POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 09, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 11:38 a.m. HST, Mar 09, 2011
Come closer, because I have to whisper this. Go ahead and make your plans to be at the Stan Sheriff Center next Tuesday. But do it quietly, please. Don't distract the University of Hawaii men's basketball team. If the Rainbows even know that they're a lock to play in the postseason (that is, if the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament counts), they aren't talking about it.
They're in Las Vegas at the WAC tournament and they've got a bigger target ... the NCAA Tournament. But in order to get there, they must achieve the unprecedented by winning four games in four days.
The Rainbows are in a strange spot. Is it possible to look ahead in two directions?
They must guard against peeking past today's first-round opponent — San Jose State, which they've already beaten twice — and thinking about further down the bracket closer to the one golden ticket.
And, if they do know about the CIT (and, really, how could they not?), they must resist the idea of relaxing because they're already guaranteed more basketball after this week.
Toss in the Sin City and lack of conference tourney experience factors, and you'd think Gib Arnold (a rookie himself as a Division I head coach in this situation) might have a big challenge when it comes to keeping his young team focused.
But the coach said as much as possible it's business as usual.
"Two weeks ago we didn't even know we'd be here," said Arnold, who is trying to maintain some sense of normalcy — or as much of that as you can when your team must walk by blackjack tables and banks of slot machines just to get to the team bus.
"We're trying to keep everything as simple as possible, everything the same. Study hall, practice, same routine."
SOME OF THE more suspect and tiresome theories enter heavy rotation this time every year. Unfortunately, a couple of them are being liberally applied to the Rainbows' situation.
The cool thing to say these days is, "I'm not a good-loss guy."
My question is, who is? Who is responsible for putting this ridiculous notion out there in the first place?
Just to be clear, that 85-70 UH loss at Fresno State on Saturday wasn't good. It was bad. It ended a five-game winning streak. But you take what you can from it.
"I'd probably say we had too many good losses. I'd rather have bad wins than good losses," Arnold said. "But you do learn from (a loss like the one at Fresno). You do have your team's attention a little more after that.
"We were trying to win that game like we try to win any other game, but they got us. (Fresno State coach) Steve Cleveland said that was the best basketball they played all year. They'd just lost a bitter one against Idaho, on a last-second shot. So maybe that was a good loss for them."
Sometimes this makes sense and is a sign of good analysis, but more often it's the most pseudointellectual line of bull in all of sports. When a team beats an opponent twice, it's usually because the team that wins is better, and it's likely it will win the third time. Of course, sometimes it works the other way, which gives the geniuses all the ammo they need to perpetuate the nonsense.
When someone tells you this, ask why it's true in the specific case you're talking about. Chances are Mr. Expert will mumble something and slink away.
"We don't need to beat (San Jose State) three times," Arnold said. "Just once. It's down to a one-game season. Everybody's zero and zero.
"It's a completely new season. We can't have games back, we can't have practices back."
THERE'S NO reason to expect the Rainbows' frontcourt domination against the Spartans to end today, and unless Zane Johnson cools off from outside, he can match SJSU star scorer Adrian Oliver's production.
Whatever happens, the Rainbows will still be in action next week.
And who expected that?