By Brian McInnis
By default, you have to be on upset alert anytime the Chaminade Silverswords take the floor against a Division I opponent.
The fact that today's Hawaii-Chaminade game takes place on Kauai — in what is believed to be the first NCAA basketball game on the island — adds another wrinkle to the proceedings.
Reminder: There is no TV or streaming video for this one. It will be on 1420-AM and there will be live stats at goswords.com.
This matchup between these teams on Molokai last year was certainly unique. It featured high scoring (104-93 UH), high tempers (Jace Tavita and Vander Joaquim) and a packed house in Molokai High's "The Barn."
Well, Kauai High's "Raiderdome" is expected to be just as packed. I estimate that maybe 1,200 can fit in the gym if they totally load up the place.
UH gave some local hoops fans, maybe about 150 who stayed after Kauai High's girls hoops game Friday night, a primer of things to come. It was billed as a shootaround, but it was more a dunk-around. As you might expect, Aaron Valdes earned the loudest "ooooohhh"s with his high-flying antics.
It was clearly, in part, a strategic display to get some extra crowd noise behind UH for tonight. But the team seemed to enjoy meeting wide-eyed children (and adults) not accustomed to seeing that level of play.
As Gib Arnold said this week: "I like the fact we're able to go to a neighbor island. Our fans are able to see us play in person, and we're able to meet the fans."
UH arrived on Kauai early Friday afternoon, giving itself an extra day on the island than Chaminade.
"It was good, it was a short flight — something we're not used to," Valdes said. "We got to rest, stay at the hotel, then come here to practice. Seeing a lot of people here was a lot of fun. We get to show them what we have a little bit. Get them excited for tomorrow.
"It was a lot of fun to hear them go 'oooooh' and all that."
The team had planned to visit a historical site or two, but that was scrapped due to a multiple-vehicle accident on one of Kauai's main highways that bogged traffic down for hours.
For local boy Dyrbe Enos, it was his first time on Kauai, a week after seeing snow for the first time at Northern Arizona.
"Yeah, cold weather, new islands," Enos said. "(The fans) were just amazed that it was a D-I (team), UH, on the court right now. I'm sure they're enjoying it. Everyone's dunking, except me." He laughed.
Chaminade, the host team for this game, got in this morning. It's unknown yet if top scoring threat Christophe Varidel made the trip, but the Silverswords have plenty of scoring threats either way. UPDATED 1:35 p.m.: Varidel did not make the trip because of his knee tendinitis. It's his third straight missed game. Unfortunate news — would have made the matchup more compelling.
Should UH prevail, it will head into the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on a five-game winning streak, matching the longest string of W's under Arnold. Granted, the competition hasn't been the fiercest, but if UH can somehow keep it going tonight and into the DHC, the 'Bows could turn some heads.