By Brian McInnis
Coming off its three-game road winning streak, the Hawaii men's basketball team was greeted with a pair of news items on Monday.
First off, junior forward Christian Standhardinger was named Big West Player of the Week for averaging 20.5 points and nine rebounds in the 72-68 win at UC Riverside and the 77-75 win at Cal State Fullerton. You could even throw in his 31 and 16 at UC Santa Barbara for likely getting the decision makers' attention going into the week.
He's really been on a tear of late and helped the team overcome some slow starts by Vander Joaquim. A well-deserved award (the team's second weekly honor this season) for the German Hustle Machine.
Secondly, the ESPN BracketBusters pairings were announced today. UH was paired up with ... drum roll please ... Northern Arizona of the Big Sky Conference.
Last year UH got a quality opponent out of the Big Sky in Montana, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the case this year — the Lumberjacks are 7-14 overall and 4-7 (seventh place) in their league. Perhaps it's fitting that this is slated to be the final year of BracketBusters (unless it gets reworked at some point), because even with a UH win, this qualifies as going out with a whimper. Remember the days of quality UH BracketBusters pairings with Kent State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Southern Illinois? Long gone.
I can tell you that at least one person who is excited for the pairing. My colleague Jason Kaneshiro spent two semesters as a Lumberjack in college before returning to UH.
So, back to the road winning streak. Critics could point out that the teams UH beat weren't world beaters by any stretch. That is entirely true. But three straight road wins is hard for a UH team to do no matter where the destinations are. As I wrote in today's paper, it's only happened four other times since UH joined a conference, the WAC in 1979.
And the way UH did it, coming back from double digits in the last two games, made it especially dramatic. The homecoming atmosphere at Cal State Fullerton lent a meaningful college atmosphere vibe to it, as well.
A note: The Miami Hurricanes, who were merely receiving votes when UH opened up against them in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, are up to No. 8 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll with a pretty amazing 8-0 start to Atlantic Coast Conference play. Another UH DHC opponent, Ole Miss of the SEC, was ranked but is back just outside of the poll.
By now I'm sure most of you have heard about the deaths of Cal State Fullerton women's basketball assistant coach Monica Quan and her fiance. If you haven't, you can read about it here.
Here's is CSUF's tribute to Quan.
Pretty stunning and tragic stuff, especially considering UH just played before one of the best road crowds you're going to see at a Big West game. You have to feel for their team, school and AD Jim Donovan, who's still the new face of the Titans athletic department.
Worth noting in all this is that the Titans women play their final game of the regular season March 9 at UH. CSUF is near the bottom of the league standings at present, so it may or may not be their team's final game of the season — they need to finish top eight to make the conference tournament. If it is their last game, you can bet it will be pretty emotional.