By Brian McInnis
The battle between No. 6 Duke and No. 14 Kansas for the 2011 EA Sports Maui Invitational tonight should be just as interesting in the stands as it is on the court.
With a capacity of only 2,400, the Lahaina Civic Center has no chance of housing all of the hundreds of fans who flew over. Kansas filled the gym by itself in its two preliminary games, and Duke wasn't far behind.
Reports surfaced of fans waiting from 4:30 this morning for a coveted seat for the final.
After his team's semifinal win over UCLA, Kansas coach Bill Self had some entertaining comments on what he expected tonight's atmosphere to be.
"I don't know. But it was kind of rocking out there after the (semfinal) game with us. My family was having a good time in the stands. And they weren't even drinking.
"But I haven't been here but three times. And I will bet tomorrow night's atmosphere for the final game will be as good an atmosphere that this building's ever seen for this tournament. I could be wrong, but there will be — you're not going to be able to get all your fans in. People are going to be trying to scalp, do whatever for tickets.
"I think we brought ... well over a thousand. Seems like to me Duke brought a ton. I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. And there's something — this atmosphere may be as good a neutral court atmosphere that you could play in. It's better than an NCAA Tournament atmosphere because you can feel the crowd. They're actually a part of it."
A couple of the Jayhawks players followed up with their thoughts.
"I think this is one of the games when you come to Kansas you sign up for," senior guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "This is one of the big games that we're probably going to always remember coming to Maui playing Duke in the championship.
"So I'm definitely excited for this, and I think they (Duke) are going to have some great fans here. And our fans are great, too. I think, like Coach said, it's going to be real juiced in here. We've got to embrace it and enjoy this time."
Added junior forward Thomas Robinson: "The stage doesn't get any bigger than this, at least in the preseason. Duke versus Kansas in the championship for Maui ... this game might go down in history."
Tough, rare home loss for the UH men's basketball team last night against Eastern Washington, and the way the schedule works out, there isn't a whole lot of time to fix things (around the Thanksgiving holiday) before Friday's game against Pacific.
Not too often you'll see the Rainbow Warriors get blown out at the Stan Sheriff Center by a Big Sky team, but that's exactly what happened. Per Jason Kaneshiro's story, scoring dried up with 5 minutes left in the first half as the Eagles bridged the halves with a 25-5 run.
I'll be back tomorrow morning to resume covering the team.
For any left who haven't seen it, UH officially added New Zealand forward Isaac Fotu on Tuesday.
Where Morningside High graduate Gerry Blakes fits into all this will be interesting. He could theoretically still come, but as it stands now, somebody among those four isn't getting a scholarship if he does arrive in Manoa. Of course, that could well change with changes in personnel after this season.