By Jeff Portnoy
Spent last week on Maui at the Tournament. Some observations. Illinois won the Tournament to almost everyone's surprise. After Butler beat UNC, Butler was the favorite, but credit Illinois, they won the final game as easily as they won the two previous games with great guard play and three point shooting. One question that everyone asked was whether Hawaii's loss to Ill was a function of how good Hawaii is or whether Ill was jet lagged. I think it was some of both as there is no doubt that the Illinois team i saw in Maui was not the same team i saw during the first half in Honolulu. On the other hand, the Bows were up 16 at one point and our frontcourt dominated Ill for most of the game. A few less turnovers and made free-throws and its a Rainbow win.
North Carolina was the clear favorite going in, but Butler played a perfect first half before almost losing a 29 point second half lead. The Tarheels are young and not tough, but have tremendous talent. It will take a while before they play to their capacity. Butler has two great guards and play very smart. They could surprise in the Atlantic 10.
Frankly, the rest of the field was weak. One of the poorer Maui fields i can remember. USC, Miss St, Texas are all struggling, but how about the great Chaminade win over the Longhorns before they got crushed the next two games.
I wasnt here for the North Dakota win, but you cant be happy with a 4 point win over a team that was down by 20 plus points in the first half and is a newcomer to Div 1. We have seen Hawaii lose big leads in every game this season, although in 4 of the games the lead was large enough to survive with a " w". But its a disturbing trend based somewhat on poor free-throw shooting and a lack of constant guard play, along with a few inopportune shots early into the shot clock.
This weekend Hawaii will play the best team it will face all year, unless they wind up playing Arizona in the Diamond Head. Beating UNLV in Vegas is never easy, and this Runnin Rebel team is very good, even with the loss to Oregon at home. They have a strong frontcourt and one of the best fowards in the nation in Mike Moser. But they may have to play without Freshman foward Anthony Bennett who was rated the number 1 power forward. He is injured. It is the only non-conference road game for the Bows, and it will be a real test. One thing for sure. We will see exactly how good our frontcourt is.
Hoopstalk returns tommorrow night at 7 on ESPN 1420. With a little luck, we hope to have Jay Bilas ( he will be calling the Duke-OhioState game earlier that evening).