Archive for November, 2015

The Week That Was

November 30th, 2015

Spent part of last week on Maui watching the Tournament. Frankly, the games were just ok with several blow-outs, but the Wake-Indiana game was a classic. Great win for the Demon Deacons. They also beat UCLA.  Indiana is very over-rated. Kansas is not. The Jayhawks are a definite Final Four team.

On Saturday, UH traveled to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. They lost. They could have won. They had an 11 point lead early, but poor foul shooting ( once again) and way too many fouls did them in. You can argue that the officiating was uneven, but on the road, when you play aggressive defense and the officials are not from your Conference, you have to adjust. They didn't.

Even Coach Ganot stated they lost their composure. Bobbitt got a technical after a bad call, but again, you have to keep your composure. He has shown he has matured this year, and is demonstrating the leadership the  team needs, so hopefully, this was nothing more than a frustration moment ( and a teaching moment for the staff).  Issac played well, but the frontcourt really struggled. Thomas made 4-5 field goals and had 5 rebounds but fouled out in 18 minutes. Jankovic had 10 points and 5 rebounds but he fouled out in 15 minutes. And Jovanovic was 0-6 from the field. Tummala didn't score going 0-4 from long range.

Its tough to win on the road, but Texas Tech is beatable, even at home. My guess is Hawaii wins that game on neutral court. Understand that the team traveled well, so all in all a positive trip even with the loss.

UH now enters the easiest part of their schedule. The next three games they will be 15-20 point favorites. Arkansas Pine-Bluff is a poor Div 1 team and then two Division 2 local squads, UH-Hilo and HPU. Nice to play one of the local schools, but honestly, not two.  Will preview the Pine-Bluff game weds.

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Nicholls State (Who?)

November 20th, 2015

First, a triva contest. Without looking on the internet, who can tell me what state Nichols State is in and/or their Conference?  Its the Southland Conference and they are located in Louisiana.  They are picked to finish 8th in the 13 team Conference which has been dominated in the past few years by Stephen F. Austin ( the school, not the guy who is considered the father of Texas). They won 10 games last year, but have four starters returning  and a couple of transfers, including a 7 footer from Boston College. Their present RPI is 314 ( out of 351), but their strength of schedule is presently 21. Hope to see a decent crowd for Sunday night's game. By the way, the Women play at 5 so plan to make it a double-header

Compare that with our beloved Rainbow Warriors. The Bows RPI stands at 105 with a SOS of 287. And with the upcoming games other than  the Diamond Head, don't expect either the RPI or the SOS to improve. Look at this cast of killer opponents over the next few weeks. Arkansas Pine -Bluff, UH-Hilo, HPU, and after the Diamond Head, Mississippi Valley State and Howard ( not your friend, but a school in Washington D.C..) There is an away game against Texas Tech on Nov 28. They are picked next to last in the Big 12. I am sure Coach Ganot will get the team to Lubbock early so the team can take in the sites.

Kidding aside, UH has a most favorable schedule pre-Conference. I doubt they will lose more than 2 games( ok, maybe 3 worst case). It should give them time to work on the issues ( free-throw shooting, interior defense) that plagued them last weekend. But there is joy in Aloha land over the quick 3-0 start. I am sure that there were those who are still upset that there was a coaching change and were waiting for a poor start to support their opinion after last year's 22 win season. But with the solid start, those voices are presently silenced.

Some teams in the Conference are off a good start. Long Beach had a big win against BYU, and Cal Poly, although they are 0-2. lost at UNLV by 2 and at UCLA by 5. Those are the type of games that the Big West needs to play. UC Irvine is also 2-0, and play in a major Tournament the next week as does Long Beach. The first Big West player of the week is our very own Roderick Bobbitt, an honor well -deserved. I don't think it will be last time he receives this award this season.

I am off to Maui for the Chaminade Tournament ( I know that's not the correct name, but that's how I see it). Some very good teams like Kansas, Vanderbilt, and Indiana. The rest of the field includes UCLA, St. Johns, UNLV and Wake Forest. Want to wish everyone a great Thanksgiving and hope the Bows go 2-0 next week.  No Hoops Talk next week and the following week, the team plays on Weds. The next Hoops Talk will be on December 9th. I hope our loyal listeners can find something else to do.


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November 17th, 2015

The 2015 Rainbow Classic is history and UH is the Champion. Two easy wins and last night's thriller have gotten the Rainbow Warriors to a solid start.

On Friday and Sunday, Hawaii got off to quick starts and had 20 plus point leads into the second half before conservative play and poor free throw shooting allowed both Montana State and Coastal Carolina to make it interesting, although the Bows were never seriously challenged. Neither of these teams played particularly well. Montana State will have a tough year, and Coastal Carolina really missed two starters from last year. They may get better, but they have a long way to go.

Last night seemed like a carbon copy of the first two games with Hawaii once again getting out to a big lead. They led by 16 with 16 minutes to go, but once again poor free throw shooting and what appears to be a serious deficiency  in help defense in the paint almost led to a stunning defeat as Nevada came roaring back and actually took the lead with less than a minute to go. But give credit to these Bows. Mike Thomas completed a three point play with a great move to the basket and then, with Hawaii down by 1 with just a few seconds to play, Bobbitt completed a coast to coast dribble drive to give Hawaii the win.

Bobbitt had a great tournament. He almost never left the court, created havoc on defense and handled the point with stability and calmness. Sai Tummala demonstrated a deadly outside shot, Aaron , as expected played hard and well on both ends, and Smith gave Hawaii several solid minutes on both ends of the court( he still struggles , however, with any shot outside the paint, including free throws).

But I must say I was disappointed in Jankovic's play. The first two night he towered over his counterparts, but he never dominated the opposing Center preferring to slide away from the basket on his layups and not controlling the boards. We know he loves the outside shot, but in the 4 out, 1 in, offense Hawaii is trying to run, you need a strong presence  in the paint. Last night, neither he nor any of his other frontcourt team-mates appeared capable of stopping Nevada's  penetration once they got past the first line of defense.

As a team, Hawaii seemed convinced they could make threes. But frankly, 30% wont cut it. This team will struggle from outside although on a given nite one or two guys may shoot well from outside. But their defense, in creating turnovers and causing steals, leads to multiple lay-up opportunities and a solid transition game.

With these three wins, and a very easy schedule up to the Diamond Head and then up to league play, I think it quite possible this team will go undefeated until the Classic and  enter league play with only 1 or 2 losses. Yes, they have to go on a one game road trip to Texas Tech, but that team is not very good, and the Bows are road experienced after last year. And who else will they lose to before the Diamond Head? Take a look at the schedule and tell me.

It was great to see the team react to last night's win before a roaring student dominated crowd. The place was rocking and the game, although not very artistic , was thrilling, especially the final five minutes. It is clear this team has talent and is well- coached. They are not perfect, at least not yet. The free throwing shooting will cause them a game or two if it doesn't improve, and making outside shots on the road is more difficult than at home. And they have to figure out how to defend in the paint without fouling.

By the way, the new emphasis on opening up play by limiting defensive hand -checking, etc, doesn't appear to be working just yet. Way too many fouls over the weekend, and somewhat inconsistent officiating, especially in the first two games.

Hope to see a big crowd for Sunday's game. This team deserves it.



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Let the Games Begin

November 12th, 2015

Its time. No more  speculation about the new season. The season begins in 24 hours.

And UH could not find a better opponent . Montana State, to put it gently, is not very good. How bad are they? Well, CBS Sports ranked all 351 Div 1 basketball teams. The Bobcats are 337. They are picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Sky Conference. That bad.

We spoke to their coach, Brian Fish, last nite on Hoops talk. A real nice guy. Comes from Oregon and Creighton so he knows big time basketball. Told us that Oregon traveled with a Chef.  But he was honest with us in stating he is in the beginning of a significant rebuilding effort at Montana State. Face it, they won 7 games last year, and 4 players transferred . He has brought in 8 new players so who knows what to expect.

For UH, they may be at full strength. Thomas is healthy, and Jankovic will play. We may even see Fleming. Its the debut of the 4 out and 1 in motion offense.  Simply put, its 4 players outside and 1 in the post. Once used by Kentucky, not used by anyone  much anymore,  its an offense that Coach Ganot is well-versed in. One problem is that it requires solid outside shooters and that is not one of the Bows strengths. If its going to work, folks like Bobbitt will need to find their shooting touch early and often.  How likely is it that we will see Stepteau make 50% of his threes like he did the other nite?  On the other hand, how likely is that we will see Tummala go 2-12 from the field? Also, you need a solid post player. The closest we have is probably Jankovic, and he likes to think of himself as a three man. It may come down to Thomas or Jovanovic in the post.

Defensively, UH should be solid. The new emphasis on hand-checking, etc may impact the team's defensive intensity, but I still expect UH will create more turnovers than they make. And I know that under these coaches they will play hard. For UH to be successful, the defense will be a key as I don't expect this team will score 80 points very often ( but you never know).

Jankovic and Valdes are the keys to success. Aaron had a great game against Chaminade ( 14-24; 14 rebounds). Stefan did not ( 3 rebounds and 5 fouls in 14 minutes). I expect Aaron will prove why he is preseason all Conference, and I expect Jankovic will be one of the better big men in the Conference by mid-season.

The next two games in the Tournament will be more challenging. Coastal Carolina is good. A very solid mid-major. Nevada is not what it used to be, but it still has a name . I will blog about these games on Sunday and Monday. Meanwhile, lets show some support for these new Bows and Eran. Yes, I know the game is up against the Football High School Play-offs, but they deserve a decent crowd for the opener.

My prediction. UH by 20. Go Bows


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What Did We Learn From The Exhibition?

November 9th, 2015

Not much.

An overtime win over Div 2 Chaminade, after bring down by more than 20 in the first half, really doesn't tell us very much about UH going into the season opener this Friday. First , the Bows played without Mike Thomas and you know who.  Thomas has looked pretty good in practice and Fleming certainly gives UH a solid on the court backcourt presence, even if his immaturity is an ongoing issue.

, Chaminade can play against Division 1 teams when it makes threes. They have never impressed me with their defense. Thursday night,  they made 10 threes to Hawaii's 11. But what is disconcerting, among other things, is that the Silverswords out-rebounded  UH by 11. Not a good sign when the Bows are taller and supposedly more physical. Part of it was the poor game by Jankovic. The tallest player on the court had a miserable game. Yes he scored 12 points, but he had only three rebounds and fouled out in 14 minutes of play. If the Bows are going to have a successful season, he is the key.

Hawaii would have lost this game but for the unexpected three point outburst by Brocke Stepteau. He came off the bench in the second half to score 15 points on 4-8 from three. Considering both Bobbitt and Tummala were 1-6 from three, Brocke saved what would have been an embarrassing loss for UH. But can you expect that kind of performance on a consistent basis?

Valdes showed why he has been picked preseason all Conference. 31 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes. Smith had a solid game in relief of who know who, and Bobbitt had 15 assists with only three turnovers.

It was a game dominated by poor officiating. The teams took 65 free throws, and neither team never really got into any offensive flow because almost every possession was interrupted by a whistle. As I wrote in my column last week. there is new emphasis on hand checking, but hopefully more experienced officials will handle things better.

The two things that most concern me about this year's team still concern me. They are a  lack of depth and inconsistent outside shooting. But I am encouraged by the fight in this year's team, coming back from 20 plus down,  There did appear to be more consistent half court offense, and you know Jankovic will have much better nights. I expect Tummala to show steady improvement ( remember he was playing in the PAC 12 at Arizona State), and the return of Thomas will certainly help the frontcourt which is very thin.

But now its time to put aside all of the off season issues, and get ready to focus on 2015-16. We will know much more about this team after this weekend's three games against mid-level competition. I will preview the Tournament both on the blog later this week and on Hoops talk Weds evening at 7 on ESPN 1420. Don't know about you, but I am excited  about the season, not only for the Bows, but for Coach Beeman and the Wahine, and college basketball in general. Let the games begin.


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How Others See Us (And Me)

November 5th, 2015

Its time to see how the more prestigious basketball prognosticators see the prospects for UH this season.

Lets start with the Pomeroy ratings. Ken Pomeroy uses a very sophisticated statistical analysis to compile his daily rankings. Preseason, he has UH 94 out of the 351 schools in Division 1. In fact, he has UH number 1 in the Conference.

Next is ESPN. It has UH as the "sleeper" team in the Big West with Irvine as the clear number 1 (same as the Big West media). ESPN has also selected Bobbitt to its all-conference team.

Sports Illustrated, in this week's issue, has ranked all 351 teams. Using its own mathematical formula, it has UH 93rd. S.I has Irvine at 86th. Its picks UH to finish second in the Conference. UH's offensive rank is 144, but its defensive rank is 68.

Bleacher Report has Irvine as the favorite with Hawaii close behind. It has Irvine at 95 and the Bows at 104.5

But the major bible of college basketball is Blue Ribbon, who publish a 400 plus book evaluating every div 1 team. It picks Hawaii 4th in the Conference behind Irvine, Long Beach State, and Santa Barbara. It says Hawaii has the third best backcourt in the league and has Valdes on the preseason conference team. In its analysis it gives UH an A- for the backcourt, a B+ for the frontcourt, a B for Bench/Depth, and a B- for " intangibles".  In Summary, Blue Ribbon says rebounding and perimeter shooting are problem areas, but there is no " glaring deficiencies"  on the roster".

And then there is me and all of you. First me, I like this year's team. They have experience and talent. Defensively, they should be as good, and they will play with more structure and discipline( you can bet they wont lead the league in technical fouls). In Bobbitt, Smith, Thomas, and Jankovic,  they have a solid core of returning players. They have a few newcomers who will be called on to contribute quickly in Drammeh and Tummala.  They could use Fleming, but his future is problematic. They should be good defensively. But there are issues. Outside shooting and depth will be an issue. They don't have a clear on-court leader just yet. Any serious injury will be a major problem, both in the backcourt and frontcourt. They do have a very easy non-conference schedule, outside of the Diamond Head and the single road game at Texas Tech. And there are always questions with a new coaching staff and a new system.

My pick. I see UH ending the season no worse than 4th, and I think with a few breaks and no serious injuries, they could finish second. The poor schedule will hurt their post-season opportunities, but I will go out on a limb and say they will play into late March. The league is not as strong as last year, and outside of Irvine, there is no clear number 2.

We will see a little more of where this year's team is tonight in the Chaminade exhibition.  But how do you folks see the season? Will this team compete for the Big West title? Is post-season within its grasp? Do you think  the new coaching regime can improve on last year's  22 wins.?  I am predicting a non-conference record of 9-4 to start the season, and a 11-5 Conference record. That translates to a 20-9 regular season record, and with two wins in the tournament, matching last year's win total. Am I crazy?


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New Rules

November 3rd, 2015

There a number of new rules in college basketball this season, and some will certainly impact UH.

The first is that the shot clock will be reduced from 35 to 30 seconds In 1985, it was 45 seconds, reduced to 35 in 1992. It should slightly increase the number of possessions per game, but I don't think it will do much to address the " scoring crisis". Last year, div 1 teams averaged 67.7 points per game,  and the number of possessions was the lowest since 2002. Last year, non-NCAA tournament games experimented with the shorter shot clock. It added two additional possessions per game ( WOW), but scoring increased by 4.5 points. Maybe that was because better teams played in the post season. Having to guard for 5 seconds less should help good defensive teams, like UH. On the other hand, teams with half court offensive problems will see those  increase. And I suspect you will see more three-quarter zone defenses to force teams into late shot clock situations.

Another rule designed to speed up the game deals with time-outs. Coaches cannot call a time-out while the ball is in play, only players can. Many, including me, would have preferred a rule that eliminated live ball time outs completely. That would stop the time out when a player is falling out of bounds or tied up on a loose ball and would " reward" a good defensive play. Also, you will  not see a media time-out 15 seconds after a team timeout. The team timeout will count as the media time-out so we wont have a 3 minute stoppage of play.

A potential change is not really a change at all, but an emphasis on enforcement. It concerns hand checking   " keeping a hand or forearm on an opponent". and impeding the dribbler. Last year it lead to an early season explosion of fouls, but as the season progressed, most observers believe officials caved in to pressure from coaches, players and even fans who got tired of the march to the line. But the NCAA has made it clear that this year officials who don't call these fouls will find themselves at home during the NCAA Tournament. So teams that play aggressive defense, like UH, will have some adjusting to do. Even things like " bodying up" will not be tolerated this year, or so they say.

The game might be getting a little uglier, but its an effort to eliminate rough play and speed up the game. Seems to me these changes conflict with each other, but so be it. The changes appear quite modest, and it remains to be seen how officials will react. At the Green-White scrimmage, the four officials did seem to call several " touch fouls", and on a team that loves to pressure the ball and create steals, there will be a learning curve to avoid the opponents march to the free throw line.

One thing that hasn't changed for the better and in fact will delay games, is the officials ability to " go to the monitor". This year, officials can review potential shot clock violations on made baskets and whether a player ' flopped". The later can be punished with a technical foul. Seems to be me there are already too many instances of going to the monitor.

Later this week I will summarize some of the National publication predictions for UH and the Big West. Tomorrow on Hoops talk at 7,  Laura Beeman will be out guest.


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