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.