By Gary Dickman and Tiff Wells.
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 three of conference play. Gary Dickman looks at the men’s side, while Tiff Wells features the women’s side.
By Gary Dickman:
1. Here we are in week 3 of Big West Conference play and I finally get to write about some teams playing their first conference game. This includes our Rainbow Warriors who have arrived in Southern California. Arriving at the venue for road games hasn’t been easy for many Big West teams. I’m glad and confident that they’ll actually play on Friday and Saturday at UC Riverside. Over the first two weeks of conference play, only three out of 10 originally scheduled series have been played.
Honolulu ✈️ Riverside
First road trip of the season! Special thanks to our administration, medical team, fans, & friends @HawaiianAir for allowing this trip to happen. Go Bows! 🤙 pic.twitter.com/tbhUDAbOeu
— HAWAII BASKETBALL (@HawaiiMBB) January 6, 2021
2. Before I talk about Hawaii’s opponent UC Riverside, I need to point this out. Hawai’i hasn’t played a game since December 19. This is a 21-day break between games. But for the Highlanders, they haven’t played since December 10, which is a 30-day break between games. They’ve had their last six games cancelled. I think both teams will start off slow and…maybe finish slow too. For most of the Bows, this will not only be their first road game of their collegiate careers, but also their first game vs Division I competition. Nerves could play a role as well for this relatively inexperienced group.
3. Even with the long layoff, UC Riverside is 3-1. And what really stood out to me was that in late November, they beat Washington by 17 points (59-42) in Las Vegas. I know Washington is having a down year this year, but for UC Riverside, this win over a Power 5 team is still a big victory for them. I think they’ll be a tough opponent for UH. 6-9 forward Arinze Chidom is back, averaging over 13 points a game. And he’s got help this year. 7-1 Saint Mary’s transfer Jock Perry scored 21 in the win against Washington. He’s averaging over 13 points a game as well. Another transfer for UC Riverside is 6-5 point guard, Flynn Cameron. Originally from New Zealand, Cameron transferred from DePaul.
4. This will be a story line for most, if not all of this season. How many games will teams lose due to COVID-19 and how might that affect the regular season standings, especially if there’s an unbalanced schedule. What I mean is this: what if a team loses four games, but those were against the top two teams in the league, and ateamthey’recompeting with percentage wise does play the top two, they’ll possibly be at an unfair advantage. And I know this year, as well was the case for 2020, things will be done a little differently in most sports, but it’s something to watch for. As of now, after only two weeks of play, only UC Santa Barbara has played every scheduled game. This makes every game that much more important. Teams might play 14 out of 20 conference games and this unbalanced number of games across the board for the conference could make a for a difference in seedings for the Big West Conference Tournament. Remember that the regular season champ is guaranteed an NIT bid if they don’t win the BWC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by winning the BWC Tournament.
5. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet in week three of this fun and hopefully entertaining blog for you folks. For every UH men’s basketball game, both home and away, myself and Brian McInnis host the Rivals Waikiki Pregame Show. It starts one hour before tip-off, so this Friday and Saturday we’ll be on at 1:00 p.m. We’ll have a former player or coach on for each pregame show. This week it’ll be Bob Nash (Friday) and Garrett Nevels (Saturday). In addition to listening to us on ESPN Honolulu or the Sideline Hawaii app, you can watch us as well, live on the ESPN Honolulu Facebook page. And if you do watch us, you’ll realize why we are better on radio than Facebook live: we both have a face made for radio. As you’ve noticed, I saved the most important story line for last this week.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the men’s games, click here.
By Tiff Wells:
1. Heading into week three of conference play, eight teams have played at least two conference games. The two remaining teams that have yet to play a conference game are UC Davis (basketball activities have been on pause since December 5 to remain compliant with Yolo County health orders) and Hawai‘i (UH saw the Cal Poly series cancelled on December 26, then paused team-related activities on January 2 due to a COVID-19 positive test within their program, thus canceling their January 8-9 series against UC Riverside. The Aggies were scheduled to host UC Irvine this Friday and Saturday before an announcement came from UC Davis on January 5 that the series would be cancelled in order to remain compliant with current county health orders. The Rainbow Wahine are slated to play at CSU Bakersfield on January 15 and 16. A notice came out on Wednesday saying due to COVID-19 health protocols, Cal Poly has cancelled their next two series againstCSU Bakersfield (Jan. 8-9) and UC Riverside (Jan. 15-16). Also on Wednesday, UC Irvine and UC Riverside announced a two-game non-conference series for the 8th and 9th after both teams saw their original conference series cancelled (UC Irvine-series cancelled by UC Davis; UC Riverside-series cancelled by Hawai‘i).
2. Perhaps the surprise team of the conference so far has been Long Beach State. Since losing 71-65 at USC on December 23, The Beach rattled off four straight wins to begin conference play. Picked to finish sixth (coaches poll) and seventh (media poll), LBSU won four conference games in a seven-day span. This included a last-minute road game at UC Riverside the day after a facility issue postponed their game with the Highlanders at Walter Pyramid. Up next for Long Beach State (5-1, 4-0) is a two-game home series with Cal State Fullerton, scheduled for January 8 and 9. This is the only conference series scheduled for the weekend. The other three (UC Riverside at Hawai‘i, UC Irvine at UC Davis and CSU Bakersfield at Cal Poly) have been cancelled. The Beach (4-0) and UC Irvine (2-0) are the only two unbeaten teams.
3. Through two weeks of conference play, 10 of the 16 games on the scheduled have been played. The remaining six were cancelled and will not be made up this season. The conference has officially determined those cancelled games as “no contests.” Home court advantage hasn’t meant a lot this season, especially with fans not being allowed in. In the 10 conference games played, the visiting team has won eight. LBSU hosted UCR, won 74-44. UCSD hosted Cal Poly, won 74-63). Teams (Cal Poly, CSU Bakersfield and Cal State Fullerton) that were coming off COVID-19 issues from Week 1 of conference play and played in week two went a combined 1-5 (Cal State Fullerton lost twice at home to UC Santa Barbara, CSU Bakersfield suffered two defeats at home to Long Beach State and Cal Poly split at UC San Diego).
4. As a Division II member last season, UC San Diego went 25-5 and won their conference championship. Not much was thought of the Tritons for year one of Division I status as the Big West Conference preseason polls saw UCSD picked to finish ninth (media poll) and last (11th coaches poll). Their season opener was interrupted at halftime due to COVID-19 testing concerns involving their opponent (Cal Baptist). Hosting their first conference series, Cal Poly rudely welcomed the Tritons to the BWC with on night one, blasting UCSD in San Diego 90-68. On night two, UCSD recorded their first ever Division I win with a 74-63 win over Cal Poly. Even though UCSD is on a bye this week after CSUN opted out of the season back in November, the Tritons announced on Tuesday, January 5 they paused all activities due to a recent positive COVID-19 test within their next program. UCSD is next scheduled to be in action with a home series against UC Santa Barbara on January 15 and 16.
5. Making an early case for Big West Conference Player of the Year is Cal Poly’s Abbey Ellis. The 5-6 sophomore point guard from Yallambie, Australia has won two of the six weekly Players of the Week awards this season and leads the league in total points (177) and points per game (22.1). Since scoring a season-low six points in the opener at then No. 2 Stanford, Ellis has scored 17 or more points in the last seven games. Shooting 45.2% from three (19-42), she’s 60-134 from the field (44.8%). Ellis was a BWC All-Freshman selection a year ago and was a BWC preseason all-conference pick by the media. She’s hit the 30-point mark twice this season (39 at San Diego State on 12/21 and 31 at UC San Diego on New Year’s Day).
For any video/live stats/radio links for the women’s games, click here.