By Jeff Portnoy
Picking a winner for tonight's huge game against Santa Barbara pits my heart vrs my brain My heart says UH. The brain says not so.
First the brain. Santa Barbara was picked by many to win the Conference. Their play so far indicates they will be right there at the end. Except for a blip or two( a loss on the road at Fullerton and a home loss to Cal Poly), the Gauchos are playing well. They are back to full strength, play a wicked 1-2-2 zone and have probably the best player in Junior Alan Williams who already has been the Big West Player of the Week four times. They have shown they can win on the road ( 5-4 record), and have one of the few quality out of Conference wins when they beat Cal. Are they perfect? no. Are they a top 25 team? No. But they are currently ranked 11 in the Mid -Major College insider poll ( Hawaii is 37th). Hawaii struggles to score from outside , the Gauchos are 1st in the Conference in field goal percentage and 3pt%, and are second in scoring defense. So the brain says the Gauchos in a tight game.
But the heart says UH. This is a game the Rainbow Warriors have to win if they have any real chance to win the Conference regular season. They came up short against Long Beach and really have little margin for error. They simply need to win the remaining home games. There should be a big crowd. They have shown they can score against anybody in the Conference. Fotu may be the league's second best player. They are getting solid play from Nevels and Spearman. And Standhardinger has been generally consistant offensively. The heart says they realize the importance of this game in year 4 of the Gib era and the hurt they felt when they failed to defend against Long Beach. So the heart says UH finds a way to win.
In any event, you wont want to miss this game. I know its a Thursday game, but even if you are a casual fan, it will be the best Conference game of the year.