Saturday, January 1, 2000

R A I N B O W _ B A S K E T B A L L

As UH wins, attendance
shows a steady rise

By Pat Bigold


It took Hawaii fans a long time to warm up to the 1999-2000 UH men's basketball team.

Turnstile counts averaged just over 3,000 until the Rainbows played and beat previously unbeaten Creighton on Dec. 22. That's when the Rainbows' following began to swell.

There were 3,338 for the Western Illinois game on Dec. 21 but that jumped to 4,065 the next night for Creighton.

The fan count jumped to 5,685 for the Bradley opener in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, increased to 6,406 for the Colorado game and peaked at 7,040 for the Oregon game.

The increase in fan support might be tied to the fact that Hawaii has lately shown it can play with better known opponents boasting strong credentials. Creighton was 9-0 before losing to Hawaii, and had beaten Iowa, the team that upset national champion UConn.

Although Bradley was 4-4 in meeting the Rainbows, the Braves were a preseason pick to win Creighton's conference (Missouri Valley) and had already played No. 4 Auburn and No. 20 Illinois.

The Buffaloes were a 7-2 Big 12 team when they faced Hawaii, and on Dec. 4 had clobbered a strong California team that is 8-3.

Oregon was fresh off wins against two teams -- Wake Forest and Gonzaga -- that had spent most of the early season in the top 25. The Ducks had also beaten Dan Monson's Minnesota, which is now 8-2.

The Oregon perimeter corps of Alex Scales, Darius Wright and Frederick Jones is considered one of the best in the Pac-10. Against Hawaii, they scored a combined total of 24 points on 10 for 33 shooting.

Savovic confident

Rainbow Classic MVP Predrag Savovic said he thinks the experience of playing and losing badly to USC on the road on Dec. 8 can only help Hawaii open the Western Athletic Conference season on the road Jan. 8 at UTEP (8-3).

"It was a learning lesson for us," said Savovic. "We'll be better from it."

Savovic won two tournament MVP trophies (tied with Marquette Alexander) in nonconference play this year.

At least one NBA scout expressed some interest in Savovic after the classic.

It was the redshirt sophomore guard's ability to wear down, frustrate and overpower talented opponents like Colorado's Jaquay Walls and Oregon's Scales on both offense and defense that caught the scout's eye.

Not only did Scales score only four points against Savovic on Thursday night but he committed his fourth and fifth fouls trying to defend him.

In trying to get around the 6-foot-6 European, Scales shot only 2-for-11 and Walls shot 2-for-12. That's 17 percent shooting in two days by Savovic's defensive assignments.

Hawaii 73rd in RPI

Hawaii's latest ranking in the College RPI is 73rd out of 318 teams.

The Rainbows' strength of schedule is 238th.

The RPI is a measure of strength of schedule against Division I teams and how a team does against that schedule.

It is used by the NCAA as one factor in deciding which teams to invite to the 64-team tournament.

The formula is 25% team winning percentage, 50% opponents' average winning percentage, and 25% opponents' opponents' average winning percentage.

The teams Hawaii beat in the last two games, Oregon and Colorado, are 17th and 30th, respectively, in the RPI.

The Sagarin ratings in USA Today rank Hawaii 76th overall and 311th in strength of schedule.

To Hawaii's credit, it has played USC on the road, Creighton, Bradley, Colorado and Oregon at home and will face a strong WAC this year. WAC teams are 64-30 overall in nonconference play.

The Rainbows must play recently ranked Tulsa (51st in the RPI) on the road on Jan. 22.
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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