January 20th, 2016
After two weeks of Conference play, its beginning to look like a two team race. First, UC Irvine. The Anteaters are 4-0 and theirwo road wins last week against Santa Barbara and Long Beach is scary. They have not lost a home game, are 8-5 on the road ( including neutral site games) and have played a tough out of conference schedule. With Mamadou, all 7'6 " of him, in the middle, and Alex Young and Luke Nelson in the backcourt, they are showing they deserve their pre-season number 1 ranking. They are holding teams to 63 points per game and 37% field goal percentage.
On the other hand, there is UH. The Rainbows are off to their best start in 15 years. They lead the league in field goal percentage and scoring margin, and are averaging 80 points per game. It will be one immovable force vrs another when they meet. Interestingly, it wont be until the second half of the season.
Last week, the Rinbows won two on the road. They beat Riverside easily without Valdes and with a late arriving Bobbitt thanks to strong games from Fleming, Smith and Thomas and then got a little lucky in their overtime win at Fullerton thanks to a strong second half from Jankovic and another good game from Fleming. These are not the strongest teams in the league, but winning on the road is never easy ( just look at the upsets the past two weeks among the top 25).
The schedule makers have done UH a huge favor with the early part of the Conference schedule. They meet a poor Davis team on Saturday, the only game this week, and then have another week to prepare for a home game with Long Beach. UC Davis has a single road win and is 1-2 in the Conference. The Beach is 2-2 in the Conference with losses at some mighty tough places to play, but theyeither score 90 or 60 and cant seem to hold onto a lead.
Fans are lining up behind this Rainbow warrior squad and rightfully so. Its a different star or two every night, and they continue to play together and play hard. They are ranked 13th this week in the College Insider.com Mid-major media poll, one spot ahead of Irvine. They ot three votes this week in the AP poll ( down one vote after winning two road games) and no votes in the Coaches poll ( 1 vote last week). The schedule turns a lot tougher after this Saturday, but by then hopefully Valdes will be back. I still maintain the team has little depth so an injury free season is critical.
Hoopstalk tonight will have Coach Ganot as our guest. Hopefully every weds thru the final Four on ESPN 1420 at 7 pm. 296-1420 is the number.