It’s conference basketball season! And for both the Rainbow Warriors and the Rainbow Wahine, it’ll be year nine of playing in the Big West Conference. In this edition of “Around the Arc,” we look at five of the biggest storylines around Hawai‘i and the rest of the conference, either from the previous week or heading into week two of conference play. Gary Dickman looks at the men’s side, while Tiff Wells features the women’s side.
By Gary Dickman:
- Of the 10 teams scheduled to play in the five series over the first week of conference play, only one took place. Our Rainbow Warriors had their opening series cancelled after Cal Poly had a recent positive COVID-19 test within their program. They never flew to Honolulu. Cal Poly’s women’s team didn’t play the Rainbow Wahine due to a COVID-19 issue with one of the Mustangs’ recent opponents, meaning UH didn’t play their opening series on the road. UH is off this week, their only scheduled bye week of the season. Then it’s nine straight weeks of competition, every Friday and Saturday starting next week. I hope they get to play all 18 games, or at least most of them.
- Hawai‘i is scheduled to play at UC Riverside on January 7 and 8. That would be 20 days since their last game (they played UH Hilo on Dec. 19). I’m concerned it’s too long between games. With so many new players, including four new starters, they need to develop chemistry and be in sync with one other. Twenty days off doesn’t help that. I also wonder that their only two games have been against local Division II schools and those opponents might not fully prepare them for Big West play. In a normal year, they’d play around 12 non-conference games or so before conference season started.
- A surprise announcement came last Wednesday. I wrote last week, hoping the Big West would talk about what might happen with the Big West tournament, especially with the high Covid-19 numbers in California. Well, the next day the league made a lot of Hawai’i fans happy as they announced that the tournament will be played in Las Vegas starting March 9. It’s too bad this announcement didn’t address my question to Commissioner Dan Butterly when he was on the show this week. I had asked him if this is this a permanent move or just a one-year deal. He said they moved out of Anaheim for this one year because of the COVID-19 numbers, that they didn’t want to take a chance that in March the health issues might affect the Tournament if played in Anaheim. So for now, the tournament is only in Las Vegas for 2021. And before you fans get too excited about watching in person at the Mandalay Bay, they don’t know if fans will be allowed in. They hope at least a small amount can be in attendance, but time will tell.
- As I wrote earlier, only one series played last week. It was UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. I was surprised that the Anteaters won both games, even more so when they won the first game by 19 points. So, UCI is where I expect them to be, at the top of the Big West standings. I think they’ll be in the top two when the regular season ends. But it’s a little surprising in that they were 3-4 going into league play, two of their three wins were against non-Division I schools, and the losses were each by double figures, including a 35-point loss at USC. The Anteaters, besides having one of the coolest nicknames in all of college sports, are at CSUN this weekend. This is one of three series still scheduled to be played this weekend. Two have already been cancelled (UC Riverside at UC Davis, UC San Diego at Cal Poly).
- I thought UCSB would be at the top of the Big West standings and they could very well get there. But they start conference play 0-2 after their series with UC Irvine. If they want to finish at or near the top, starting 0-2 doesn’t help. If the best team plays a full 20-game schedule (which I doubt), I can see the regular season champion finishing with a record at or around 15-5. As I do the math and notice UCSB has 18 scheduled games remaining, it doesn’t give the Gauchos as good of a chance now. They can’t afford a bad loss or two. UCSB hosts Cal State Fullerton this weekend. A sweep would help them a lot, but a split would put them at 1-3 and make for a more difficult climb to the top of the conference. The other series still on as of now is Long Beach State hosting CSU Bakersfield.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the men’s games, click here.
By Tiff Wells:
- Earlier last week, we had heard rumblings about Cal Poly cancelling season opening series with Hawai‘i on the 27 and 28. UH was set to leave for the Central Coast on Christmas Day. Christmas came, no official cancellation, no news if UH had left for the mainland. Then on the morning of the 26th via twitter, the Conference announced the Hawaii/Cal Poly series was cancelled. UH, which hasn’t played a game since December 20, is scheduled to host UC Riverside on January 8-9. It was reported on December 30by Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that head coach Laura Beeman learned on Christmas Eve that the team would not be making the trip to Cal Poly.
- One of the two series that did take place over week 1 was UC Irvine at UC Santa Barbara. A season-high 49 rebounds for the Anteaters led to a 64-60 win against the Gauchos on night one. For head coach Tamara Inoue, it was her first win at The Thunderdome, either as the UCI head coach or during her playing days at Long Beach State. The Anteaters then completed the regular season sweep over the Gauchos with a 69-56 win on Monday night. Former Konawaena prep standout and current UCI freshman Caiyle Kaupu converted two-of-two free throws in the win on Sunday, then recorded 10 points, two assists and two rebounds in 16 minutes of action on Monday.
- The other series that took place over Week 1, Long Beach State hosted UC Riverside and beat the Highlanders by 30 (74-44) on night one. The Beach forced 22 Highlander turnovers and outscored UCR 34-14 in the paint. Former Hawai`i post player Myrrah Joseph scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds, dishing out seven assists in 27 minutes before fouling out. Redshirt Junior Naomi Hunt led all scorers with 20 points, shooting 8-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-6 from distance. As a team, Long Beach State shot 9-of-14 from beyond the arc. Scheduled for Monday, game two of the back-to-back was delayed as The Walter Pyramid had a roof leak. An announcement was made an hour later saying it was postponed to Tuesday at 4 p.m. PST, but that the game would be played at…the SRC Arena in Riverside, not in the Walter Pyramid. This game was much closer, in fact it was tied at 52 entering the fourth quarter. Long Beach State completed the regular season sweep of UC Riverside with a 71-66 victory. The Beach shot just 8-of-27 from three (this after shooting 9-of-14 the day before). Joseph added ten points and three rebounds. Granted there were only two series that took place this past weekend, but both Long Beach State and UC Irvine are atop the standings at 2-0 entering week 2.
- As Gary mentioned, the biggest news of the week happened off the court. The Big West Conference announced last Wednesday the 2021 men’s and women’s basketball championships, presented by the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, will be played at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The tournament will run March 9 through the 13th. Because of cancelled conference games throughout the season, all 10 men’s teams (UCSD isn’t eligible to compete for a conference tournament, as they are in their 4-year transition to Division I) and nine of the 10 women’s team (CSUN has opted out of competition this season) will compete in the championship. Having nine teams compete for the championship significantly changes the bracket. In years past, seeds one and two received a double-bye, beginning their tournament play in the semifinal round; seeds three and four received a bye, beginning their tournament in the quarterfinal round; seeds five through eight began play in the opening round. NOW: seeds 8 and 9 play in the first round and the quarterfinal round sees the remaining eight teams begin tournament play.
- It’ll be interesting to follow teams that are coming off lengthy delays, either due to a two-week postponement of basketball activities on their end, or having a series cancelled because of an issue with their opponent. Here in week 2: Cal Poly is scheduled to visit UC San Diego, CSU Bakersfield is slated to host Long Beach State, while Cal State Fullerton is supposed to host UC Santa Barbara. All games are Friday and Saturday. Cal Poly (didn’t play UH on 12/27-28 due to a COVID-19 issue with one of Cal Poly’s recent opponents) hasn’t played since December 21. CSU Bakersfield (had games against Fresno Pacific on December 17 and 20 cancelled out of an abundance of caution and then saw their December 27-28 series against UC Davis cancelled as a result of the Aggies pausing their basketball activities) hasn’t played since December 11. Cal State Fullerton (didn’t play Pepperdine on December 20 due to a positive test result within their program and paused activities through this past Wednesday) hasn’t played since December 8.
For video/live stats/radio links for the women’s games, click here.