No NIT for injury- riddled ’Bows
Coach Wallace is sorry the season is over for the team he thinks of as a special group
A season that got off to a promising start officially ended yesterday when the Hawaii basketball team was not extended a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
The Rainbow Warriors were not in the 40-team field when the NIT brackets were revealed yesterday and missed out on the postseason for the second straight year
UH opened the season with a win over then-No. 4 Michigan State and began Western Athletic Conference play with victories over Utah State and Nevada. But injuries robbed the 'Bows of their depth and the season ended at 17-11 with a loss to New Mexico State in the WAC tournament quarterfinals Thursday.
"It's tough because the anticipation after the start of the season was really good. We felt like we really had a chance to compete at the top of the league," UH coach Riley Wallace said.
"Then you lost (guards Bobby Nash and Matt Gibson), and then you lost Milos (Zivanovic) and then you lost Ahmet (Gueye), and that made it really, really tough. But then you have to give the guys credit for stepping up and still coming through with 17 wins and some quality wins."
This season marks only the second time in Wallace's 19-year tenure as coach that a UH team won at least 17 games and didn't advance to the postseason. The other was the 1999-2000 team that went 17-12.
The end of the season also signaled the close of the college careers of seniors Chris Botez, Matthew Gipson, Julian Sensley and Deonte Tatum.
"You'd like to have something better for them. It just wasn't to be," Wallace said.
The Rainbows returned home from Reno yesterday afternoon still hoping to get an NIT berth, and Wallace felt UH's chances improved when WAC regular-season and tournament runner-up Utah State made the NCAA Tournament's field of 65.
But the call didn't come and Louisiana Tech (20-11) ended up as the only WAC member invited to the NIT. The Bulldogs will play at Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference in an opening round game on Wednesday.
WAC champion Nevada and Utah State will represent the WAC in the NCAA Tournament. Nevada is the fifth seed in the Minneapolis region and plays Montana in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Utah State, the 12th seed in the Washington D.C. region, faces Washington on Thursday in San Diego.
Although the season ended earlier than the Rainbows hoped, Wallace praised the efforts of an often-shorthanded Rainbow squad.
"I got a lot of satisfaction out of coaching these kids this year because they did everything you asked and they were very coachable," he said.
The NIT was purchased by the NCAA in the offseason, and among the 40 teams invited, four are in the Mountain time zone (Brigham Young, Colorado, Northern Arizona and UTEP), and just one is from the West Coast (Stanford).
Cincinnati, Maryland, Michigan and Louisville received No. 1 seeds.
The Hawaii women's team will learn today whether its 18-10 record and third-place regular-season finish in the WAC was enough to earn a WNIT bid.
Head to head: UH went 4-4 against NCAA Tournament teams this season. The Rainbows split the season series with Nevada and Utah State, upset MSU and beat Northwestern State in the Rainbow Classic. They lost at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and at home to Penn.
Island hopping: Along with the two WAC teams, eight teams made stops in Hawaii on their way to the Big Dance.
Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Gonzaga, Kansas and Michigan State participated in the EA Sports Maui Invitational in November. Northwestern State and Penn played UH at the Stan Sheriff Center in December.
UConn won the Maui Invitational title and is the top seed in the Washington region.
All times Hawaii time
Fairleigh Dickinson (20-11) at Manhattan (18-10), 2 p.m.
Miami (Ohio) (18-10) at Butler (19-12), 2 p.m.
Rutgers (18-13) at Penn State (15-14), 3 p.m.
Delaware State (20-13) at Northern Arizona (21-10), 4:30 p.m.
Georgia Southern (20-9) at Charlotte (18-12), TBA
Akron (22-9) at Temple (17-14), TBA
Lipscomb (21-10) at UTEP (20-9), TBA
Virginia (15-14) at Stanford (15-13), TBA
Western Kentucky (23-7) at South Carolina (18-15), 2 p.m.
Louisiana Tech (20-12) at Clemson (18-12), 2 p.m.
Wake Forest (17-16) at Minnesota (15-14), 2 p.m.
BYU (20-8) at Houston (20-9), 3:30 p.m.
Oklahoma State (17-15) at Miami (16-15), 4 p.m.
Old Dominion (21-9) at Colorado (20-9), 4 p.m.
Vanderbilt (17-12) at Notre Dame (15-13), TBA