Archive for February, 2012

Its Come Down To This

February 27th, 2012

After three consecutive losses by big margins on the road the last ten days, the regular season comes down to two remaining home games against Idaho and Utah State. Hawaii sits in a tie for 4th place with Utah Sate and is one game behind Idaho as these teams battle for tournament seedings in the top half of the league. The good news is that Hawaii is at home while both Idaho and Utah State finish the regular season on the road. Hawaii has already beaten Idaho, but lost to Utah Sate. And looming just out of the picture is a resurgent La Tech team, but they finish the season at Fresno and Nevada.  Idaho , Utah Sate, and La Tech have been less than stellar on the road, with Idaho's 5-7 mark the best of the group. On the other hand, and this is an interesting and disturbing fact, Hawaii has the worst home record in the WAC ( all games ) besides San Jose.

The three losses last week were not close. Somehow, Hawaii has lost the ability to stop teams from scoring. Giving up almost 300 points in three consecutive games in college ball is not good. Turnovers continue to plague this team, 30 percent outside shooting by Zane translates into defeats. The bench really hasn't stepped up, and giving up too many offensive rebounds is a continuing issue.

I guess you can chalk up the last three games to tired legs, but i don't think that excuse is valid. Hawaii travels to New Mexico State and La tech every year ( but no more), and even with the absurd bracket buster game in Montana, there were 5 days between the Montana game and New Mexico State. The truth is that Hawaii is not playing very good basketball right now, and they picked the wrong time to go backwards while teams like La Tech, New Mexico State and Fresno have picked up their games.

Hawaii's record against Div 1 teams, and i will include New Orleans for the benefit of the doubt, is just one game over 500. They have the longest current losing streak in the conference. Coming home will hopefully be the right medicine. A third place finish in the Conference is within their control. They have the tiebreaker against Idaho. A loss or two could mean they would drop to 6th, although i think that is unlikely for a number of reasons.

So its time to see the Hawaii team that beat Idaho on the road a month ago and beat New Mexico State and played Nevada tough twice , not the team that has struggled in February. Fan support is critical and I hope they show up on Thursday and for Senior night on Saturday. At home, I like Hawaii's chances.

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Time to Worry?

February 24th, 2012

The beat down suffered by Hawaii last night in New Mexico is very troubling. I thought New Mexico State would win and said so yesterday. But i never thought it would be the second worst loss in Hawaii WAC Basketball history. And coming on the heels of the Montana loss, it may be time to begin to get concerned about the Rainbow Warriors.

 You would hope and expect that this team would be playing its best basketball in late February, not its worst. Since late last month, the team has not played well, even in its 4 point home win against Fresno. Zane's shooting problems are no longer an aberration. Once again last night he was shut down offensively. The turnovers continue, 24 last night, at a level that will cause you to lose way too often. Miah has not found any offense, and teams have decided he doesn't need to be guarded.  Both Joston and Vander got technicals last night ( joston's second in two games), and the bench is not really supplying real quality minutes. And most concerning is that Hawaii has given up almost 200 points in the last two games when defense was something you could almost always count on.

Tomorrow night's game against La Tech becomes really important. Hawaii is now two games behind New Mexico State for second, and a loss tomorrow coupled with an Aggie win against last place San Jose will leave Hawaii fighting to finish in the top 4( much will depend on the winner tonight in the Idaho- Utah State game). La Tech destroyed San Jose last night, and has won three in a row. If you needed more proof about the effect of the bracketbuster game on the Rainbows, last night is Exhibit A. They played tired, were badly out-hustled ( out-rebounded by 11 and New Mexico St had 16 offensive rebounds, something i mentioned yesterday as a key to the outcome), and allowed the Aggies to shoot 60 percent from the field.

This team has to know how important the game tomorrow afternoon is. They have come back from bad losses before this season, and they need to do it again against a 14-14 La Tech team. The jury is out on the worry issue.

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I hope I'm Wrong, But

February 23rd, 2012

Ok, as a fan, I want Hawaii to win tonight's game against New Mexico State. The Rainbow Warriors would tie the Aggies for second place with a win, and go a long way to securing a second or third place finish in the Conference. It would move them one win away from the magic 17 ( for a probable invite to the Riley Wallace Invitational, otherwise known as the CIT), and probably avoid  having to play Neveda in the second round of the Tournament.

But, frankly, I think it will be very difficult for Hawaii to win tonight. The Aggies are playing well, witness their huge win in the Bracketbuster game against Drake. their 12-3 home record, their 6 wins in their last 7 games and the fact that lead the WAC in almost all rebounding margin. , They have the second best player in the Conference in Wendell McKines who leads the league in scoring AND rebounding; and their RPI is a respectable 66. On the other hand, Hawaii comes off a big loss at Montana, has been on the road for a week, Zane has lost his shot, Hawaii's RPI is 194, and it will face full court pressure for much of the game, something that caused Hawaii big problems the last time these teams met ( I know, the Aggies only pressed the last 4 minutes).  Hawaii has not played its best basketball  this month. After a big win at Idaho on Jan 28, they just beat San Jose by 2 in overtime, lost at home to Nevada, only beat Fresno by 4 at home, and got roughed up at Montana.

For Hawaii to win tonight, they will have to put it all together. Vander and Joston will have to not only score, but rebound, Zane will need to reclaim his shot and score 20 ( he had 29 in the home win against the Aggies, his last really good offensive game), and Miah and company will have to handle the press and limit the turnovers. Is all of this doable? Of course, but anything less that a total team effort and performance will not, in my opinion, get it done. But that's why they play the game on the court, and not on paper.

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a critical week

February 21st, 2012

ok, so i was right about the bracketbuster game. not a good thing for Hawaii. Frankly, it wasn't close. Montana could have won by 20. Zane continues to struggle from the line, too many turnovers, and poor free throw shooting, not to mention Joston's ejection.

But its time to look ahead to the most critical week of the year for Hawaii with games at New Mexico State on Thursday and La Tech on Saturday. Hawaii is currently in 4th place. They are a game behind the Aggies with four to play. They are a half game behind Idaho who has three left. Hawaii beat both New Mexico State ( at home) and Idaho( on the road), so it has the advantage over both, assuming the Rainbow Warriors don't slip up this week. A loss Thursday to New Mexico State will probably end any real chance for a second place finish as Hawaii would drop two games behind the Aggies. The Aggies still have last place San Jose at home, and then Fresno and Nevada on the road so its possible that even with a loss, Hawaii could end up in a tie with New Mexico State, but Hawaii would have to win out ( at La Tech and at home against Utah State and Idaho). Idaho's last three games are at Utah State, Hawaii, and San Jose, so it will be a battle for third regardless.

Why is all this important. Well, for one, nobody wants to face Nevada before the Conference finals, and in order to accomplish this, you cant finish 4th or 5th. Right now all of the teams i mentioned above, and  add Utah State to the picture, are in the 2 thru 5 battle.

By the way, a computer siteIi subscribe to says that the favorite to win the Conference Tournament is New Mexico State, with Nevada a strong second favorite. Nobody else is given much of a chance.  Hawaii is picked as the 5th favorite. But that's why they play the game on the court and not on a computer.

One thing is clear, however. Zane is a real shooting slump, and without him, Hawaii has a tough road ahead. He must regain his shot soon. You can expect the Aggies to press all over the court for most of the game. If you recall, after they fell behind in the game here, they put on a furious finish by employing a very effective full court press. They were down two players because of suspensions, and that may have been the reason they waited too long to press. They wont make that mistake again. Hawaii will need to break the press and look for easy baskets in the paint.

Listen to Hoopstalk tomorrow night at 8 pn on ESPN 142.> We will have Marvin Menzies, the Aggie coach, as our guest

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bracket busted

February 17th, 2012

well tomorrow is the long awaited bracketbuster game against the Grizzlies of Montana. What a waste. Instead of staying home, getting some rest, and practicing to take on New Mexico State next thursday on the road in Las Cruces, followed by the team's favorite trip to Ruston, the Rainbows had to leave Thursday and travel all the way to Montana to play a meaningless game against a solid opponent on its home court.

Maybe in the old days when UH had an outside chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and the game was on National TV, the bracketbuster made sense. Not now. UH has nothing to gain from this game except bragging rights over the team leading the Big Sky Conference. Montana is 19-6 and 12-1 in the Conference. It has won its last 8 games. It has a win against Long Beach State, but lost at home to Nevada in December. It will not be an easy game for UH. Winnable, yes, but so what.

I guess a win is a win, but the next two WAC Conference games maybe the most important of the year, after the Nevada game two weeks ago. Missoula maybe be really pretty in the summer ( i have been there), but not in the middle of February.

The word is out that UH will get the opportunity to play in the post season if it winds up winning 17 or 18 games, something I think is quite likely. Apparently they will be " invited" to play in the CIT, or I refer to it, the Riley Wallace Invitational. Its a buy-in Tournament with teams paying tens of thousands of dollars to play, and even more to get a home game. The Bows still have a legitimate shot of winning the Conference Tournament and the automatic NCAA bid that goes with it, but no chance for an NIT bid because of its unimpressive RPI. In any event, any chance to keep the season going has some merit, although I know most of us are looking to be invited to play in the post season for free ( if you know what i mean).

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Lots to Discuss

February 13th, 2012

As Hawaii gets ready for its " scrimmage" against Div 2 New Orleans tomorrow, two items are on my mind. The first is the Bracket Buster game on Saturday against Montana in Missoula. Not a good thing. Why? Let me count the reasons. First, UH has to fly to Montana to play the Big Sky leaders in a meaningless game. And then the team has to stay on the road for another week to play a huge game against New Mexico State and another important WAC game at La Tech. That trip would have been tough enough without having to play at Montana on Saturday. There is no upside. The game is not on TV, and frankly neither of these teams is playing for a signature win that might put them in the Big Dance.  Hawaii would have been much better off staying home for a week, getting some rest for the stretch drive, and preparing for the Aggies. And by the way, Montana is a tough opponent and doesn't lose very often at home.

The next item is the announced merger between the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA. I wont comment on how strong that new league will be in football. But it makes no sense to leave the UH basketball team out of the new league. Unless something changes, UH Basketball will remain in the Big West next year. Why? if its money, then someone needs to come up with a plan that will allow the basketball team to play in the same league as its football brother. UH is not Notre Dame where its football program and its other sports can be separated. I know there are a few others like Boise  who play in two conferences,  but UH sports need to stand united in a single conference to get the exposure , crowds and rivalries the basketball team needs to prosper.

If you want to have a big time basketball program, the administration has to stand behind it. Playing no name schools in high school gyms with no TV contract is not the way to do it ( yes, i know Long Beach State is good, and maybe San Diego State will join the Big West for basketball). 

The win against Fresno Saturday night wasn't pretty, but its a win. Teams in the WAC have figured out that they will not allow Zane to beat them, but he has to get his offense going if UH is going to have a legitimate shot at winning the conference tournament. Its pretty clear as you look at the remaining WAC schedules that Nevada will come in first, and Fresno, La Tech, and San Jose will finish at the bottom ( and probably in that order). UH is fighting New Mexico State, Idaho, and Utah State for seeds 2 thru 5. You dont want to face Nevada in the semis if you can help it, so ending up in 2nd or 3rd is the goal.

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A Lost Opportunity

February 10th, 2012

Well, Hawaii's chance to make a race out of the regular season went by the wayside last night. Now, instead of looking a shot to finish first, the Rainbows are in the middle of the pack with Utah State, Idaho, and New Mexico State. It was a disappointing performance by the Bows, not so much because they lost, but because, , they were out-hustled and seemed not to grasp the importance of the game. All you have do is look at the rebounding discrepancy for proof.

Hawaii had no answer for Dario Hunt who almost out-rounded the entire Hawaii team by himself. He dominated Vander last night, something of a payback for the Vander handled him in Reno. Joston played well in the second half, but only had 4 boards and made three bad mistakes in a row late in the game, including a 20 foot jumper early in the clock that missed badly and an unforced turnover while Hawaii was still within reach. And once again, Zane had a miserable shooting night against Nevada. In the two games this year, he shot under 25 percent from the filed.

On the positive end, Miah had his best shooting night of the year. before last night, he had made 2 of 16 threes and Nevada decided there was no need to guard him. Well he made three threes and scored in double figures. Hopefully he is regaining confidence in his shot. Hans had a solid game offensively as well. As a team, nobody can get much of a passing grade defensively, although Miah did a solid job on Burton in the first half. By the way, Burton is clearly the best player in the WAC, and Nevada has the best starting five. Nevada's problems are the inability to make free throws, and once they start to play in tournaments, it will hurt them badly.

So all is not lost. Hawaii has a solid chance to win against Fresno tomorrow, Fresno comes off a double overtime loss at San Jose, the Spartans first league win. Gib and the coaches have a job ahead of them to get this team " up" for the game as Hawaii's chance to win the league is gone. But we have seen the team come back from tough losses before this season, and I think we will see that again tomorrow. I know, i also picked us to beat Nevada last night.

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What Did I Miss

February 8th, 2012

I am back. Interesting few weeks since the last blog. I had predicted the Rainbows would go 2-1 on the road trip and I was right. It wasnt easy, but they got it done. The loss at Utah State was no surprise even with the Aggies struggles this year. The win at Idaho was solid, but the win at San Jose, who hasnt won yet in the conference, was a bigger struggle than expected. But hey, a win is a win..

If you read this blog regularly or listen to the radio show, you know that i said at the beginning of the season that the key to Hawaii's success this year rested with Joston Thomas. I think that was right on. Joston has played within himself most of the season and has turned in some monster games ( witness Saturday night's performance against the Spartans). Yes, Miah, Vander and Johnson are important, but we expected them to play well. Joston, to me, was a question mark.

On the negative side of things, the suspension of Trevor Wiseman for " insubordination" is a disappointment. In the early part of the season, Gib  was singing his praises, but as the season wore on, the play of Thomas had diminished Wiseman's playing time and it came to head in San Jose when Wiseman refused to go back into the game and an argument in front of the team and fans took place ( i am told). Will he back. Dont know, but i wont be shocked if his season is over. You just cant do that as player.

Stokes minutes continue to decrease. It will be interesting to see what happens to his UH career.

Nevada comes into town tomorrow night off of a shocking home loss to Idah.> After not having lost since Nov 14th, they lose to an Idaho team that was coming off a home loss to you know who. Nevada has been struggling the last few weeks, even though they were winning. Before the loss to Idaho, they had a 1 point home win against Utah State, and a 2 point road win at La Tech. Still they come here leading the league, and ft UH has any chance of winning the league, they must win tomorrow night.  Remember UH lost by only 3 in Reno, and I am going to predict a UH win tomorrow. Yes Nevada has the best overall talent in the league, and at least one early NBA draft pick, but they are not playing all that well right now, and the Rainbows are. UH needs to do a better job defending  Burton and Czyz ( 49 points in the last game), but i like our chances at home. It should be fun and I expect the biggest home crowd of the year.

Hoopstalk will be on this Friday at 6 ESPN 1420.

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