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Hawaii basketball's most intriguing foe this season may be BYUH


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POSTED: Thursday, July 02, 2009

One of the toughest nonconference tests for the Hawaii men's basketball team in the 2009-10 season could arrive before the Rainbow Warriors notch an official “;W”; or “;L.”;

UH released a home-heavy schedule yesterday with 20 dates at the Stan Sheriff Center, the second straight year the Rainbows play that many contests there under coach Bob Nash.

Aside from the seven possible opponents in the inaugural Diamond Head Classic, only three of the Rainbows' nine known nonconference opponents notched winning records last year: BYU, New Mexico and Chicago State.

Potential Diamond Head foe USC is the only BCS conference opponent UH could face until a postseason game.

But island hoops fans should circle Nov. 5 on their calendars, when the other BYU—Brigham Young-Hawaii—makes the drive down from the North Shore to play the Rainbows in an exhibition.

BYUH was the last active men's basketball team in the state last year, as the Seasiders won two NCAA Division II West regional tournament games in Laie before falling to eventual national runner-up Cal Poly Pomona. UH, meanwhile, lost to Fresno State in the play-in game of the Western Athletic Conference tournament to end its season at 13-17.

Both teams return considerable senior talent in UH's Roderick Flemings and BYUH's Lucas Alves, last year's Daktronics NCAA II National Player of the Year.

BYUH coach Ken Wagner is excited to showcase his squad against the only Division I team within several thousand miles.

“;I think it's good for both programs,”; said Wagner, whose team finished 27-2 after Pomona won on a buzzer-beating putback. “;It's fun for our players.”;

Nash was unavailable for comment yesterday.

It will be the first meeting between the teams in a public setting since UH eked out a 63-56 exhibition win on Nov. 17, 2003, at the Sheriff.

UH will have about a week following that game to prepare for its true opener, against Southern Utah in the reformatted four-team Rainbow Classic. The Rainbows follow against McNeese State and Northern Colorado in a round-robin format.

Former WAC teams BYU (25-8 last season) and New Mexico (22-12) are the cream of the nonconference slate. The two Mountain West teams visit in November.

For the second straight year, the 'Bows take only one nonconference road trip—this time to play a BracketBusters return game at UC Irvine.

Getting off to a strong start in WAC play will be a must, as the 'Bows play five of their first seven league games at home.