It’s conference basketball season! And for both the Rainbow Warriors and the Rainbow Wahine, it’s year 9 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 five of conference play. Gary Dickman looks at the men’s side, while Tiff Wells features the women’s side.
By Gary Dickman:
I guess maybe the only good news for Hawai’i basketball fans is that UH got to play in two straight weeks in Big West play, which is not what a lot of teams have been able to say. Which leads me to the first big story line for this week.
- As of today (Wednesday, January 20th), all five originally scheduled series for this week are still on. That might not sound like much to some of you, but this is week five in league play. For the first four weeks of conference play, there has been at least one cancellation. The league has only had four out of five series played one time so far and that’s with having two schools playing each other when their opponents had to cancel because of COVID-19 -19 protocol. I think this is great news and maybe a little surprising as well. There was a lot of talk that teams in Southern California would have to cancel more games, and they still might. So that’s what makes this week both important and significant.
- This kind of ties in with my first story line, but let’s think and hope every game that is scheduled will in fact be played. This would revert back to a point I wrote about last month which would come to fruition. So far, UH has had two games cancelled. Except for UC Santa Barbara, every other school has lost games in league play. If it stays this way, then Hawai’i would have lost two games vs Cal Poly, the worst team in the league. Hawaii’s best chance at sweeping a conference opponent would have been the Mustangs. But those games were cancelled last year. Well, actually it was three weeks ago on December 27th and 28th. Every other school gets to play and probably sweep Cal Poly. Our Bows won’t get those two wins. At the end of this regular season, schools won’t have played the same amount of conference games. Some might lose two games, some three and so forth. It’s just the way things are this season; there’s no way around it. I just hope that at the end of this season, UH might end up at 8-10 instead of 10-10. That’s just an example, but that could cost them a spot or two in the final standings. This would then mean that their first-round opponent in the Big West tournament would be against a tougher team than they would have played had there been a full and complete conference season. No one wants to have their cancelled games against Cal Poly. Let’s see how this plays out in the upcoming weeks.
- Ok, now it’s time to talk about our Rainbow Warriors. Last week was tough, losing both games at home to CSU Bakersfield. Let me first point out that in their first year in the Big West Conference, the Roadrunners are 5-1 in conference play. Their one loss was in their conference debut, a one-point loss in overtime at Long Beach State. They might be the best team in the conference. I’m hoping that might make some of you feel a little better about UH being swept at home. But I know many of you still have concerns. Well, so do I. I think maybe my biggest concern is their identity. They don’t have one yet. Are they a team that relies on outside shooting as their main offensive weapon? Are they a team that will pound it down low? Who’s their best point guard? Who’s a go-to guy in a close game ? Who’s their leader? I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I don’t blame anyone on this team for this. They played in back-to-back weeks for the first time in the last two weeks. They’ve been able to practice, but they had a three-week gap between games. Between that and seven new players in the rotation, those have made it longer in forming their identity. As they get ready to play for the third straight week of play, I’m hoping an identity starts to develop. I think having a leader and a steady point guard or two, are key for this teams’ success.
- There are a couple of stats I want to point out that I feel are significant. Made field goals and total assists. With a point guard like Drew Buggs and others at UH before him, the basket to assist ratio has been a lot closer than it’s been. Last week, UH had 28 baskets versus 11 assists in one game, and then 24 baskets versus 9 assists in the other. In one game the week before it was 30 versus 10. At least it got a little better in the last game. In a perfect world, it’d be no higher than 2:1. For example, Golden State in their last game made 46 field goals and had 31 assists. It shows a lot of passing, which should lead to higher percentage shots. That should then lead to more wins. I like that the team can attack the rim, but the numbers I provided from the last three games show too much one-on-one play, as opposed to more passes, more screens and both a higher field goal percentage and easier shot attempts. This team has talent, but right now it’s just a work in progress.
- I know I’ve written a few things that I’d like to see improved on. I don’t want fans to think that this isn’t a good team, that things won’t get better. Right now, UH is 1-3. However, with just a little luck, one more made shot, one more defensive stop, this team could have been 3-1 in the league. The Bows aren’t not that far away from that. In the second Riverside game, Hawai’i had 4-point lead with a little over a minute left. The first Bakersfield game was tied at 50 with just a few minutes left. It could have gone either way. I feel with more experience (let’s say a month from now), they’ll be able to come out with wins the next time they are in the aforementioned situations. And I really believe they can. That’s kind of the fun part of being a fan. Being along for the ride, as your team improves over the course of a game and a season. When that happens and you’re peaking in March, well that’s why they call it March Madness..
For any video/live stats/radio links for the men’s games, click here.
By Tiff Wells:
- UC Davis is back to action. Last Thursday (1/14), Bruce Gallaudet (Sports Editor at The Davis Enterprise) first reported that UC Davis would resume play on January 22nd and host UC San Diego for a pair of conference games on January 22nd-23rd. If this series is indeed a go, this would mark the first game for the Aggies since November 25th. Since then, UC Davis has been put on pause two separate occasions (each for two weeks) by Yolo County due to health orders AND have had games cancelled by their opponents due to COVID-19 positive tests. They’ve lost a total of 13 games and none will be made up. For their eight cancelled Big West Conference games, the BWC has officially determined those cancelled games as “no contests.” I’m happy that the four-time defending conference regular season champions are back to competition. Their games were cancelled because of their opponents and their county, not from their own doing. It’s also been reported that there has been no positive test from either UC Davis basketball program during that span.
UCD basketball will resume play on Jan. 22 when women host UC San Diego and the men play the Tritons in San Diego. The green light was given when Yolo County Health Officer Aimee Sisson amendment her no-play order on Thursday. See https://t.co/nTEHYpfs3H @BGsportsinDavis
— Bruce Gallaudet (@BGsportsinDavis) January 14, 2021
— UC Davis Athletics (@ucdavisaggies) January 19, 2021
- Since conference play began on December 27th, there were zero non-conference games until January 10th. Because of either open dates or a game/series cancelled due to an opponent’s positive COVID-19 test, programs have been doing whatever they can just to get games in and sometimes these new games are played 48 hours after being scheduled. Just last week alone for the conference, three non-conference games were played by Big West teams. And the conference went 3-0: CSU Bakersfield’s 81-69 win at Fresno State on January 10th, Cal State Fullerton’s victory over Concordia 69-51 on January 16th. No win since the 60-52 win by CSU Bakersfield at Cal on November 29th was bigger than UC Riverside’s 54-52 at USC on January 17th. It’s the second win for the Big West Conference against a Pac-12 opponent on their home floor this season and per the BWC, it’s the seventh road win by a Big West team over a PAC-12 team in the last five-plus seasons.
- Our Rainbow Wahine finally got back on the floor. Their series against Cal Poly and UC Riverside were cancelled, then a pause because of a positive test within the UH program. This added up to a total of 26 days elapsed between their December 20th win against UH Hilo and their January 15th Big West Conference opener at CSU Bakersfield. The Bows had just three days of practice and watching both games, it showed they hadn’t played in a while. Missed shots, turnovers, lots of zone defense being played and many players getting game action. Down 10-0 to start the first game and then a 7-0 run to begin quarter two was too much for UH to overcome. There was fight in the Bows; they got the deficit to four, but just couldn’t make that one final run. An 8-0 start to game two was promising for UH, but scoring four points in the second quarter wouldn’t help the cause to earn the split. Amy Atwell scored a season-high 23 points in the loss. We also found out this week that UH would be without the services of 6’4” junior forward Channel Noah after she sustained a season-ending knee injury during the CSU Bakersfield series.
- Cal State Fullerton (1-7, 0-4) comes to Honolulu for two games against the Rainbow Wahine. The Titans have two Hawai`i connections on their roster: Head Coach Jeff Harada (HBA ’89; coach at Hawaii Pacific from 2004 through 2011) and recently promoted Assistant Coach Nicholas Milan (Kaimuki ’04) from his Director of Basketball Operations position. It will be one of just three scheduled home series for UH. The Titans had their series with UC Davis cancelled on January 5th due to the updated Yolo County health order but were able to add a non-conference game on two days notice (scheduled on January 14th, played on the 16th), hosting PacWest member Concordia. A 69-51 win gave Cal State Fullerton their first win of the season. Interestingly enough, the only win for each of these teams has come against PacWest members (UH beat Hawaii Hilo). The Titans have struggled this season, especially after their preseason all-conference shooting guard Taylor Turney opted out prior to the season opener.
- On November 11th, the Big West Conference was the first to have a team (CSUN) opt out of its season due to COVID-19. Since then, we’ve seen many conference games postponed or flat-out cancelled. On December 30th, Duke became the first big name women’s program to opt out of its remaining season. Since the beginning of last week, three more teams opted out of their remaining season: San Jose State (Mountain West), Virginia (ACC) and Vanderbilt (SEC). Also, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame selection and current Baylor women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey came out this past Saturday after a loss to Iowa State and said because of “the NCAA’s need for the almighty dollar, that is more important than the health and welfare of me, players or anybody else.” The season will continue despite differences between conferences and the confusion with everyone. Teams continue to play during the pandemic. This also could mark the first weekend for the Big West Conference where all originally scheduled games will go on and be play. We also know that players have opted out this season, most notably reigning Freshman of the Year Ila Lane (UC Santa Barbara) and 2019-20 Second-Team All-Big West selection Taylor Turney (Cal State Fullerton). Both players did so prior to the season beginning. To the first of our knowledge, UH is the first school to have someone opt out during the season. Somewhere between January 1st and January 13th (UH’s travel day to CSU Bakersfield), freshman guard Teionnai McDaniel opted out.
For any video/live stats/radio links for the women’s games, click here.