By Jeff Portnoy
i was cruising around the island last week. While i was gone, several interesting things happened to UH basketball.
First, they lost two road games at Pacific and Davis. Those loses eliminated any chance that UH could win the Conference, so the NIT is out. The losses emphasized the porblems the Bows have had with teams that play smart, have solid guard play, can hit the three, and can neutralize Hawaii's inside game with patient ball control.
Second, they lose Spearman, probably for the season. This is a big loss, as he has been one the most consistant Rainbows. He can penetrate, hit the occasional outside shot, and can play some defense. Without him, look for Fotu to move into the strating line-up as UH will play big the rest of the way.
Long Beach has clinched at least a tie for the regular season championship. They need one more win or one Pacific loss to win it outright, and either of these is very likley. But i still done think they will win the Conference Tournament. They are too inconsistant, and play without much court smarts. Their loss this weekend at home in the bracket buster to Stephen Austin proves that even if they make it to the big dance, they will be lucky to be seeded any higher than 14.
Third, Hawaii took it to an outclassed Northern Arizona team in our bracketbuster game. It is the very last bracklet buster game ever, thank goodness. I guess this meaningless game turned out to be important to UH as it gave Gib a chance to experiment with new line-ups in light of Spearman's injury, but the Lumberjacks are a poor team made even poorer with the absence of their pointguard who was out with an injury.
Looking at the last two weeks of the regular season, Uh stands a half game behind Pacific for second place, and is tied with UC Irvine for third, with Cal Poly and Davis right behind. Based upon the remaining games, I like the Bows chances of finishing no worse than third with a real chance to tie for second. Two home games this week. one against a weak Santa Barbara team that might not even qualify for the Big West Tournament, and then Senior night against Cal Poly, a team that destroyed UH at home, but really struggles on the road, followed by the final game at Northridge, also fighting to make the Tournament, along with road games for Irvine and Davis, make UH's chances for a top three finish very likely. Of course, if you are Coach Gib, you want to finish second so your contract gets rolled over.
Finally, the student participation continues to amaze. Star wars night brought out several hundred students and their enthusiasm is contageous. Kudos to everyone involved in bringing a real college atmosphere to the Arena.