Archive for January, 2013

The Debate

January 30th, 2013

A listing of NCAA League Basketball Conference Standings in yesterday's USA Today , which included 29 Conferences, but NOT the Big West, crystalized for me a discussion that many of you have discussed with me over the past few weeks. The discussion is are we better off in a weak league like the Big West, where, arguably, we have a chance to win the regular season championship or the post season tournament, and therfore go to real post season, or is the quality of the play so mediocre that real basketball fans are staying away from attending the games or even caring about the season. A comment to Monday's blog sort of summarizes the issue by pointing out what would happen this year if the basketball Bows were in the Mountain West.

Now maybe USA had an editing mistake and that's why the Big West was omitted. The list included even worse leagues like The SWAC and Great West. And we all know UH apparently didnt have an opition as to where its non-football teams ended up. But the discussion is worth having and i would like to hear from you folks. As a fan, do you care what league we play in, no matter the quality of play, so long as we can compete for the post season, or do care more about watching and following better teams and better quality of play as a basketball fan.?

I must admit i miss even WAC basketball. There are no teams this year in the Big West that can compare even to former WAC opponents like Nevada, Boise, New Mexico State, and Utah State. And forget about the Mountain West with teams like San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, etc. Frankly, playing this year in the Big West is like playing San Jose every game ( and that's before San Jose became even marginally competitive. Is this a down year in the Big West. Folks who have followed the league say it is, but even when it was not a " down year", only a team or two like Long Beach, made the National radar. On the other hand, at least presently, could UH have a prayer of winning the " old" WAC or MWC. Not likely, and that's been the situation for at least the last 5 years.

So lets have the discussion. I know its not as if UH has a choice, at least not now, but its worth talking about. As UH goes off to play Riverside, 5-15 and 2-6 in the Big West, in a game they simply cannot afford to lose if they want to compete for the top third of the league, i look forward to your opinions. Its the big fish in the little pond vrs little fish in the big pond, or do you buy the cheapest house in a great neighborhood or the largest house in a poorer neighborhood argument. Although a few of you tell me based upon league play so far, UH is not exactly dominating the league as is. I love it

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January 28th, 2013

You can bet all those associated with the UH basketball program are exhaling a sigh of relief as the Bows came away with a road victory at Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon. It didnt hurt that the gauchos best player did not suit up so that hawaii had a huge height advantage which allowed Vander and Stardhardinger to have solid games. In the second half, Santa Barbara had no answer for Standhardinger who went off with 31 points and 16 rebounds. And Vander apparently decided to show some effort and had a strong first half.

Long Beach keeps winning and frankly, looking at the remaining schedule, I think it will hard for UH to catch them for the top spot. But there is going to be a big log jam for spots 2-7. With two more road games this week at Riverside and Fullerton, UH needs at least a split if they have any realistic chance of finishing in the top three. Riverside has proven to be a tough out at home and even though they got destroyed here, look for that game to be tougher than folks think. Fullerton believes they should have won here, but for some poor officiating and a miracle shot, and they have really good guards, but they have not played to their potential and are very inconsistent. At home, however, i think they will be at least a 6 point favorite. The schedule makers did not do UH any favors with the back to back road road trips, but welcome to the Big West

Uh has now played everybody in the Conference so there should be no surprises as to the strengths and weaknesses of each team. In Hawaii's last four games, there has been one constant. If the opponent makes it threes, UH loses. When they miss, UH wins.

More on Riverside and Fullerton later this week. On Hoopstalk Weds, you wont want to miss my interview with Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim

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No Way to SugarCoat

January 25th, 2013

There is no way to sugarcoat last night's blow out loss to Cal Poly. In what is Hawaii's worst loss of the season, and one of the biggest blow-outs so far this year in the Conference, Hawaii's 29 point loss is hard to understand.

First, this is not Duke losing to Miami. Cal Poly is a middle of the road Big West team. Yes, it did have its signature win at UCLA early in the season, but it is slightly above 500 in the league. Its a team that wins and losses games in the 60's , and it scored 88 points last night. With its tallest player in its starting line-up standing at 6'6, it dominated the boards aginst a Hawaii team whose alledged strength is its frontcourt. Cal Poly had 23 second chance points, and made 11 threes. Coming off Hawaii's home loss to Davis, where it allowed 16 threes, do you now agree with my opinion that Hawaii's inability to defend the three is becomming an issue.

Perhaps more distressing was the play, or should i say, the lack of play ( and effort) by vander. He simply failed to show up. His 2 points on 1-4 shooting, and 1 rebound, to go along with three early fouls should embarass him and could be cause for alarm if he doesnt turn things around tomorrow against Santa Barbara. And for Spearman to have 2 points in over 21 minutes is not a good sign either.

Look, i thought Hawaii would probably loss this game, but by a basket or two. There is no way to find excuses for what is a bad loss. There are quotes from the Star-Advertiser story that the team was tired from the travel. Give me a break. Maybe in Ruston, not in California. Road losses continue to be an issue for Hawaii, and if this team cant find a way to win on the road, it will find itself in the bottom half of a mediocre league.

Its too soon to write this team off. We have seen good efforts, but the last two games are cause for serious concern. Tomorrow, they play a Santa Barbara team that lost last night at home to a Northridge team that hadnt won a game in the Conference. If you listened to Hoopstalk Weds night, you heard their coach tell us that their best player, a 6-9 post player, will not play because of injury. I suspect that played a big part in their loss last night. Frankly, if UH does not come home with a win tomorrow against a wounded Gaucho team that sits in 7th place in the Conference, the season may be slipping away. My guess today will not be a happy day for Coach Arnold and his staff. They must be as frustrated as we fans are with the team's play last night. I cant believe we will see a similiar lack of effort tomorrow.

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on the road again

January 22nd, 2013

The Bows hit the road for their third road trip today as they take on Cal Poly on Thursday and Santa Barbara on Saturday. The first two trips led to three losses, two in Conference, although the Conference losses essenttially came down to last second turnovers and single possession losses.

The home trip that just ended had Hawaii beating a cold shooting Pacific team ( 3-26 from "3"0), and losing to a hot shooting Davis team that made 14 threes in the first half. Davis guard Corey Hawkins put on a clinic, scoring 40 points, including 12 straight free throws in the final three minutes. Hawaii was slow defensively in the first half, failing to get out to the corners to defend wide open threes and then allowing Davis to in- bound the ball to Hawkins after each Hawaii made basket down the stretch leading to those free throw attempts. The Bows fell behind by as many as 17, and despite a mini-run could get no closer than 7.

The musical chairs in the back court continues as Gib tries to find the right combination. Clair got a few minutes, Ozzie started, but Tavita , in my mind, is the best option, at least in the half court. Now if only he would shoot and could make free throws ( although we havent seen him at crunch time very much lately). The front court continues to be the strength of this team.

Cal Poly and Santa Barbara have two things in common. They are both 3-3 in the Conference and both play MUCH better at home. Cal Poly is 5-1 at home and 2-8 on the road, Santa Barbara is 5-2 at home and 2-8 on the road. Hawaii needs to steal a few road wins as it appears Long Beach has an early lead on the rest of the field, not only with a 2 game lead, but because three of its 6 league wins have come on the road. With its next four games away from home, Hawaii needs to win at least two to have a chance at a regular season championship.

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Two Tough Losses

January 15th, 2013

The Bows limped home after two very difficult losses at irvine and Long Beach. Both games were winnable, with Hawaii having a chance to win in the final minute, but once again, turnovers, and at Long Beach, poor free throw shooting, were the difference. But losing two games on the road by a single posession ( i dont count the two technical free throws with a second left at Long Beach) has got its silver lining since it shows that in this league, the Bows can compete on the road.

Of course, some would say 2 of the three home wins were by a single posession. Its my view that there is no dominant team in the Big West this year, and the teams who will be at the top at the end need to hold serve at home and win half their road games. I dont see any team beating UH at home, except for maybe Pacific and Long Beach. The road is another story, but I think Hawaii will be in every game.

Hawaii left for the trip tied for first with Cal Poly. It comes home tied with two other teams for 4th. One of those is the other early leader, Cal Poly. Long Beach sits in first, followed by Fullerton and Thursday's opponent, Pacific. Pacific is 3-1 in the league, Davis, ,Saturday's opponent, is 1-3 . Neither team has played particularly well on the road, although Pacific has a league road win.

Neither Pacific nor Davis were picked to finish in the top half of the league. Pacific was picked 6th, although it did get a first place vote and some think it will be the sleeper team this year, and Davis was picked 9th. As i said earilier, I think Pacific can give Hawaii a game, but i think the Davis game wont be close. Pacific's only loss in the league was at Long Beach and they come off two easy wins at home against UCSB and Cal Poly. They lead the league in scoring defense so dont expect a run and gun game. They shoot the ball well ( 48%), can hit threes ( 39%), but they are being badly outrebounded ( what a surprise). But the Bows continue to show that they are in most games, play hard until the end, can make up ( and lose) double digit leads, and i like their chances of getting two wins this Weekend. They will need to as there next four games are on the road as they dont play again at home until they face Long Beach on Feb 7. Three of those road games are aginst solid Big West teams, including Fullerton, who Hawaii beat here by 2 at the buzzer, Santa Barbara, who play much better at home, and Cal Poly.

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Tough Loss, Tougher Game Up Next

January 11th, 2013

Uh's loss at Irvine was a tough loss to take. The Bows controlled the first half, but steals and turnovers turned the game around and even a heroic last 38 seconds could not change the outcome. 17 turnovers and 8 steals led to 21 points for the Anteaters, and even good free throw shooring and the usual rebounding advantage could not make up for the continuing lack of solid guard play. Another ongoing issue is the inconsistant outside shooting where guys are having difficulty in putting two good shooting nights together( Standhardinger, Jawato, and Spearman, not to mention the total breakdown in Brereton's offensive game).

But the game against a mediocre Irvine team was the easier one on this trip as now the Bows travel to preseason favorite Long Beach State tomorrow for an afternoon game. This year's edition of the 49ers are not nearly as talented as last year's team, but now that they are at full strength, they are still pretty good. They have played and lost against some of the best team's in the Country and their strength of schedule is number 1. Losses to Arizona, Syracuse, UCLA, UNC and Ohio State have led to their under 500 record, but they are 3-1 in the Big West, with their only league loss coming on the road at once beaten Cal Poly.

They did not have two of their important players until second semester, those being Arz St transfer Keala King and Depaul transfer Tony Freeland. They are quick and athletic, just the type of team that bothers UH in the backcourt. They have some height, although they are being outrebounded ( but look who have played). This one has the potential to get a little ugly, but UH has played well in the Honda center( formerly the Pyramid), and this is team that fights till the end. But it will take a complete game for UH to win. That means limit turnovers to 10-12, make free throws, control the boards, and get two or three guys to make shots.

What we now is that there appears to be no dominating team in the Big West. I think there 4 0r 5 teams that are essentially equal. Home wins are critical, some road wins are necessary as well in order to compete for the title. In my view, this is one of two or three toughest leage road games for the Bows. A win would be surprising and very important. Frankly, a loss is no big deal in the scheme of things

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On the Road ( Again)?

January 8th, 2013

For only the second time this season, UH will play a road game. I doubt there is another program in the Country that got to the second week in Januray having played a single road game. That game was at UNLV, a loss to a solid team.

The Bows now go to Irvine tomorrow and Long Beach State Saturday. Irvine is 7-9 and 1-2 in the league coming off two road loses. They have wins over Nevada, Fresno, and USC, with loses to UCLA ( by a point), Pepperdine( on the road) and UNLV( a blow-out).

So fans, how do we think this team will fare on the road. Coming off three wins at home, the Bows are tied for the Conference lead with Cal Poly. But two of those wins were by a single possession, one against a Northridge team that went home and lost two games, one to a Riverside team that is simply not very good. The win against Fullerton was a quality win, even if took a prayer at the buzzer to win.

Uh will play before 1000 fans tomorrow in one the Big West band box gyms more suited to high school basketball. The last few years, the team has struggled on the road, but this team has several new players who have no history on the road. Its also a new league with much easier travel logistics. Irvine is 4-1 at home this year, but statistically these teams match up pretty well. Irvine's guards are not all that imposing, but they have a solid front line.

Uh needs to come out of this trip with a split if they want to continue to lead the pack, and I dont think the win will come at Long Beach. My guess is that irvine will be a slight favorite despite the respective records, simply because thet are playing at home. Hard to predict how the Bows will play as we have almost nothing to go on as to how this team will react to an away game. I see this game coming down to a few possessions, with a final score in the 60's. If UH can make their free throws, and minimize their turnovers, I like their chances ( i know, this is not much of a reach). If not, it could be disappointing start to the road season.

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January 4th, 2013

well, a three point win and an exciting 2 point win have the Rainbow Warriors tied for first place after the first two Conference games of the season. After Northridge lost at home to a poor Riverside team, that win doesnt seem so significant. But the last second win against Fullerton was one the Bows had to have.

As i have been writing all along, The Big West is a league dominated by small guards. Hawaii strength is and remains its frontcourt which towers over their Big West compeition. So for every turnover Hawaii has, for every steal, and for every point after tuurnover the opposition continues to create, Hawaii needs to answer with a dominating inside game. Witness last night's 29 point performance by Issac Fotu, with almost all of the baskets coming on uncontested 2 foot layups or dunks.

What remains an issue are the takeaways in the opencourt. Last night, both point guards had their pockets picked repeatedly ( 10 turnovers for Manroop and Tavita collectively). And poor free throw shooting will cost this team a win or two before the season is over. When the Bows get scoring from Jawato and Spearman, to go along with Standharginer's overall solid play, they will win more than they lose. But you have to be concerned with Brereton's poor play and Vander's inconsistant offense against much smaller opposition.

After tomorrow's game against Riverside, Hawaii should be 3-0 as they go out on the road. If you really want to predict how this team will do in the Conference, we will know alot more after next week's games. Not playing before the home folks, in small gyms, against teams who can shoot the ball at home and guards who can dominate the back-court, make the first two road games very significant. But you cant take anything away from a possible 3-0 start. Its been a long time since a Hawaii team started Conference play 3-0.

One thing that does concern me, however, is the quality of the league. Both Northridge and Fullerton's tallest frontcourt starter was 6-7, with the next tallest starter 6-4. These frontlines are hardly bigtime Div 1 , and although some of the Guards are quick, athletic and can score, they are short and slender and would be dominated by bigger backcourts. Its a little too early to draw any final conclusions, but one thing is certain, this is not the Mountain West ( you saw San Diego State and UNLV, and frankly, its not even last year's WAC ( New Mexico State, Nevada, Utah State, etc). But its where UH basketball is at the moment, and so the goal has to be to win the league or the Tournament. Lets see where we are after the first two road games. We know that there is no dominating team in the league, not after UH beat Fullerton and Long Beach suffered its first loss in just its second league game.

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