February 19th, 2016
Tomorrow nights game against Irvine may be the most important game UH has played in the regular season in years. Its not as big as last year's Championship game against the Anteaters, but its close. After last nights close win against CSUN, a game in which frankly they would have lost without an incredible game from Jankovic , the Bows will need complete games from everybody.
Its not likely Hawaii will shoot almost 50% from three and make 14 three pointers. That was the difference in Hawaii's blow-out win against Irvine last week along with some solid defense which kept Irvine's big men from doing any real damage. Irvine stayed in their zone almost the entire game and Hawaii made them pay. If UH cant score from outside, they will have difficulty scoring in the paint.
If UH comes out with a win, the regular season Conference championship and the automatic NIT bid that come with it, will be in hand as the Bows will have a two game lead over Irvine and Long Beach with only 4 games to play. With a loss, it becomes more difficult and may come down to tiebreakers. Irvine has a win against Long Beach, Hawaii a loss, and both UH and Irvine still have games with the Beach with Hawaii having to go there.
Many are now predicting UH as the Conference Tournament likely winner. In fact, a service I subscribe to gives Hawaii a 36% chance. That same service says Hawaii has a 7% chance to get an at-large bid ( I think that's optimistic, but in the crazy season in college basketball ,who knows). My service predicts Hawaii as a 13 seed, others have UH as a 14. One or two predict UH as a 12 seed.
UH is listed as an NCAA Tournament team that can cause some havoc if it makes the Tournament. It is one of 5 so-called mid-majors listed. I agree. UH's only losses are to top 5 Oklahoma, A surging Texas Tech team on the road, and a poor performance against Long Beach. Yes, they have beaten many weak teams, and have had some close calls against other less than powerhouse opponents, but the trick is winning, and UH is doing that.
So you cant overestimate the importance of tomorrow's game. But on the other hand, all will not be lost by a loss. Beating Irvine at home will be a challenge. In fact, I think UH will lose in a close contest. I hope I am wrong, but even if I am right, UH will be in a tie for first with only two weeks to go. Three of Hawaii's remaining games are against the lower half of the league, with two at home. A loss tomorrow will make the final regular season at Long Beach all that more important, but a regular season league championship and/or a really good seed going into the Tournament is well within reach.