Archive for December, 2012

The Big (little) West

December 27th, 2012

Hawaii basketball makes its first Big West league appearance this saturday against Cal State Northridge. Its time to take a look at the league so far this year and what we find is a league that is really struggling in non-league play and doesnt appear to have a dominating team like last year, for example, when Long Beach State was a near at large possibility.

Here are the facts. The league's record against Div 1 teams as it enters league play is a woeful 37-65. Yes some of the teams are forced to play " money games" against big time competition on the road, and a few of the teams have good wins against solid opponents, but the overall preleague record indicates a down year for the conference Nationally.

Some of the good wins: Pacific has beaten Xavier,St. Mary's;USF; and Nevada. UC Irvine has beaten Nevada, Fresno and USC; Cal Poly has the biggest win against UCLA, which was in the Top 25 at the time and is the only win a Big West team has against a top 25 team; and Long Beach defeated Fresno. Northridge comes in here with 9 wins, including wins against Tulsa,Pepperdine, who Hawaii lost to at home, and Utah. It has lost at UCLA, BYU, and Arizona State ( no shame for any of these road losses).

In the College Insider Mid Major poll, where they rank the top 25 mid major teams, Northridge is 32, behind such powerhouses as Stephen F. Austin, La Tech, and Florida Gulf Coast, to name a few, and Pacific received a single vote.

So let me be clear. The Big West is struggling this year. Only the winner of the Tournament will get to the NCAA's, and the winner of the League, if someone different, will go to the NIT. The league RPI is 15, however, thanks in large part to the quality of the opponents.

The preseason media poll had Long Beach first with 13 first place votes, with Fullerton in second with 6 first place votes. Irvine got one first place vote. Hawaii was picked 4th, Northridge 8th. Long Beach has been struggling, but gets two good transfers eligible for Conference play. Fullerton has had some tough losses, including at Washington by 2.

Hawaii plays the first three Conference games at home. After Northridge, its Fullerton and then a woeful Riverside team ( 2-8, and lost at USC by 44, at Pepperdine by 22, and scored 30 in a loss at Fresno. They are young, and you would assume will continue to struggle, at least on the road). These first three games are critical in determining where Hawaii stacks up in the league. At home, they need to win all three against two teams they will be competing with for the upper division and one team that everyone will be favored to beat at home.

It will be an historic night saturday. be there

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Exhibition Season Over

December 26th, 2012

its time to take a look at where the UH basketball team is as it gets ready to enter Big West Conference play. The " exhibition season" is over, and the Bows ended it with a 1-2 record in the Diamond Head Classic and a 5-5 record against Div 1 opponents.

The good: Vander appears to be rounding into playing shape after a strong performance in the Tournament. Yesterday he was the entire Rainbow offense scoring 29 points to go along with 15 rebounds. If he continues his improvement over earilier games, he will be the inside force we all predicted before the season began.

Issac Fotu is going to be the real deal. He isnt quite there yet, but he continues to show that he can score in the paint and rebound. And Christian Standhardinger plays hard on both ends of the court and can be counted on to score 10 plus points every game even if his shot selection at times is questionable

Teamwise, it can rebound. They play hard and can beat lower level teams, and in spurts, can match play with better teams like Illinois, Mississippi, and UNLV.

The negative, the team really has not found a backcourt that can compete with better teams. Way too may turnovers lead to easy transition baskets, and there is no one, at least not yet, who can relied upon to score from outside the paint. Yes i know that in a single game, Jawato or Clair make a few threes, but they follow that by shooting 1-7. Brereton is getting less and less playing time as he has been really struggling from the field, and Spearman is either hot or cold. Free throw shooting has been fair, but needs to improve ( yesterday it kept the Bows in the game as they went 16-20 from the stripe).

So the big question is can the inside game compensate for the lack of quality guard play and outside shooting? There is plenty of heart and effort, but frankly, you have to be concerned about the the backcourt issues as the team enters Big West play, a league dominated by backcourts But some good news which i will write about more later this week, the Big West is not very good. It has no dominating team, and several really poor ones, so the Bows have a chance to compete for the upper half of the league as Gib continues to look for the best backcourt combination he can find as the team moves towards its ultimate goal, winning the Conference Tournament.

So those are my thoughts. What are yours? By the way, i will announce the contest winner later this week. Really only two upsets in the Tournament, both by Indiana State and both in OT, but what a great Conference final. I had the pleasure of hosting Arizona and beating Gary Dickman's Aztecs was a real joy. Dont be surprised if you see the Wildcats in the Final Four. Hoopstalk tonight at 7. Hope you all had a great Holiday.

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Last day to Win Big

December 21st, 2012

we need more entries for the pick the winners contest for the Diamond Head Classic. Check yesterday's bolg for the rules. Winner gets a 20 dollar gift certificate to Big City Diner and a 20 dollar certificate to Kiss My Grits. We need at least 5 entries.

Tournament starts tomorrow. I am hosting Arizona and greeted the team yesterday at the airport. Coach and staff were very gracious and looking forward to the games. Arizona has a real chance to go far this year, maybe even to the Final Four, but this weekend, San Diego State and even Miami could wind up the Champion. By the way. Arizona head coach Sean Miller played on the Pittsburgh team that Hawaii beat in the 1990 Rainbow Classic, one of Hawaii's biggest wins.

The National guys believe Hawaii can give Miami a game in the first round and I agree. UH always seems to play at its best in this tournament.

On the National level, Duke reeled in the second biggest fish in the recruiting ocean when Jabari Parker announced he will become a Blue Devil. With the rest of the class already assembled by Coach K, fans will have Duke to kick around for years to come

Now my picks. I think Arizona will beat San Diego State for the Champoinship, and I think Miami will beat Miss for third. I like the Bows to come in 5th with two wins. If the Bows beat Miami, I dont give them much of a chance to knock off the Wildcats and they will have a tough time with the loser of the San Diego State/ Miss game, although i think they can beat Mississippi. In any event, the Tournament is a xmas treat for college basketball fans

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Diamond Head Classic Contest- Win Big

December 20th, 2012

Do you think you have what it takes to pick the winners of each game in the Classic. If so, submit your entries below to win a 20 dollar gift certificate to both Big City Diner and Kiss My Grits. All you have to do is be the person who picks the most winners and if there is a tie, the person who comes closest to predicting the total points scored in the championship game will win.

Now for a few hints. Game 1 Ole Miss vrs Indiana State. Ole Miss comes in 8-1 having beaten Loyola Marymount last night. Indiana State is best known for having Larry Bird as its most famous alumni.

Game 2 pits San Diego State against WCC member Univ of San Francisco. The Aztecs come in having only lost their first game against Syracuse. USF is a 500 hundred team, but the last time they were here they beat Hawaii in the Riley Wallace Invitational.

Game three will feature tournament favorite Arizona against East Tenn State. East Tenessee has a losing record while the Wildcats are ranked just outside the top 5 having just beaten Florida by 1.

And Game 4 will feature our beloved Rainbow Warriors, fresh off their victory over Chaminade on Molokai, against ACC member, the University of Miami, who come to Hawaii with a single loss and a signature victory over Mich State. They are big and quick, with a very good guard, and I think it will be the most competitive game of Round 1. UH has a history of beating very good teams in the Xmas Tournament, like Pitts, Butler, Kansas, and last year, Xavier.

You can go with the favorites, but an upset or two would not be a shock. Remember you need to pick the winners of all 12 games, so after you make your first round picks, you need to pick the winners of the semifinal games, the championship game, along with the winners of the consolation games. So you will pick 12 winners all together. Every team will play three games. And dont forget the tiebreaker, the total score of the Championship game

Hope you will all play along. Minimum of 5 contestants necessary. Should be a great tournament.

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Fight Night on the Friendly Isle

December 18th, 2012

Saturday night's game on Molokai will be remembered by those who were there for many reasons, some good, one not so good. First the good.

The reception afforded to the teams by the people of the Friendly Island was extraordinary. The stands were full, the crowd vocal, and the hospitality was incredible. The post game meal provided to the teams, and the radio broadcasters, among others, will not be soon forgotten. And it has been a long time since anyone asked for my autograph. Gib is to be commended for scheduling this game, and kudos to Chaminade for hosting the event.

The game itself was exciting. It was fast paced with lots of offense. I expected UH to dominate the boards and score inside at will, and Chaminade to keep the game competitive with its guard play and three point shooting. What i didnt expect was Hawaii's ability to make three's , and ultimately, that was the difference in the final score.

On the negative side, from a basketball prosepctive, was Hawaii's continuing inability to maintain large second half leads. Once again, Hawaii almost let a 20 point lead evaporate in the second half. But once Chaminade got to within five, the Bows stepped to the line and converted, something they have been unable to do consistently so far this year.

The big negative were the four technical fouls and the loss of control by Tavita and Vander. We have seen this from Vander too often and last year the officials in the WAC were careful in trying to keep Vander under control. Saturday night, his going after a Chaminade player after a good hard, but clean foul, on a breakaway dunk, was totally uncalled for, and if there had been video of the play, Vander might have found himself suspended for a game or two. Tavita's first technical might be excused by some coming after a collision near mid court, but the second, when he left the bench to " assist Vander", is inexcusabe, especially coming from a team captain. Credit Gib for flying off the bench to grab Tavita, and for his harsh words after the game. Its too bad that these two incidents marred an otherwise great game of basketball by two teams giving all they had.

So the Bows now have 5 wins against weak competition, two loses against very good teams, and the hard to expalin loss to Pepperdine. But now the competition takes a huge step up with Saturday's opening match against a good Miami(Fla) team followed, if they win, against a probable game against a top 7 team in Arizona. I will preview the entire tournament later this week and Jackson and I will do so as well tomorrow on Hoopstalk at 7 on ESPN 1420.

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Its A No Win Proposition

December 12th, 2012

Saturday night's game against Div 2 Chaminade presents UH with the classic " no-win" proposition. Beat your little brother and folks say no big deal. Lose, and the howls of unhappiness will ring from the rafters.

Credit Coach Gib for scheduling a regular season game against one of Hawaii's Pac West Schools. Credit Coach Gib for playing the game on a neighbor island. But the game does little for UH's already poor RPI ( 254), or its game readiness against Div 1 opponents.

Having said that, Chaminade will be no push over. They already own a win against a better Div 1 opponent than UH has beaten having defeated Texas on Maui in a game that was no fluke. Yes, the Silverswords lost badly the next two days, but they showed that they can stay with a more talented team if that team doesnt show up ready to play. Chaminade is struggling right now, having lost 4 straight and comes into the game with an under 500 record. But they have a bigtime player in De'Andre Haskins, a transfer from Valpo, who is averaging 21 ppg ( he has missed the last two games because of injury so not sure what his status is for Saturday).

No question Hawaii has the better overall talent and size, but Chaminade can hit the three and make this game competive if the Bows dont find their shooting stroke and come into the game overconfident ( You wouldnt expect that coming off of Saturday's poor effort). The game will not be on TV, so listen to Bobby and me on our broadcast on ESPN at 7:30.

This is the last game before the level of competition takes a leap forward in the Diamond Head Classic. Hawaii's next foe is Miami ( Fla). I will blog more about the tournament next week , but make plans to attend what will be a very good field. Onto the friendly island.

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A Bad Loss

December 10th, 2012

Its easy at Holiday time to try to sugar-coat things that cant be sugar-coated, so I wont try. Saturday night's loss to Pepperine is a bad loss. Losing by 1 to a good Illinois team or at UNLV can be rationalized. Losing at home against a WCC team picked to finish towards the bottom of their league and who lost to Utah Valley State cannot.

What was most disturbing to me about the loss was the lack of effort , especially in the first half. One team came to play and it wasnt the home team. In every game before this, UH played hard. It grabbed the loss balls, played with emotion, and even when playing aginst more talented teams, appeared to accept the challenge. Saturday night, almost nothing went right.

Once again, poor free throw shooting dominated the adverse statistics. And after 7 games, 6 at home, can you realy expect much improvement. Turnovers continue to haunt the team. Saturday night, in a half court game, 10 turnovers ( not many) led to 22 points ( way too many. That's more than 2 points per turnover). The lack of effort is best demonstrated by the fact that much bigger and stronger UH team ( Pepperdine's tallest starter was only 6'7), only outrebounded Pepperdine by 5. And most of all, Pepperdine controlled the tempo, forcing the Bows to play their half court game instead of the transition game UH prefers.

The lack of consistent outside shooting was again evident, as Brereton and Spearman struggled to make shots. And let's face it, Vander is not back to where he needs to be, not having one offensive rebound and only one block ( that's a total of just three for the season).

Were there any positives? Not many, although you I could look to Tavita's three threes. On a night like Saturday, there wasnt much else.

What is particularly troublesome about Saturday night's loss is that Pepperdine is a lot like the teams Hawaii will play in Conference, guard dominated and not very big. Can you chalk up the loss to it just being a bad night all around? I guess you can. Certainly no one can seriously count this team out, particularly in a weak Big West Conference where the preseason favorite, Long Beach State, is being beaten like a rug by top 100 teams. Is this the team that took Illionois to the wire or the team we saw Saturday night. The jury is still out, at least this juror.

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December 6th, 2012

The Basketball Bows take on Pepperdine Saturday night in what should be a pretty competiive game. After 4 wins against teams with a combined record of 4-33, and two loses to top 20 teams, Pepperdine presents an opponent much more similiar to what Hawaii will face once Conference play begins in a few weeks.

Pepperdine is 5-3 having beaten Washington State and UC Irvine, but having lost to Northridge and Utah Valley State. They present a contrasting style of play in that they play slow, scoring in the 60's, while UH loves to try to run. This will be a game where whichever team controls the tempo, will likely prevail. Also, Pepperdine is guard oriented, while UH tries to dominate you inside.

If you listened to Hoops Talk last night, you heard Coach Gib talk about Vander's knee and his continuing effort to get back in playing shape. The best example that he is not at full strength can be seen by the fact that Vander has a total of 2 blocks all season. He is struggling aginst good big men, primarily because he is still not in great playing shape.

Also, we spoke to one of the National Scouting Service folks about UH's two early recruits, Stefan Jovanovic and Michael Thomas. The word on Thomas is that he can be a bigtime player and a real " steal" for UH. He is a 6'6" high school senior from LA, and many schools are apparently sorry they did not get after this kid. UH outrecruited Boise and Santa Barbara. Jovanovic, on the other hand, can be calledf a " project". His main asset is apparently his height. he is a 6'10" C/F from Serbia. The scout called him an " Ivy League" type recruit ( I guess if its Harvard, that's not bad).

One thing Hawaii is going to have to improve on is outside shooting. After 6 games, 5 at home, they are shooting less than 30% from three. That wont get it done. They were 1-18 from at UNLV. On the other hand, they are outrebounding their opponents by 6 which allows them to run the floor and look inside for their offense.

Both Bobby and I are back together for Saturday's game. Hope you can make it

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