RAINBOW WARRIOR BASKETBALL
Rainbows make it to the halfway mark still alive
Hawaii hopes victories against Idaho and San Jose State will get it back in the WAC race
At the halfway point of the Western Athletic Conference season, there's still a lot of time for the league standings to get shuffled in the month leading up to the conference tournament.
And with three games separating first and sixth place, chances are the seedings will look significantly different when eight teams convene in Reno for the tournament in early March.
UH VS. IDAHO
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
Internet: audio, Sportsradio1420.com; video, hawaiiantelmedia.com
Promotion: Military Appreciation Night. Members of the armed services receive two-for-one ticket discounts by presenting their military ID (limit 20 tickets per ID).
Louisiana Tech set the pace over the first half of the conference season, but the race remains tough to call with Utah State and Nevada lurking just behind the Bulldogs.
After eight games, Hawaii (10-8, 4-4 WAC) finds itself in the middle of the pack, tied with Fresno State and three games out of the lead. The Rainbow Warriors' remaining schedule appears favorable as only two upcoming opponents -- New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech -- currently have winning WAC records.
The Rainbows will try to get off to a strong start to the second half of the WAC season tonight and Saturday against Idaho (3-15, 0-7) and San Jose State (5-14, 1-5) at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"We have to put the past behind us," UH guard Matt Lojeski said. "I think we're a little disappointed to be 4-4. But all we can do now is work hard to get better and just focus on what we have ahead of us.
"If there's any time (to make a move), we have to do it now. We have to get nice little run going."
As Hawaii and the rest of the WAC gear up for the sprint toward the WAC tournament, here's a look at some of the story lines that surfaced over the first half of the WAC season:
» Player of the year: Paul Millsap, Louisiana Tech.
The nation's leading rebounder (12.7 per game) and the WAC's second leading scorer (20.8 points per game) has consistently posted remarkable numbers in his junior season. He's on track to become the first player to win three national rebounding titles.
His production so far gives him a slight edge over the reigning WAC POY, Nevada forward Nick Fazekas (20.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg).
» Top newcomer: Quinton
Hosley, Fresno State.
Although the Bulldogs won't play in the postseason, Hosley is making the most of his first year of Division I ball. The junior college all-American's all-around game has him third in the league in both scoring (18.6) and rebounding (9.4) and first in steals (2.47 per game).
» Biggest surprise (for now): New Mexico State.
Not much was expected of a youthful Aggies team in its first year in the league, and a 4-7 start didn't raise expectations. But first-year coach Reggie Theus' team started the WAC season 3-1 and enters the week at 4-3.
Staying in the upper half of the standings won't be easy. NMSU has two games each against Nevada and Utah State, a home game against Louisiana Tech, and a trip to Hawaii left on the schedule.
» Most telling stat: Hawaii's shooting at home vs. on the road.
The numbers reflect the Rainbows' schizophrenic nature. The 'Bows are 10-2 at the Sheriff Center, where they average nearly 72 points and shoot 45 percent. The point production drops 10 points per game and their shooting falls to 21 percent -- including 17-for-93 (18 percent) from 3-point range -- in six road losses.
» Most common complaint: The schedule.
With nine teams, a far-flung league, and a new television deal, the WAC's comfy Thursday-Saturday setup had to be tossed this season. UH's four games over a week's span is just one example of the quirks teams have dealt with, and it's tough to find a coach totally happy his team's schedule. The WAC's return to ESPN's Big Monday package complicated matters.
» Most impressive win (nonconference): Hawaii over Michigan State.
The Rainbows' 84-62 season-opening victory over the then-No. 4 Spartans is the only win by a WAC team over a nationally ranked opponent this season. But injuries hampered UH's ability to build on the program's landmark win.
Nevada's win at Kansas on Dec. 1 also boosted the WAC's profile.
» Most impressive win (WAC): Utah State over Nevada.
After going 84-20 in their last six seasons in the Big West, the Aggies were expected to compete for the WAC title in their first season. They haven't disappointed and their 59-53 road win over the Wolf Pack last week reinforced their place as contenders.
» Best in the clutch: Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs are 5-0 in games decided by five points or less. They started the conference season with a 75-72 win at Boise State when Millsap tossed in a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer, and pulled out a 68-66 overtime win at Fresno State on Saturday.
» Most curious stat: LaTech's attendance.
Despite the Bulldogs' hot start, they rank seventh in the WAC in attendance, averaging 2,548 in seven home dates.
» Far-too-early All-WAC team: Millsap, Fazekas, Hosley, Nate Harris (Utah State), Tyrone Nelson (NMSU).