Archive for February, 2015

Its Down To the Short Strokes

February 23rd, 2015

With only three games remaining in the regular season, UH is tied for 6th place with a chance to move down to 7th or up to as high as third. Seeding does make a difference. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Right now, I wouldn't want to play Irvine or Santa Barbara. I would take my chances with Davis or Long Beach.

The Bows lost the two road games> Not unexpected. The Irvine loss wasn't pretty. Defensive lapses and poor decision making once again affected the result. The Davis loss, on the other hand, demonstrated that UH may match up against the league leaders better than anyone. A 7 point loss while missing three frontline players is a credit to the team's effort. What is a little disconcerting is the inability to stop Davis' late run, something we have seen time and time again in the team's losses.

The Bows again play two teams ahead of them in the standings, this time at home. They will face Long Beach on Thursday ( only one game this week), and then Santa Barbara at home and Fullerton on the road. The Gauchos will have Alan Williams for the Senior night game. Hawaii has only one win against the top 5 teams in the Conference, but if they are full strength they can beat an inconsistent Long Beach team. Santa Barbara with Williams will be tougher and Fullerton, even on the road, should be a win.

I am predicting Hawaii will end up in 5th place with a 8-8 record. Interestingly, that is where they were picked to finish before the season started when Isaac was still on the team( some had them as high as 4th). Hard to believe the season is almost over. Its been a season of highs and lows. There have been the big wins against Davis and Pittsburgh, along with a great effort against Wichita State, and some bad losses, like High Point and Riverside. But all in all, the on court play has been exciting and fan-friendly. Strengths include excellent pressure defense, a solid transition game off of turnovers, and  a record number of steals. Negatives include inconsistent outside shooting, inability to hold leads late in games, and a lack of execution in the half court.

Only one team from the Big West will make it to the two major tournaments> Davis is guaranteed the League Championship and a spot in the NIT. Whoever wins the Tournament will be a 15 seed in the Big Dance. Surprises to me are Davis and Riverside on the plus side, and Long Beach and Santa Barbara on the downside ( but I think Santa Barbara has a real chance to win the Tournament). As far as Hawaii goes, I think they will win 20 games. Not too many people predicted that back in November. Yes, there have been some off court issues, and way too many technical fouls,, and yes, I think they have failed to play with discipline on occasion, but with all the off-court distractions facing this program, and the loss of their best player before the season started, its been a successful year by anyone's criteria.

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A Critical Week

February 17th, 2015

After two home wins against Riverside and Fullerton, two of the weaker teams in the Conference, UH now goes on the road to two of the better teams. In fact, maybe the best two teams in Irvine and Davis. Davis has lost only once in the league and that was here against the Bows, but probably has the number 1 seed locked up absent a total collapse these last three weeks. Irvine, who has already beaten UH here, has struggled a little bit recently, but still stands in second place.

Hawaii has beaten up on the bottom half of the league, with 5 of its 6 wins coming against the lower half. On the other hand, UH, except for the Davis win, has lost  all of the games against the teams ahead of them. Looks a little like last year.

I think first and last are pretty well known. As I said, Davis looks to have the number 1 seed. Fullerton and CSUN will fight for the last spot in the Tournament. But spots 2 thru 7 are still in play. Hawaii, at 6-5, is in 5th place, but with two road wins this week could put them into a position to possibly come in 3rd or even 2nd. On the other hand, two losses and the Bows could be looking at a 6th place finish.

We all know about the ankle injuries suffered by Thomas, Valdes, and Fleming last week. I haven't heard the latest, but my guess is that Aaron will play, not sure about Thomas, and I doubt Fleming will suit up. Beating Irvine and Davis at full strength is a challenge. Without one or more of these guys, it will be tough.

Hawaii now has 18 wins. Give them credit. When you think back to November, not sure many folks thought they could win 20. There are still some things that are troublesome, however. Technical fouls for one. Hawaii is gaining a reputation among officials for complaining just a little too much. It hasn't cost them a game just yet, but it could down the stretch. The Bows also continue to struggle in the half court, but on nights when Webster-Chan or someone else hit their outside shots, this team is very competitive. Hawaii's defensive pressure will keep them in most games, but they need to learn how to play at a more deliberate tempo down the stretch when the game is on the line. Maintaining large leads last week is a positive sign

Seeding in the Tournament is important. Right now, Hawaii would play Santa Barbara. That is a bad match up for UH , and if Alan Williams is healthy, nobody wants to play the Gauchos. But there are 5 games left, two next week at home against Long Breach and Santa Barbara. In fact 4 of Hawaii's last 5 games are against the teams ahead of them in the standings. The Bows have their future in their hand. Win and the seeding will be favorable. Stumble, and it could be a short stint in Anaheim


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An Ode to Coach Smith

February 9th, 2015

The college basketball world has lost one of its most important persons in the passing of Coach Dean Smith. I was honored to have known him and to call him a friend.

How you as?. back in the late 70's and early 80's, in the heyday of the Rainbow Classic, I had the privilege of hosting the Tarheels twice, including one year with Michael Jordan. Some coaches " tolerate" their hosts, a few embrace them. Coach Smith was the later. From allowing me to watch full practices, otherwise closed to the public, to inviting me to the locker room pregame, at halftime, and after games, he made sure I became part of the team.

You may remember that UNC, under Coach Smith, opened the Stan Sherriff Arena for basketball. When the media here learned that UNC was coming they all requested interviews. UNC arrived here after a trip to Japan. I had a weekly radio show back then, and was told by the main media in town that UNC had notified them that Coach Smith would not give any interviews until after the game. Despite that, they all showed up to meet the team bus., as did I. When Coach Smith stepped down from the bus, the local media began asking for interviews. Coach Smith saw me, and told everybody there would only be one pregame interview. Guess with who?

Some year later, Coach Smith was voted the Sports illustrated Person of the Year. As a subscriber, I received my issue and wrote to the basketball office to see if Coach would sign it. They told me that they had received thousands of similar requests and could not guarantee anything. Well I sent it anyway never expecting any response. Some months later, it was returned with a personal message and a signature. Its framed and hangs right by my desk.

There are some folks you meet in life who you never forget. Coach Smith is one of those. As important and famous as he was, he treated me like I meant something to him and UNC basketball Another small example. On that trip back from the Tournament in Japan, he made sure I received the same swag the team received in Japan.

I have stayed in touch with many of his assistants. I count Roy Williams and Eddie Fogler as friends today. In fact, Eddie will be on Hoopstalk weds on ESPN 1420 at 7 pm and I hope Roy can also come on soon.

As much as Coach Smith was a brilliant Coach, he stood for much more. He was a strong voice for racial equality in the 1960's South and recruited Charlie Scott as the first black scholarship athlete to play at UNC. He fought to integrate his high school basketball team in Kansas in the late 1940's and spoke out against the death penalty in North Carolina. His basketball yearbooks at UNC didn't just list all the team records, but had several pages listing each player, the year they graduated, and their professions. 96%  of his players graduated and the yearbooks were filed with doctors and lawyers, along with scores of professional basketball players.

There will never be another Dean Smith. I am so lucky to have known him. There are other great coaches, but few, if any, can match his record, on and off the Court. Rest in Peace

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