Archive for March, 2012

Into the offseason

March 11th, 2012
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First, that was an impressive effort by New Mexico State last night in their 82-57 demolition of Louisiana Tech to win the 2012 WAC championship, and automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Congratulations to them and coach Marvin Menzies.

It turned out that Hawaii gave the Aggies their biggest test of the tournament, even after falling behind 17-0 and 22-2 in a 92-81 loss.

You could rightly say that the Rainbow Warriors lost their last six of seven games of the season. Or that this season was a disappointment for not achieving a winning record or making a postseason tournament.

But the team did something no UH squad had done since 2003, reached a WAC semifinal, and was a few minutes shy of making the championship game. And there won't be a summer of bemoaning why the team quit — there shouldn't be, anyway — because what was seen in Vegas was inspiring, especially under the circumstances.

As Shaq Stokes said, "We found our mojo, but it was too late."

There's plenty to repair and improve over the summer, most notably the team's rep as a defense-first outfit that Gib Arnold established in Year 1.

Player movement is likely, if the last two offseasons under Arnold is any guide. Stay tuned.

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I left the tournament most impressed with Louisiana Tech coach Michael White.

In his first year at LaTech coming over as an assistant in the SEC, White returned the Bulldogs to respectability, and with little more than what was already there when he arrived.

Also, class move by UH director of operations Kerry Rupp, the former LaTech coach. He stayed to high-five his former players after their championship game.

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Women's basketball associate coach Gavin Petersen is the first confirmed applicant for the Rainbow Wahine head coaching job.

He should have a strong candidacy. His place on staff this year was an important one, even if it didn't result in more wins than the previous year.

Petersen carries himself like a head coach. He should get a hard look, as he received three years ago when he was a finalist for the job that went to Dana Takahara-Dias.

Going out with a bang

March 8th, 2012
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Hawaii very well might lose to second-seeded New Mexico State on Friday, and  have its season come to a close at 16-16.

Even if that happens — though a berth in the pay-for-play CIT can't be ruled out, even with a would-be .500 record — the Rainbow Warriors will leave Las Vegas with a measure of pride.

Another win, well, and you're getting into the stuff of UH lore. A final WAC hurrah, if you will. The game starts at 4 p.m. (Hawaii time) and will be televised on KFVE to go along with the usual feed on KKEA, 1420-AM.

That's what Thursday's 72-70 quarterfinal win, minus Zane Johnson, accomplished for the 'Bows. And now, with another upstart effort, UH can taste its first WAC final in a decade. Which is amazing to say, given all that transpired over the last month.

NMSU and top-seeded Nevada certainly looked beatable in the first round; both got sucked into grind-it-out games against Fresno State and San Jose State. And UH can be better than either of those lower-seeded teams.

If UH can keep Wendell McKines in check, like it did at the Stan Sheriff Center, and not allow freshman guard Daniel Mullings to go for another triple-double (as he did in the 42-point blowout loss at Las Cruces), UH has a puncher's chance.

Will also be interesting to see if more transplanted UH fans show up for the semis. There were about 400 in house for the first round.

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It was strange to interview Dana Takahara-Dias as the UH women's coach for the last times on Wednesday.

From a media standpoint, she was always accessible and was almost always ready with a quote — that was always appreciated. Even if the given subject matter wasn't positive for her or her team.

Unfortunately for her, that was more often than not the case. That's why UH athletic director Jim Donovan felt he had to make a move, and not waste any time doing it after Wednesday's season-ending loss to Louisiana Tech.

Now somebody else gets a chance to restore the program to the success it enjoyed under Vince Goo.

I will provide updates on the state of Wahine affairs — the coaching search, etc. — once I return from the WAC tournament.

Vegas bound

March 5th, 2012
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So it's come to this. If the Hawaii men's basketball team wants to entertain thoughts of any postseason at this point (and we're talking the CIT, too) the Rainbow Warriors basically must run the table in the WAC tournament this week in Las Vegas.

There might be an off chance to qualify for Riley Wallace's pay-for-play tournament if UH gets to the WAC final, but a five-game losing streak has put a serious damper on that kind of optimism.

Getting past the first opponent, Idaho, will be a monumental task unto itself. Consider that the Vandals spanked the 'Bows by 19 in Honolulu on Thursday, and Don Verlin's team is riding some serious momentum  (wins in last seven of eight) going into the tourney.

Then there's UH's own issues of fatigue and desire at this late stage. We saw the 'Bows play with more heart against USU on senior night, but late-game execution was average at best and the Aggies made UH pay.

And yet, if all three of its top three scorers (Vander Joaquim, Zane Johnson, and Joston Thomas) come to play at the same time — granted, this hasn't happened since the first half of WAC — they have the capacity to be one of the better teams in the league. Getting one win means UH won't have a losing season overall.

They've been written off by many. Championed by few. But maybe, just maybe, the roll of the die will go UH's way for a day or two in the City of Sin.