and beating whoever they might face in the third game. As it ended up, they were only 8 seconds away from three wins.

its was a fun week of college basketball. Next year's field includes Arizona and San Diego State. HOOPSTALK will be on Tuesday this week at 6 pm on ESPN 1420. Shouls be lots to talk about.

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A Signature Win

December 24th, 2011

what a xmas present the team gave all of us last night in an unbelievable come from behind overtime win against 15th ranked Xavier. The team came from 15 points down to defeat the Musketeers who had their starting All- American back-court back on the court. This win was no fluke.

If you read this column regularly, you know that i have consistently said that the most important player on this team may well be Joston Thomas and last night proved why. Joston consistently got free in the paint and led all Hawaii scorers with 22 points. He has begun to understand that his game is inside, not beyond the arc, and his spirit and enthusiasm are infectious.

Miah still isnt scoring but his steady point guard play kept the rest of the offensive flowing and his 5 steals were critical. Trevor and Jefferson"s defense were huge down the stretch and in the overtime, and Zane, who didnt have a great night shooting, did make two huge threes in the final few minutes. And who would have thought that Bereton, who had made only 4 threes in 19 attempts, would make the biggest three of his young career.

If there was one small downside to the game, it appeared that Stokes did not want to celebrate this huge win with his team-mates. maybe it had something to do with his less than stellar night and the lack of minutes thereof.

I wrote last week that the three wins against Davis, NC A&T, and Hilo were less than impressive. The win last night was the best performance of the year, by far, and I think best games so far have come against the three best teams they have played ( auburn in a last second loss, Gonzaga's loss in Canada, and last night's signature win). It was Gib's first win over a ranked team as a Div 1 head coach, and the first Hawaii win over a ranked opponent since they beat Mich State in 2005 . 

Tomorrow Hawaii plays for 5th place against Clemson. Based upon how they have played so far in this tournament, dont bet against them. Merry Xmas.

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An Inspiring Loss

December 23rd, 2011

some of you are quick to jump me when you disagree with my blog. Like last week, when i wrote about Hawaii's unimpressive wins against weak opponents. Well they were, face it.  But sometimes in a loss, there is more to cheer than in a win, and last night's brutal loss to Auburn is an example.

The Rainbow Warriors played from behind all night, but never gave up, and when they took the lead with less than 9 seconds to play, the 8000 screaming fans in the Arena were poised to celebrate easily the best performance of this team so far this year. But the win evaporated as Auburn took it the length of the court in 5 seconds to capture the win.

There is no need to dwell on how or why the game was lost. Its easily explained by poor free throw shooting. But what we should all remember is how this team never quit; how it came back again and again; how it made up a 7 point deficit in the last 2 minutes; and the excitement of watching a big time college basketball game that came down to the last shot.

Tonight Hawaii faces a huge challenge. It will face an angry Xavier team that got beat badly last night by a good Long Beach State team. Xavier was missing two starters, but will get its starting backcourt back for tonight's game, a back court that many believe is the best in college basketball. When Xavier was at full strength, it was one of the best team's in the country. They will be down one starter, but they are easily the toughest team Hawaii has faced this year ( with apologies to Gonzaga). Can the Rainbow Warriors put last night's heart-breaking defeat behind them? Can Hawaii put up enough points to outscore the Musketeers ( not Mouseketeers)? Can Hawaii's guards try to match up with Xavier's All-Americans. The oddsmakers say no. Xavier is favored by 10. Realalisticly, it will very tough for Hawaii to win. But one thing is for sure, they will play hard till the final horn.

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December 21st, 2011

Here are my first round predictions for Day 1 of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic'

Best Game of the Day.  No question its the 6 pm game pitting number 14 Xavier against Long Beach State. Xavier comes in ranked 14 in the Nation after losing its first game of the season Sunday night at home to Oral Roberts in its first game after the Cincinnati game that led to several suspensions for both teams. Xavier played with out its leading scorer, Mark Lyons and its third leading scorer, Dezmine Wells, along with its All American guard Tu Holloway, so the loss was to be expected. Holloway will be back for this game, but the other two guys will not. Xavier already has wins over Georgia, Vanderbilt, Purdue and Butler, so on paper should be the favorite to win the tournament if it was at full strength. But Long Beach State, even with a record of 5-5, will not be easy to beat. Long Beach has played the toughest schedule in the country so far, having played at Pitt ( a win) and at Kansas, Louisville, and UNC, all competitive losses.  With Xavier down two starters, this is a hard one to call, but since i am hosting the Musketeers, i will go with Xavier in a great ball-game.

Worst game of the Day.. Kansas State vrs Southern Illinois. This game pits the 7-1 team from Manhattan Kansas against the 3-5 team from the Missouri Valley Conference. K State is receiving some top 25 votes and has an RPI of 37, only 2 behind Xavier. Southern Ill's RPI is 240 and its strength of schedule is 342 out of 244 ( by the way, Hawaii's first round opponent, Auburn, has the worst SOS in the Country). Kansas State's head coach, Frank Martin, is a show in itself, and this game should be a blow-out.

Clemson-UTEP. The Clemson Tigers come in here with a 6-4 record and an RPI of 57. It has played a fairly weak schedule with one good win against Iowa and two losses to solid teams in College of Charleston and South Carolina. Clemson looks like it will struggle in the ACC this year, but always has some talent. UTEP is 4-5 with an RPI of 167. I like Clemson in a fairly easy win.

Our Game. Hawaii vrs the once beaten Auburn Tigers of the SEC. Aubur4n, as previously noted , has played the easiest schedule in the country so far. In its only game against a solid opponent, Seton Hall, it got crushed. Its RPI is 154 putting it in the middle of all Div 1 teams. Our beloved Rainbow Warriors have struggled so far this year, but come in 5-4 and on a three game winning streak. Hawaii traditionally plays well over Christmas, and it will have to step up its game to beat the Tigers. But i like our chances. Its not easy traveling East to West, and Hawaii should be rested and ready to go. Other than the Gonzaga game, and perhaps Eastern Washington, this is the first real test of where the Hawaii team as it approaches league play. I expect Zane to break out of his shooting slump before the scouts and bright national tv cameras, and its the first time for Shaq to show the folks back in NY how he is doing.  Miah wont have to contend with exams and graduation, and its time for Vander to show the Nation why he was picked preseason All WAC.  Whether it wins or ,losses, Hawaii's next opponent will be a real challenge

Hopstalk is on ESPN 1420 tonight at 6 because of the games tomorrow. Our special guest will be ESPN Basketball guru, Jay Bilas. See you at the Tournament

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Two Unimpressive wins

December 19th, 2011

ok, two wins are two wins. And the team now has a winning record. But let's be honest. Struggling to beat a Div @ team in Hilo and a North Carolina A&T team with a 4-8 record and an RPI of 313 wont get it done now that real teams begin to appear on the schedule.

Next up is SEC team, Auburn. They are not great, but they are light years better than anybody UH has played so far outside of Gonzaga. Auburn comes in with one loss, that against the only real team they have played so far, Seton Hall ( they lost by 22 But the record is deceiving as Auburn's with a strength of schedule is not much better than ours. ( 289 to 338). But their RIU is a marginally respectable 134, compared to the Rainbows 230. The big advantage for the Bows is that traditionally they play well in the Tournament, and Auburn is making the long trip from Alabama.

But lets face it, Hawaii needs to improve in several areas and quickly. After Miah and Bobby Miles played so well against UC Davis, both underperformed over the weekend. Miah did not have a single point and only two assists, and Bobby had 4 points, in a total of almost 60 combined minutes. Stokes played the majority of minutes and showed some offense, but he and the rest of the team continue to turn the ball over. Last night, for example, 22 turnovers against NC A&T. Zane Johnson is really struggling from the field.. Last night 2- 10, against Hilo, just as bad.

Vander dominated these smaller teams and was rewarded by being chosen the WAC player of the week. Frankly, he towered over the last two opponents, something that wont happen much more often as the caliber of opponent improves.

The team continues to play hard. The team defense continues to be its strength, holding opponents under 40 percent from the field. But you have to be able to score to beat decent teams, and right now, the team is really struggling offensively. The high turnover margin has not hurt as much as it could because Hawaii is rebounding fairly well against these smaller teams, but that will balance out in the upcoming games, so turning the ball over almost 20 times a game will not lead to positive results.

So the really easy part of the schedule is over except for the South Carolina State game next week. After Auburn, Hawaii will either play a top ten rank3d team in Xavier, although it will be missing a few players because of the suspensions handed out in the Cinn fight.  Last night Xavier got scorched at home to end its unbeaten streak by a good, but not great,  Oral Robers team, or Long Beach State, which has the number 1 strength of schedule in the nation right now and has already beaten the Pitt Panthers at home. Then, depending upon how things go in the tournament, they could play either Clemson or Kansas State. And on New Year's Eve, it will be UNLV.

The Tournament is always fun and, as I said earlier, Hawaii has a history of playing well in the Tournament. It will really need to step up its game, however, if it hopes to leave the Tournament with a winning record or better. The team needs your support, and if you are a fan of good college basketball, you wont want to miss these games. Let's make the home court the difference

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alphabet soup

December 14th, 2011

those of you who follow college basketball know what RPI and SOS mean. RPI is where your team " ranks" based upon wins, opponents strength and record, etc. It is used by many to help select at large teams to post season tournaments and to give the public a chance to see where your team stands in relation to all Division 1 teams. SOS is strength of schedule. It is based on the records of your opponents and their RPI, etc.

There are 344 Div 1 basketball teams. When you play a team with a better RPI and SOS, even if you lose, you move up. when you play a team with a lower RPI, you tend to move down or stay the same.

Right now, UH RPI is 328 and its SOS is 334.  Not good. And with games against Div 2 Hilo and NC A&T on the horizon, even wins wont mean very much. The SOS means that right now UH's schedule is among the ten weakest in the country. That will change once UH plays in the Diamond Head Classic and the league. With wins over better schools, the RPI should improve, but by how much?

Now dont get mad at me for reporting these numbers. Its just the facts. I think anyone would have to say that a 3-4 record against the teams played so far is disappointing. Is there time to turn things around? Of course. Look at last year turnaround. The addition of Miah will certainly help, And the league is way down. Only three teams have a winning record right now so its not a stretch to predict that the Rainbow Warriors will end up with a winning record in the league and overall. Is 19 wins still realistic?  I think the team will be 8-6 going into league play. 11 wins in the conference will be tough, but that's why they play them.

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The Miah Show

December 12th, 2011

Jackson and I have been talking for sometime about how much Miah's return to the team might mean in terms of on-court stability and playmaking success. Well, if last night's performance is any indication, we hit the nail on its head.

The Rainbows struggled to beat UC Davis last night, but pulled away in the last ten minutes for their win. Lets not go too crazy. Davis came in 1-7 and that one win was against a division 2 team. Davis actually led this game until the ten minute mark in the second half. Without Miah's steady play at point guard, and his 8 assists, the final result might well have been different. And when Miah understandably wore down, Bobby Miles came in to play the point and did a good job down the stretch to preserve the victory.

One guy who didn't run the point last night was Shaq. I asked Coach after the game if we were witnessing a transition at the point and he essentially said yes. He said both Miah and Bobby are  " pass first" guards, while Shaq looks to shot. And with his shooting percentage hovering around 30 %, that isn't getting it done. Frankly, the team looked more active on the offensive end with Maih and Bobby at the point, and I wouldn't be surprised if we begin to see Shaq playing more minutes at the 2 guard ( shooting guard) position as the season wears on. But Gib may have some work to do to convince Shaq that for someone who has probably been the " star" in High School and playground basketball, he is now playing Div 1 basketball with bigger and more talented opponents and there is a learning curve that all players need to go thru.

Vander had a solid night with a double double, and Zane had 19 points in the win . ( i have said many times that for Hawaii to have a legitimate shot at a w, Zane needs to score 15 to 20 points, at least until the team finds a consistent complimentary outside shooter.

The next two games should be realtively easy wins. Neither UH Hilo not North Carolina A&T should present a problem. But as Gib works to find the right line-up ( last night, he used many different combinations, and he kept his usual starters on the bench to open the game to send a message that no ones position is secure), they need these next two games to get ready for the competition they will face starting with the Diamond Head Classic on Dec 22.

 One thing is for sure. The early ending of the fottball season has brough big dividends to the basketball program. As well as Miah played last night, think how well he could play after more than 2 practices.

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A Lost Road Trip

December 7th, 2011

while most folks here were focusing on football, the basketball team completed a very disappointing road trip, losing to Pepperdine and Pacific. Lets be honest. Neither of these teams are all that good. Both were picked preseason to finish near the bottom of their respective leagues. So although they are road losses, they are games Hawaii was expected to win ( at least by me).

The team is now 2-4. Frankly, i predicted they would be 5-1 with the only expected loss coming against Gonzaga. The team is showing some areas that need improvement. Team wise, they are not defending the lane very well and they are not shooting well. Opponents have shot 20 more free throws. They are being out rebounded on the offensive boards by 13 leading to too many easy put-backs. And turnovers continue to be an issue with Hawaii turning the ball over 95 times in 6 games.

Individually, Zane is really struggling from the field. Against Pacific, for example, he shot 2-10 from the field and scored 9 points. I said earlier that if Zane scores under 15, Hawaii likely loses and that is proving true so far this young season. Shag's shooting percentage is barely over 30 percent. Against Pacific, he was 2-9. In the Pepperdine game,  Brereton shot well and gave the Rainbow Warriors a third scorer. But he really needs to become more consistant from the field 

Vander continues to under perform. Its not that he is not having average performances. Its that so much was expected of him preseason. And Thomas is good and bad. He has committed 24 fouls in 111 minutes, but has played better in the last two games.

On the positive side, the team continues to play solid perminiter defense holding opponents to a shooting percentage under 40%.  Teams are shooting only 28% from three. And it is holding its own on the defensive boards.

The next three home games should be easy wins. The team should have a winning record going into the Diamond Head Classic, but then things get tough.  I am not ready to say how i think this team will fare in the Conference just yet, but i think any objective observer has to be disappointed in the way things have gone so far. Can the team turn things around. You bet. Just look at last year where the team lost its first 5 conference games before going 9-4 the rest of the way. But last year, the team started the season by winning 7 of its first 9 so it has some work to do in the next few weeks

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The Sorry State of WAC Basketball

December 2nd, 2011

Can the WAC got much worse in basketball? The first month of the season has been a disaster for the league. Its presently ranks 22 in the RPI. Its top ranked team in the RPI is New Mexico State at 61, with 5 of the leagues's 8 teams having RPI ranks in the 200 hundreds ( by the way, Hawaii is at 266). Only two WAC teams presently have winning records, New Mexico State at 5-2 and Nevada at 4-3. And its not as if the WAC schools have played a big-time top 25 schedule. The only team that has played a top 25 team is Hawaii's loss against Gonzaga.

Utah State's home winning streak came crashing down this week when it lost to Denver ( yes, Denver)) by double digits. Just this week, La Tech lost to Southeastern Louisiana and Idaho to Eastern Washington ( at home). Fresno beat Academy of Art ( who?), and San Jose Sate beat UTSA. you get my drift.

WAC basketball has never been, at least in my memory, at such a low ebb. No team, other than the Conference Tournament Champ, has a chance at a real post season tournament, unless maybe New Mexico State if it wins out ( or close to it). And once conference plays starts in January, there is no real hope of significantly improving any body's RPI. Maybe Hawaii should be happy its moving to the Big West. At least it has Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara.

 the league has a chance this weekend to make some headway. Fresno is at home against Utah and tonight Washington is at Nevada. Sunday New Mexico travels to Southern Miss.  Idaho and Hawaii are on the road against lesser opponents in UC Davis and Pepperdine. No chance to make much RPI headway in these later two games.

For Hawaii fans, we will have to wait until the Diamond Head Classic to watch top 75 teams.  Xavier, the afore-mentioned Long Beach State, Clemson and Kansas State top the field. It should be fun as always.

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