By Gary Dickman.
Usually, every week I’ll write about basketball. And I will a little later. But I’m gonna start with our UH men’s volleyball team, as they get ready for next week’s NCAA Tournament. I don’t think it’s called the “Final Seven.” That’s how many teams will be in Columbus, Ohio next week.
I’ve experienced so many memorable UH games over the years, mostly in person. Last Friday was memorable, but for the wrong reasons. Our No.1-ranked Rainbow Warriors were a shoe-in to win the Big West tournament, that’s what we all thought. I’ll bet that the other five schools here felt the same way. But as the semifinal match in vs UC San Diego (who came in here with a 4-12 record) progressed, I realized this wasn’t going to be a sweep. When Hawaii was up 2-1, I thought that was surprising. My mind wandered and I had a thought that how crazy would it be if they went to five sets. But I doubted that could happen. And then the impossible became not only possible, but it happened. I was in shock like many of us, fans, players and coaches included. Every now and then I’ll watch a game with a seemingly impossible ending. And then later on that night, I’ll think to myself, “Did that really happen?” I felt so bad for the team that had a perfect season.
Kanoa Leahey on the TV broadcast said, “UC San Diego winning will shock the nation.” That might sound a little exaggerated, but amongst Volleyball fans, and around NCAA volleyball schools, they might have been more stunned then we were. As of now, this story had a happy ending. UH not only made the tournament as an at-large, but they’re the overall No. 1 seed. I know there are some that will say this team deserved the top seed, and the loss wasn’t going to affect them. I see it a little differently. I’m glad we don’t have to wonder, “What if?”, but if Lewis and BYU lost in their conference championship matches on Saturday, I don’t know that UH gets the at-large. Both BYU and Lewis have a higher RPI than Hawaii, so that was a big concern. There was a big sigh of relief when both won on Saturday, and it was great when those of us who woke up at 7:00 a.m. for the selection show on Sunday heard the good news. I was not among those of you that woke up that early. My days are usually more enjoyable when I don’t need an alarm clock and can sleep to whenever. I’m smiling just thinking of the best way to start a day.
Ok, now about that other sport, basketball. Normally, we’d be in the first round of the NBA playoffs this week, but the word “normally “ isn’t going to be used for a while. So we’ll have the dumb play-in tournament with the seventh through 10th seeds play for the right to make the playoffs. Don’t get me started on this now. Those preliminary playoffs start on May 18. The regular 16-team playoffs will start on May 22. We’re not that far away. I keep studying the standings and look at possible first-round matchups. I’m looking at one team in particular and I’m not sure they’ll have a playoff run like last year. That team is the LA Lakers. Right now, they’re the fifth seed in the West. They just got back Anthony Davis, who’s showing a little rust after almost two months on the IR. Then there’s that LeBron guy. He’s been out close to two months as well. They’ll get him back with about four to six games left in the regular season. He’ll be fresh, but rusty.
I doubt LA will push him when he returns, they’ll probably do the opposite. I expect them to limit his minutes to make sure he’s healthy. We can see how different these Lakers are without the Big Two. So assuming AD is back to form when the playoffs start, will that be enough? The main reason I ask that and wonder isn’t as much about the Lakers, it’s who they’ll play in the first round. It looks to be either Denver, the Clippers or Phoenix. They could fall back to the sixth seed, it’s possible, but Dallas better get better fast. And there’s a chance they could move up to No. 4. I’m pretty certain they’ll finish between four and six. Either way, the Lakers are gonna have a tough first-round opponent. Denver is the easiest of the possible opponents, without Jamal Murray they’re not the same. But if LBJ isn’t 100% or close to it, I could see the Lakers exiting these playoffs pretty quickly. And I really hope that happens.
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