By Gary Dickman.
One of my takeaways from this season of UH men’s basketball is that no lead is safe, and it’s been amazing how many games have come down to the final minute, or even the last possession. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. Yes, I wish that the ‘Bows could have won a few more of these games, but with everything they’ve gone through, I give them credit for where they are now.
There have been past seasons when the team kind of flamed out in late February and early March. Maybe they peaked too early, or fatigue set in with all the travel. I’m seeing a team that looks like it’s still growing, and improving at the end of the regular season. There have been seasons where I knew that come tournament time, UH could easily go to the finals or lose in the first round. It seems to be a reoccurring theme, and it’s kind of true this year as well. Hawaii has taken the top two teams in the Big West, Santa Barbara and UC Irvine, to overtime, winning one of the two. In four games against the top teams, they were in each game until the last minute. In fact, the one game they won, 62-61, vs Irvine in January, was the game with the largest deficit. UH trailed by 11 with under five minutes left and pulled a win out of almost certain defeat.
So we do know a lot more about this team and their identity than we did a month ago. This team has no quit in them, which I really admire. They’re never really out of any game. Hawaii is 7-4 after a four-game losing streak. And two of those losses were in overtime. So close to being 9-2 over these last 11. The main thing is that this team hasn’t peaked yet, and hopefully will now that it’s March. Also, it looks like UH will finish in the top six in the conference, more importantly, not in seventh place or lower, which would mean being in the play-in round,
Okay, about that. Where might Hawaii end up after Saturday’s regular season finale vs UC Davis? With only two games left, Hawaii could finish anywhere from fourth place to seventh place. To finish in the top six they only need to either win one game this week, or have Long Beach State and CSUN lose once. I’m very confident one of those will happen. It does get confusing and a little complicated with the other possibilities, but here are the basics: If UH sweeps UC Davis, they’ll finish either fourth or fifth. They’d finish in a virtual tie with Bakersfield, but finish behind Bakersfield by less than half of a decimal point. They’d overtake Davis, but need Riverside to lose twice to CSUN this week – possible, but not likely. I think UH will split with Davis, which would put them as the six seed in the Big West Tournament. They’d play either Davis or Riverside in the quarterfinals. The team that’s the sixth seed will play on Thursday March 11, at 6:30 p.m. Hawaii time, that’s definite. I do see a strong possibility of UH as a six seed, playing Davis as the third seed.
It’s March, obviously. My favorite sporting event has been the NCAA Tournament, there’s nothing like it. I love everything the tournament is. This year, I do have mixed emotions. Last year, at this time, I was ready to go on my annual March trip back east. I had tickets for the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden. We know how that worked out. I used to wonder which four teams I would have gotten to see. When all this happened, I figured, “There’s always next year.” And the Sweet 16 was going to be in Brooklyn, New York, at Barclays Center. I was going to go to that to make up for last year. As I write this, I have mixed emotions about March Madness because again I won’t have the opportunity to watch some games in person. So much about the tournament will be different this year. All the games being played in Indianapolis, and only a small amount of fans will be allowed to attend. It won’t be the same. I’m glad the tournament will be held, unlike last year. It’s still kind of hard to accept how things have changed in sports. I hope next year, at least, we’ll be back to normalcy with sports. And, by the way, the Sweet 16 will be in Philadelphia next year, and so will I. I hope.
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