Photo: Hawai’i Athletics
By Tiff Wells.
I’m excited as any to see basketball this season. This will be my 13th season as the Rainbow Wahine basketball analyst here on ESPN Honolulu and CBS 1500, with it being season number 11 working with Dave Kawada. The two of us can’t wait to bring you coverage of every home contest. Until that first home game on January 8th, we take a look at the conference schedule and get some initial thoughts from your radio broadcast team (myself and my play-by-play partner Dave Kawada), as well as the television broadcast crew at Spectrum Sports (Kanoa Leahey, play-by-play and Lori Santi, analyst).
On Wednesday, October 21st, the Big West Conference announced the basketball conference schedule for both the men and women for the 2020-21 season. Even before this date, teams had been doing anything and everything they could to stay mentally and physically fit to just be ready for when the conference schedule was to be released. We had heard of the difficulties from coaches of just how hard it was to try and formulate a schedule, especially a non-conference portion of the schedule. But now, subject to any necessary state and local approvals, all 11 member institutions now know who they will be playing. Conference play is set to begin on Sunday, December 27th. For the Rainbow Wahine, they start with a two-game series at Cal Poly. Last season, UH swept the regular season series against the Mustangs (W 59-46 at Cal Poly on February 6; W 75-58 versus Cal Poly on March 7). Overall, UH has won the last four against Cal Poly and has won the last two at Cal Poly.
Some important items of note here:
- All 11 member institutions will be play 20 conference games under a modified format that will reduce travel and emphasize the safety and health of the student-athletes, coaches and staff.
- Traditional home-and-home round-robin schedule has been altered. Now teams will play the same opponent on consecutive days at one site. Outside of the opening weekend (which will be played Sunday and Monday), every other week will be played Friday and Saturday.
- Each team will contest the schedule over an 11-week period with one bye week built in (UH’s bye week is built in for January 1st and 2nd). Games won’t be rescheduled should a team need to quarantine during the season. Tie-breaking procedures will be used at the end of the regular season (March 6).
- Men’s and women’s teams play the same opponent at opposite venues, so the schedules mirror one another.
- Per the direction of the Big West Board of Directors, all teams will start the season without spectators in the stands. However, the issue of fan attendance will be revisited as the season progresses.
- The Big West Conference Tournament is slated to run from Wednesday, March 10 to Saturday, March 13 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Both the men’s and women’s bracket will comprise of eight teams.
- Recently, the NCAA announced that the official start date of the 2020-21 basketball season is Wednesday, November 25th. It’s at the discretion of each Big West member as to how they determine the number of games played during non-conference play.
Last year, UH went 9-7 in Big West Conference play. Tied for 2nd with UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine at the end of the regular season, the Rainbow Wahine received the 4th seed and got a bye into the Quarterfinal round. A 72-59 victory over sixth-seeded Cal State Fullerton propelled UH into a semifinal game against two-seeded UC Santa Barbara. That game, along with the other semifinal and the championship game, never took place because of Covid-19 and the cancellation of not only the Big West Tournament but all sports worldwide.
We look within the UH conference record. The Rainbow Wahine went 2-0 in the series against both UC Riverside and Cal Poly. With the conference tournament win against Cal State Fullerton, UH went 2-1 against the Titans. They went 1-1 with: CSUN, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara. UC Davis was the team UH went 0-2 against.
Looking at the regular season standings from a year ago, UH gets the following teams at home: UC Riverside (finished 9th), Cal State Fullerton (finished tied for 5th, seeded 6th), new member UC San Diego (transitioned from Division II: went 25-5 overall, 18-4 in CCAA. CCAA regular season and tournament champions), CSUN (finished and seeded 7th) and four-time defending champion UC Davis.
The Bows face these teams on the road: Cal Poly (finished and seeded 8th), CSU Bakersfield (transitioning from the WAC to the BWC: went 16-13 overall, 8-8 in WAC. Tied for 4th in WAC, tournament quarterfinal game cancelled), UC Irvine (finished tied for 2nd, seeded 3rd), UC Santa Barbara (finished tied for 2nd and seeded 2nd) and Long Beach State (finished tied for 5th, seeded 5th).
Playing back-to-back against the same opponent reminds me of the recent scheduling for Rainbow Warrior Volleyball. Alternating road and home is somewhat nice. Having the built-in bye week so early in the season (Week 2) could be at a disadvantage. Normally UH’s bye week has come in the middle of the season, so playing 10-straight weeks leading up to the conference tournament could pose a challenge for any team, let alone one that is so young and mostly inexperienced (eight newcomers, including five freshmen). You could also make a case that it’s nine newcomers with Olivia Davies coming off a redshirt season (injured four minutes into the exhibition game last year). In terms of game experience, senior Jadynn Alexander and redshirt senior Amy Atwell (along with reserve center Barbara Rangel) will be relied upon heavily to help this young team navigate the conference slate. How quick will this team gel and be ready for the road? Getting to Cal Poly, CSU Bakersfield and UC Santa Barbara aren’t easy. It’s nice to get the defending champion (UC Davis) at home for two. Sure it’s at the end of the regular season and could play a factor into who is the regular season champion. But based off the regular season standings from last season, outside of hosting defending league champ UC Davis, the majority of the better teams host UH, while the bottom half visits UH. Two wildcard teams because we don’t know much about them are the two newest Big West members: UC San Diego and CSU Bakersfield. But in a season, in a year, where so much has changed and we’ve gone to a new normal, expect the unexpected (except maybe UC Davis finishing in the top three) in another year of the wild, wild, Big West. Is there a non-conference set up before that December 27th opener at Cal Poly? What might it look like? Who might UH be playing? Continue to follow @HawaiiWBB and @ESPNHonolulu on twitter for the latest updates.
For the thoughts of this conference schedule release from a few other media members who follow the Rainbow Wahine very closely, I not only turned to my play-by-play partner here on ESPN Honolulu and CBS 1500 Dave Kawada, but also the Spectrum Sports crew of Kanoa Leahey (play-by-play) and Lori Santi (analyst).
Dave Kawada, ESPN Honolulu/CBS 1500 Rainbow Wahine Basketball play-by-play voice –
Reminds me of the “old days” scheduling back in the late 70’s, early 80’s when at least the men would play back-to-back against the same opponent on the weekend.
A challenge may be that they will not have a ‘home stand” as they travel every other weekend. This may put them more at a disadvantage in terms of their home schedule of having that routine for normally 2 weekends in a row.
My question is couldn’t the BWC, especially considering the added travel risks during pandemic, to consider Hawaii’s special situation and allowed them to play mid-week games on the mainland, so that maybe Hawaii could play 4 games (2 teams) on a 1-week road swing. Ex: Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat (day game to allow for team to fly back that night), or something like this.
I realize that nobody “considers” Hawaii’s special situation.
Kanoa Leahey, Spectrum Sports Rainbow Wahine Basketball play-by-play voice –
It seems like a logical layout considering the current circumstances. And interestingly enough, it resembles what we’ve already seen previously in the men’s volleyball conference schedule. I’ve always found the “hana hou” matches intriguing because of the the strategic adjustments made from one night to the next. And now we’ll observe that play out on the hardwood.
Lori Santi, Spectrum Sports Rainbow Wahine Basketball analyst –
Coach likes that the BW tried to be creative and safe in going to back to back game schedule which limits exposure. I agree. Hard part is added travel for Hawaii makes recovery an issue. Tough draw for road games with Bakersfield, CP and UCSB away. All long trips. Lotsa newcomers who will have to get used to travel quick. End of schedule tough but allows for growth of rookies. Finally this team is talent and has great potential! Their depth and versatility will help with the new format. Go Bows!
For the full Big West Conference release, https://bigwest.org/news/2020/10/21/big-west-releases-20-21-mens-and-womens-basketball-schedules.aspx
For the full Big West Conference women’s basketball conference schedule, https://s3.amazonaws.com/bigwest.org/documents/2020/10/21/2020_21_WBB_Schedule.pdf
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