By Jeff Portnoy
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.