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Tuesday, September 23, 2014         

UH BASKETBALL PREVIEW


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VS.

A new coach, with new recruits and few returnees faces a daunting schedule with top-tier nonconference and rugged WAC opponents

By Jason Kaneshiro

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After an offseason devoted to recruiting, planning and practice, the Hawaii basketball team will test its preparation against a schedule presenting a variety of challenges.

Before the Rainbow Warriors reach the always arduous Western Athletic Conference schedule, they'll be tested by playing:

» On short rest: UH opens the season by playing three games in four days in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic.

» Under the national spotlight: Their Rainbow Classic game against Central Michigan will be televised on ESPN.

» On the road: The newcomers will experience the challenges of travel with a two-game mainland trek in early December and face Chicago State on Maui.

» Against top-tier competition: The 'Bows visit nationally ranked Brigham Young and open the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic against a Florida State team coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, with a possible second-round matchup with national runner-up Butler.

"Our nonconference has anywhere from three to four Top-25 teams," first-year head coach Gib Arnold said.

COACHES

Here's how the WAC coaches predicted the teams will finish.
School (First-place votes)
1. Utah State (8)
2. New Mexico State (1)
3. Nevada
T4. Boise State
T4. Fresno State
6. San Jose State
7. Louisiana Tech
8. Idaho
9. Hawaii

 

MEDIA

Here's how the WAC media members predicted the teams will finish.
School (First-place votes)
1. Utah State (19)
2. New Mexico State (8)
3. Nevada (2)
4. San Jose State (1)
5. Fresno State
6. Boise State
7. Louisiana Tech
8. Idaho
9. Hawaii

"So I like our preseason schedule. It was kind of in place when I got here. I like the idea of the Diamond Head Classic, of being able to bring in some Top 25 teams. It's going to be a phenomenal tournament."

Of course, all of that is just prelude to the conference season as the Rainbows seek a return to the WAC tournament after missing out last season.

The WAC coaches and media forecast similar struggles for the 'Bows in Arnold's inaugural run through the league with both polls placing UH last.

Utah State enters as the heavy preseason favorite to claim a fourth straight regular-season title. Defending WAC tournament champion New Mexico State is expected to provide the strongest challenge to Utah State's reign.

 

MONTANA STATE

Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic
Head coach: Brad Huse (fifth year)
2009-10 finish: 15-14, 10-6 Big Sky
Outlook: Like Hawaii, youth is the dominant feature of the Bobcats roster. Montana State adds 11 newcomers -- seven true freshmen, two redshirts and two transfers -- to a group of just four returnees. But the Bobcats welcome back their top two scorers of last season. Forward Bobby Howard was an All-Big Sky pick last year when he averaged 14.3 points, shooting 52 percent from the field, and 5.8 rebounds per game. Swing man Erik Rush scored 11.1.
Hawaii history: Hawaii has won all four meetings in the series, which began in 1965. Montana State served as UH's season-opening opponent in its last two visits (1988 and 1991).

CAL STATE FULLERTON

Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic
Head coach: Bob Burton (eighth year)
2009-10 finish: 16-15, 8-8 Big West
Outlook: Forward Jer'Vaughn Johnson is the lone returning starter from a team that led the Big West in scoring at 74.3 points per game and shooting (45 percent). The Titans will have significant holes to fill around him, including at point guard with the transfer of second-leading scorer Jacques Streeter. The questions contributed to a seventh-place showing in the Big West's preseason media poll. Senior guard Devon Peltier hit 76 3-pointers last season.
Hawaii history: The Titans lead the series 2-1, winning the last meeting in 2008 90-76 behind Josh Akognon's Stan Sheriff Center-record 41 points.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic
Head coach: Ernie Zeigler (fifth year)
2009-10 finish: 15-15, 9-7 MAC West
Outlook: The Chippewas are again expected to contend for the Mid-American Conference's West Division title after finishing atop the standings the last two seasons. Central Michigan was the MAC's top 3-point shooting team at 37.2 percent while hitting 7.6 per game. Freshman Trey Zeigler, a 6-5 guard and son of CMU's head coach, enters the program as a heralded freshman and was named to the preseason All-MAC West team.
Hawaii history: Hawaii and CMU have never met, though both participated in the 2003 EA Sports Maui Invitational.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS

Head coach: Corliss Williamson (first year)
2009-10 finish: 9-21, 3-13 Southland
Outlook: Better known for leading Arkansas to a national championship and winning an NBA title with the Pistons, Williamson guides the Bears into their first season as a full-fledged Division I program. He'll try to invigorate an offense that ranked last in the Southland in scoring (63.2 ppg) and shooting (41.1 percent). Senior forward Tadre Sheppard leads the returnees after averaging 11.6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds. He also blocked 51 shots to rank third in the Southland Conference.
Hawaii history: UH and UCA have never met. Williamson was named MVP of the 1994 Rainbow Classic when he led Arkansas to the title.

ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF

Head coach: George Ivory (third year)
2009-10 finish: 18-16, 14-4 SWAC
Outlook: The Golden Lions lost their first 11 games before going on an 18-5 run that included a SWAC tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament opening-round victory over Winthrop. The season ended with a loss to eventual national champion Duke. They won't play a regular-season home game until Jan. 4. They lost six of their top seven scorers and return second-leading scorer Savalance Townsend (9.9 ppg) to a roster with just three seniors.
Hawaii history: UH and APB have never met. Ivory played against UH in 1986 with Mississippi Valley State.

CAL POLY

At San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Head coach: Joe Callero (second year)
2009-10 finish: 12-19, 7-9 Big West
Outlook: A year removed from a last-place finish in the Big West, the Mustangs made significant strides in Callero's first season and return most of their rotation, including three starters. Senior guard Shawn Lewis' 11.8 ppg leads the returnees. Forward David Hanson was an honorable mention All-Big West selection after picking up his production in league play to finish at 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Hawaii history: The Mustangs scored a 102-89 win at the Stan Sheriff Center last year and host the Rainbows in a return game.

BRIGHAM YOUNG

At Salt Lake City
Head coach: Dave Rose (sixth year)
2009-10 finish: 30-6, 13-3 Mountain West
Outlook: Expectations have steadily risen over Rose's five seasons in Provo, Utah, and the Cougars begin the season ranked 24th in the Associated Press preseason poll. BYU won a school-record 30 games last season, including an NCAA Tournament win over Florida, and feature preseason Associated Press All-American Jimmer Fredette. The 6-2 guard led the MWC with 22.1 ppg last season. Guard Jackson Emery hit a team-high 85 3-pointers and led the MWC with 91 steals. Freshman Kyle Collinsworth adds to the Cougars' firepower.
Hawaii history: BYU raised its series lead to 32-14 with an 83-65 win in Honolulu last season.

HAWAII PACIFIC

Head coach: Darren Vorderbruegge (third year)
2009-10 finish: 19-8, 11-5 Pacific West (D-II)
Outlook: Vorderbruegge, who was hired to coach the Sea Warriors in 2006 before taking on athletic director duties, returns to the bench following the retirement of Tony Sellitto. The coaching transition coincides with a roster makeover that includes 14 newcomers joining the program and no returning starters.
Hawaii history: UH and HPU have met just once in a regular-season game. The Sea Warriors won the 1985 contest 79-69.

CHICAGO STATE

At Lahaina
Head coach: Tracy Dildy (first year)
2009-10 finish: 9-23, 4-8 Great West
Outlook: Hawaii figures to have a head start on a scouting report on the Cougars given that assistant Benjy Taylor was Chicago State's head coach last season. Dildy was hired to replace Taylor and inherits a team that returns leading scorers Carl Montgomery and Christian Wall. Montgomery, a 6-7 forward, scored 13.4 points per game while leading the Cougars with 8.4 rebounds per game. Wall, a senior guard averaged 12.3 points last season and dished out a team-high 92 assists.
Hawaii history: Hawaii defeated Chicago State the last two seasons, winning 83-58 last year.

FLORIDA STATE

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Leonard Hamilton (eighth year)
2009-10 finish: 22-10, 10-6 Atlantic Coast
Outlook: Hawaii's opening-round opponent in the DHC, the Seminoles were picked to finish fifth in the ACC coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last March. Chris Singleton, an ACC preseason all-conference selection, averaged 10.2 points last season, but is regarded as one of the nation's top defensive players. The 6-7 forward led the ACC with 71 steals and blocked 48 shots.
Hawaii history: Hawaii and Florida State met twice in 1971. The first meeting famously ended in an FSU forfeit. UH won the second game 81-76. FSU placed fifth in the 1998 Rainbow Classic.

BAYLOR

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Scott Drew (eighth season)
2009-10 finish: 28-8, 11-5 Big 12
Outlook: Drew took over a program in shambles in 2003. Last season, the Bears set a school record with 28 wins, reaching the Elite Eight in their third consecutive postseason appearance. They enter the new season ranked 14th in the preseason coaches' poll and 16th by the AP. But there has been some preseason intrigue with the suspension of leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn. He hit a school-record 116 3-pointers and is within reach of the Big 12's all-time scoring record. Forward Quincy Acy is the Bears' top returning rebounder (5.1 rpg) and averaged 9.3 points.
Hawaii history: Baylor lost in its only game against UH in 1994. The Stan Sheriff Center is modeled after Baylor's Ferrell Center.

BUTLER

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Brad Stevens (fourth year)
2009-10 finish: 33-5, 18-0 Horizon
Outlook: Butler has certainly outgrown the mid-major label, evidenced by its run to the national championship game before coming up two points short against Duke. Stevens already has 89 wins in three seasons and the Bulldogs again begin the year in the Top 20 in both polls. Gordon Hayward, last year's spotlight player, has moved on to the NBA, but the Bulldogs return ample firepower in preseason Horizon League player of the year Shelvin Mack (14.1 ppg, 72 3-pointers) and forward Matt Howard (11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg).
Hawaii history: Butler finished second in the 2002 Rainbow Classic, blowing a 21-point second half lead in an 81-78 overtime loss to UH.

UTAH

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Jim Boylen (fourth year)
2009-10 finish: 14-17, 7-9 Mountain West
Outlook: The Runnin' Utes, who won 12 league titles in the last 19 years, will try to rebound from a rare sub-.500 season in their final year in the Mountain West. The Utes lost their top three scorers and will build around 7-3 center David Foster, the MWC's defensive player of the year with a school-record 115 blocks last season. Senior forward Jay Watkins is the team's top returning scorer and rebounder with 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds. The Utes were picked sixth in the MWC before moving on to the Pac-10.
Hawaii history: A former UH rival in the Western Athletic Conference, the Utes lead the series 47-11.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Rick Stansbury (13th year)
2009-10 finish: 24-12, 9-7 Southeastern West
Outlook: The Bulldogs return three starters to a lineup that won the SEC West and closed the season in the second round of the NIT. They will have to deal with the absence of suspended guard Dee Bost, who will sit out the first nine games due to an eligibility issue. Bost was a preseason All-SEC selection along with backcourt partner Ravern Johnson, the team's top returning scorer at 13.2 points per game. Kodi Augustus (8.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is the top frontcourt returnee.
Hawaii history: The Bulldogs last played UH in 1987, winning 68-55.

SAN DIEGO

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Bill Grier (fourth year)
2009-10 finish: 11-21, 3-11 West Coast
Outlook: Grier has some rebuilding ahead of him to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in the West Coast Conference. Guard Matt Dorr (5.4 ppg) is the lone returning starter for a team that lost about 60 percent of its scoring. Sophomore forwards Ken Rancifer and Chris Manresa will look to play more prominent roles in the frontcourt. Even with the roster losses, Grier brought in just one JC transfer in point guard Darian Norris, an all-region performer at Salt Lake Community College.
Hawaii history: The Toreros christened former UH coach Bob Nash's tenure with a 73-72 win to open the 2007-08 season.

WASHINGTON STATE

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Head coach: Ken Bone (second year)
2009-10 finish: 16-15, 6-12 Pac-10
Outlook: The Cougars struggled in the post-Derrick Low era, falling to last in the Pac-10 last season. The Cougars are expected to improve significantly, picked to finish fifth this season with all five starters returning. The guard-heavy lineup is led by 6-6 junior Klay Thompson, who led the Cougars with 19.6 ppg while converting 76 3-pointers. Reggie Moore was the team's second-leading scorer at 12.7 ppg as a freshman. DeAngelo Casto averaged 10.7 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Hawaii history: WSU lost to UH in 1953 and has won the four meetings since, the last coming in 1991. The Cougars played in the 1996 Rainbow Classic.

BOISE STATE

Head coach: Leon Rice (first year)
2009-10 finish: 15-17, 5-11 (eighth)
Outlook: Rice, an assistant at Gonzaga for the last 11 seasons, takes over for Greg Graham. He's preparing for his lone season in the WAC before the Broncos' jump to the Mountain West with a roster returning four of its top five scorers. Forwards Robert Arnold (11.8 ppg) and Daequon Montreal (10.8) were the most productive performers among the holdovers. Guard La'Shard Anderson (9.9 ppg) led the WAC with 83 steals. Paul Noonan is the team's top 3-point threat, hitting 64 from beyond the arc last season.
Hawaii history: The Broncos lead the series 10-9. They split their meetings with UH last season.

FRESNO STATE

Head coach: Steve Cleveland (sixth year)
2009-10 finish: 15-18, 7-9 (fifth)
Outlook: The Bulldogs made strides from a last-place finish in 2009 to move into the middle of the pack last year. But they'll have to deal with the departure of leading scorer Paul George, the 10th overall pick in the NBA Draft, and forward Sylvester Seay (14.2 ppg). Center Greg Smith will try to build upon a season that earned him WAC freshman of the year honors with 11.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg. Cleveland added nine newcomers to the roster, and New Mexico transfer Jonathan Wills, a 6-6 guard, is eligible this season.
Hawaii history: The Bulldogs swept UH last season and lead the series 25-16.

IDAHO

Head coach: Don Verlin (third year)
2009-10 finish: 15-16, 6-10 (tied sixth)
Outlook: The Vandals are in rebuilding mode with the loss of four starters who accounted for nearly three-quarters of the team's scoring. The turnover contributed to the Vandals being picked eighth in the WAC preseason polls. Forward Brandon Wiley returns after redshirting last season due to a back injury. Wiley was the Vandals' leading rebounder in 2008-09 and averaged 8.2 points. Forward Renaldo Parker was a junior college All-American at North Idaho College.
Hawaii history: The Vandals have won four of the last five meetings and lead the series 11-5.

LOUISIANA TECH

Head coach: Kerry Rupp (fifth year)
2009-10 finish: 24-11, 9-7 (fourth)
Outlook: The leaders who paced the Bulldogs to the program's highest win total since the 1984-85 season and a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament are gone, leaving Rupp with considerable gaps to fill. Forward Magnum Rolle was a second-round NBA Draft pick and among three starters who averaged more than 30 minutes per game. Forward Olu Ashaolu (10.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg) posted 10 double-doubles last season. Guard DeAndre Brown (10.6 ppg, 3.4 assists per game) is the lone senior on a roster that includes eight newcomers.
Hawaii history: The Bulldogs swept UH last season and lead the series 12-7.

NEVADA

Head coach: David Carter (second year)
2009-10 finish: 21-13, 11-5 (second, tied)
Outlook: Losing two underclassmen to the NBA in forward Luke Babbitt, the WAC Player of the Year, and point guard Armon Johnson along with two other double-figure scorers will certainly test Carter in his second season leading the Wolf Pack. Forward Dario Hunt's 6.5 ppg leads the group of returnees. Hunt's primary contributions came on defense, ranking second in the league with 66 blocked shots. The Pack will have the services of two Division I transfers who sat out last season in guard Malik Story (Indiana) and forward Olek Czyz (Duke).
Hawaii history: UH's home win last season snapped an eight-game skid against the Wolf Pack, who lead the series 17-10.

NEW MEXICO STATE

Head coach: Marvin Menzies (fourth year)
2009-10 finish: 22-12, 11-5 (second, tied)
Outlook: The Aggies return three starters from a team that swept through the WAC tournament and nearly knocked off Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament. But forward Wendell McKines (10.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg) is expected to miss most of the nonconference schedule with a broken foot. His absence shifts the spotlight to Troy Gillenwater (10.3 8.0), a preseason All-WAC pick, and center Hamidu Rahman (10.3, 8.0). Replacing high-scoring guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson will be among Menzies' chief challenges.
Hawaii history: The Aggies have won the last four meetings with UH by an average of 16.4 points and lead the series 11-2.

SAN JOSE STATE

Head coach: George Nessman (sixth year)
2009-10 finish: 14-17, 6-10 (sixth, tied)
Outlook: WAC defenses will have one more shot at trying to contain Spartans guard Adrian Oliver. Not much worked last season, when Oliver led the league in scoring at 22.5 ppg. He scored more than 30 points eight times, including a 33-point performance against UH. Justin Graham also returns to the backcourt after dishing out 4.8 assists per game last season. Generating production from a rebuilt front line will be a key. The Spartans haven't finished higher than sixth in the WAC since the 1999-2000 season, and were picked fourth by the media this fall.
Hawaii history: UH claimed a 68-67 win in Honolulu and lost in San Jose 83-60 . The Rainbows lead the series 23-11.

UTAH STATE

Head coach: Stew Morrill (13th year)
2009-10 finish: 27-8, 14-2 (first)
Outlook: The Aggies don't always feature the WAC's most dynamic lineup, but their execution and efficiency have fueled their remarkable consistency since joining the league in 2005. They are 28-4 in WAC play over the last two seasons on their way to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. USU has posted at least 23 wins each of the last 11 seasons and much of the same is expected this season with four starters back. All-WAC forward Tai Wesley (13.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg) leads a lineup favored to win a fourth straight WAC regular-season title. USU outscored its opponents by more than 13 points per game last season, thanks largely to the WAC's stingiest defense (59.9 ppg).
Hawaii history: The Aggies handed UH its most lopsided WAC loss in school history (98-54) last season and raised its series lead to 10-4.






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