POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 25, 2011
The University of Hawaii men's basketball team got a milestone victory last night, and the most encouraging part about it was the Rainbow Warriors made it look easy.
If a breakthrough can be a laugher, then the 71-58 clubbing of Louisiana Tech certainly qualified.
The triumph was an overdue accomplishment of note on a couple of fronts: It clinched a place in the Western Athletic Conference tournament for the Rainbow Warriors and guaranteed a winning season.
If that doesn't sound like a lot, then you have fortuitously missed the depths to which 'Bows basketball had fallen to in recent years.
At 16-10 (6-7 in conference) now, UH has finally ended the ignominy of three consecutive losing seasons and frustration of being the only team left out of the WAC tournament.
The latter would have been particularly embarrassing had it continued this season when WAC basketball has been at its lowest point in decades, if not ever.
Instead, that dubious distinction will likely befall last night's victim, Louisiana Tech (12-17, 2-11), while UH is in sixth place and, mathematically at least, still has a shot at third place with three conference games remaining.
The way the Rainbows went about breaking down and dispatching the Bulldogs last night was a reminder for the 4,900 or so on hand of how it was for the 'Bows last year when UH was a team — and program — going nowhere. And why an overhaul was required.
Just how downtrodden was underlined in the preseason when they were pretty much a universal pick to finish dead last in the WAC.
Instead, they have amassed the most victories since the 2006-07 team that went 18-13. With at least four games remaining, UH can take aim at the best mark since 2003-04, when the 'Bows went 21-12.
That says a lot about this year's team. What says even more, however, is that the Rainbows hardly seem inclined to rest on putting a dark past behind them and are intent on taking this turnaround to unimagined lengths.
Beyond records, the most encouraging thing to emerge from this season is that a tide has turned for UH to a point where celebrations of milestones such as last night's are no longer required or noted.
The hope is that the days when there is any drama attached to just making the WAC tournament — or Big West as the case will soon be — are now behind us. The wish is that we'll be able to celebrate what the Rainbows accomplish rather than give a sigh at what they have managed to avoid.
You'd like to think that piling up winning seasons and making tournament fields should be the expectation rather than celebratory occasions. Once upon a time they were.
Maybe last night's victory was big a step toward making it that way again.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.