By Brian McInnis
Happy New Years to all. Raise your glass and let us take a moment to reflect on the 2012 hoops year that was.
It was an up-and-down one from a UH perspective. The second half of the 2011-12 season saw the 'Bows go from a WAC contender to a fizzle of a regular-season finish with losses in six of their last seven. That one win, however, came over Idaho in the WAC tournament first round, adding at least a moment of respectability to a 16-16 season that had no postseason invitation.
A number of players moved on early in the offseason, most notably Joston Thomas, Shaquille Stokes and Trevor Wiseman.
The biggest name in doubt, though, Vander Joaquim, ultimately pledged his return for a senior season. He was dealt a significant setback in the preseason with a right MCL tear, but he showed signs of shaking it off just as the calendar year 2012 wrapped up.
While the 'Bows lost a lot, a number of new players, like Isaac Fotu, Brandon Spearman, Manroop Clair and others helped bring a younger, earnest energy to the team.
UH's 2012-13 nonconference season had some expected wins against lower-tier competition and some disappointing losses and missed opportunities against "name" opponents like Illinois, UNLV, Miami and Ole Miss.
The 'Bows escaped with a 74-71 win in their Big West Conference debut last Saturday against Cal State Northridge. A big follow-up looms on Thursday in Cal State Fullerton, the projected runner-up in the conference.
Here's some possible New Year's resolutions for the 'Bows as they turn the corner from 2012 to 2013.
>> Make free throws. This one seems to come up every year. UH is shooting 64.3 percent as a team, with those numbers skewed heavily toward the big man triumvirate of Joaquim, Christian Standhardinger and Isaac Fotu. All three of those guys are shooting in the mid- to low 60s, and they've combined to attempt 173 of the team's 255 free throw tries this season. That's over two-thirds, so it will skew your average something fierce. Either those guys need a renaissance from 15 feet or the 'Bows' wing players need to get to the line more to bump it up.
>> Take care of the ball. UH entered Big West play last in turnover margin (minus 4.5) in the league, and at about 16 giveaways per game overall. Guardplay was an area of concern entering the season and this stat directly correlates to UH's struggles against pressure and consistently delivering the ball on target.
>> Protect big leads. Even in the games the 'Bows have won, they've almost always jumped out to a sizable advantage only to sweat out the result. And that's not always worked out in the end (see Illinois).
>> Get road Ws. It will be a tough first BWC road trip at UC Irvine and Long Beach State, but if UH can steal one of those it could alter their own of road expectations both internally and around the league. Road wins have always separated the good UH teams from the average.
Those items should keep Gib Arnold and Co. plenty busy for now. Here's what a few players had to say about New Year's resolutions.
Junior guard Garrett Jefferson: "Just keep working hard and trying to get more wins. We just gotta keep working hard, hopefully we can win the Big West. There's a lot of good teams in it, so we're going to keep working."
Freshman guard Brandon Jawato: "Going into 2013, one of our goals is to win the Big West Conference. It's a team goal for us to make it to the NCAA Tournament. And to just help the team out best as I can."
Junior forward Christian Standhardinger: "For me personally, I need to keep working hard. … I mean, I gotta fix those free throws (0-for-8 start against Cal State Northridge). ... I made a rule, I start from the beginning. Zero-zero. Let's see how good I do (this) year."