'Bows start new classic today


POSTED: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's showtime.

When the inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic tips off today at the Stan Sheriff Center, eight teams from around the country will be showcased on national TV through Christmas.

The hardest aspect of the tournament for the Hawaii men's basketball team might not be the competition — though there are several solid teams — but staying within itself in the glaring national spotlight starting tonight at 7:30 against College of Charleston (5-4). A win would grant long-distance exposure in three of four days for the Rainbow Warriors (5-4) on ESPN2 and ESPNU, the most concentrated look they'll get this season barring a postseason run. The network is picking up 10 of the Classic's 12 games.

UH coach Bob Nash has encouraged his team to pay the ESPN cameras no heed. In the Rainbows' only national TV appearance so far this season, on ESPN against Northern Colorado on Nov. 16, the 'Bows deviated from the team concept to ill result: an 81-75 loss at home.





        Men's college basketball tournament at Stan Sheriff Center



» Saint Mary's vs. Northeastern, 10 a.m.


» Western Michigan vs. USC, noon


» SMU vs. UNLV, 5:30 p.m.


» College of Charleston at Hawaii, 7:30 p.m.


» TV: ESPNU. Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM (UH game)


“;We're just trying to keep the same face that we present every day in practice,”; Nash said. “;Don't all of a sudden because of the cameras or whatever, try to do something more spectacular or more special. Just do what you do, and do it to the best of your ability every day, and don't worry about who's watching and anything else, because you know it's going to be good enough.”;

The message seems to have gotten across, and the UH players are focused on denying the Cougars' strength: transition offense leading to barrages of 3-pointers.

“;Man, we're just getting ready like it would be any other game. It's a big tournament but you can't get overheated over it,”; forward Petras Balocka said. “;Be ready to do things we practice the same way. Come out and play good, that's all we gotta concentrate on.”;

Charleston jacks up a lot of 3s — 24.5 per game at a 34.8 percent conversion clip. Coach Bobby Cremins' team is coming off a successful season in which it went 27-9 and made the CBI second round. But the Cougars got walloped by No. 24 Clemson on Saturday night, 94-55, then spent most of Sunday traveling to Honolulu. Cremins, the winningest coach in Georgia Tech history, wasn't outwardly concerned about fatigue. He led the 1984, '88, and '94 Yellow Jackets to Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic, and took the title in '84.

“;I don't know, there might be (fatigue),”; Cremins said. “;It is what it is. I'm not here to get into that.”;



;  Conference: Southern
Coach: Bobby Cremins (fourth year)
Top players: G Andrew Goudelock (16.8 ppg), F Jeremy Simmons (13.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg), G Donavan Monroe (12.1 ppg)
Notes: Cremins has coached 872 career games, but never met Hawaii, and neither has Charleston. ... CofC is 1-4 on the road. ... Cougars are 3-0 in conference play. ... Goudelock and Tony White Jr. surpassed the 1,000-point plateau last season. ... CofC is without last year's fourth-leading scorer, Antwaine Wiggins (torn ACL), for the season.
Cremins: “;We know the competition's really good. We have good shooters, but we'll push it. But the bottom line is we got beat up pretty bad (94-55 by Clemson on Saturday), I hope we play better. We have our hands full here.”;



;  Conference: Western Athletic
Coach: Bob Nash (third year)
Top players: F Roderick Flemings (16.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg), F/C Petras Balocka 10.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg), G Dwain Williams (11.0 ppg).
Notes: UH is two victories short of 200 all-time at the Sheriff. ... Williams leads the WAC in free-throw shooting at 92.3 percent (24-for-26). ... Balocka is 23rd in the country in rebounding. ... Classic games are fourth, fifth and sixth of nine straight home contests for UH. ... A UH win vs. CofC would give Nash a career-best winning streak of four. ... Rainbows have outrebounded six of nine opponents this year. ... In last four games, Rainbows are averaging 49.8 ppg in second halves.
Nash: “;We thought this (nine-day) break gave all our guys an opportunity to get the reps and get the (defensive) message at the same time, and try to get as game ready as we possibly can. Whether or not the layoff will hurt us, I really don't know. I do think these guys are ready to play.”;



;  Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
Coach: Bill Coen (fourth year)
Top players: G/F Matt Janning (16.7 ppg), G Chaisson Allen (13.0 ppg), C Nkem Ojougboh (8.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg).
Notes: Classic is first leg of a 12-day road trip for Huskies. ... Eleven of 19 wins last year were on the road, but NU is 0-4 away this year. ... NU was a CBI quarterfinalist last year. .... Allen hit a halfcourt shot to beat Wright State at the buzzer on Nov. 28. ... Win over Utah State on Nov. 21 was first program victory against a WAC team. ... Northeastern was last in Hawaii in 1990 for the Maui Classic. ... NU dropped last three games with a combined margin of nine points.
Coen: ”;I think our guys recognize what a special opportunity this is. ... It's really a trip of a lifetime. We've been competitive, we haven't been successful. It shows we're not far off.”;



;  Conference: West Coast
Coach: Randy Bennett (ninth year)
Top players: C Omar Samhan (21.8 ppg, 12.0 rpg), G Matthew Dellavedova (13.6 ppg), G Mickey McConnell (11.8 ppg, 6.1 apg)
Notes: Former Hawaii point guard Mark Campbell is in his second season on the Gaels' staff, first as assistant coach. ... Samhan, the reigning WCC player of the week, has six double-doubles this season. ... Gaels rank eighth nationally in scoring offense at 85.0 ppg and 15th in 3-point percentage at 41.5. ... Guard Wayne Hunter, their best perimeter defender, is out for the year with a torn ACL/MCL. ... Gaels have five Australians on their roster. ... SMC received 21 votes in this week's AP Top 25. .... Gaels won the 2007 Rainbow Classic over Ohio.
Bennett: ”;We've had this thing marked on our calendar. It'll help going into conference. ... We have a chance to get some good RPI wins. The event's first-class. We're pretty balanced, we're as much of a team as we've been, I think. (Samhan) just happens to be a guy who's a matchup problem in our favor most nights.”;



;  Conference: Conference USA
Coach: Matt Doherty (fourth year)
Top players: G Derek Williams (14.0 ppg), F Mouhammad Faye (13.4 ppg), F Papa Dia (9.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Notes: Former-WAC Mustangs are 1-6 in the Sheriff. ... SMU has won four of five, but two of the wins came against non D-I teams. ... Doherty was a North Carolina guard in winning the 1982 Rainbow Classic alongside Michael Jordan, then came to Honolulu twice more as a Kansas assistant. ... Mustangs will go to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Christmas Eve to watch the SMU football team play Nevada, but the football team may not be able to catch a basketball game because of scheduling conflicts. ... SMU football and basketball teams were also in Hawaii simultaneously in 1984 for the Aloha Bowl and Chaminade Classic. ... Last SMU winning season was in 2002-03.
Doherty: “;The big thing for us we have to shoot the ball ... against UNLV we gotta take care of the basketball. I think when we signed up for it, the field was good, and it's gotten better as teams have played. It's a great opportunity for us to bond as a team, get on national TV, and the added bonus of the football team being here.”;



;  Conference: Mountain West
Coach: Lon Kruger (sixth year)
Top players: G Tre'von Willis (16.1 ppg), G Oscar Bellfield (11.3 ppg, 4.1 apg), G/F Chace Stanback (8.8 ppg, 1.1 bpg)
Notes: Rebs on the fringe of the AP Top 25 with 126 votes. ... Up-tempo, press-happy Rebels have five players with 12 steals or more. ... Riley Wallace's great nephew, Kendall Wallace, averages 7.1 ppg and had two four-point plays 2 minutes apart in UNLV's last game vs. South Carolina-Upstate. ... Wallace, the former UH coach living in Las Vegas, is in Honolulu for the Classic. ... Willis, Bellfield and Derrick Jasper have 35-plus assists for the year. ... UNLV is 24th nationally in assists per game at 16.9.
Kruger: ”;It's a really good field. We want to get out and push the ball offensively ... really try to dictate on both ends of the floor. This team's doing a good job of sharing the ball. We got a lot of guys who can make plays for each other.”;



; Conference: Pac-10
Coach: Kevin O'Neill (first year)
Top players: F Nikola Vucevic (13.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg), G Dwight Lewis (13.3 ppg)
Notes: UH is just 6-31 all-time vs. USC, but won the 2004 Rainbow Classic 72-68 over the Trojans. ... Last year's Pac-10 champs made their third straight NCAA Tournament, but are battling allegations that since-resigned coach Tim Floyd paid to have star O.J. Mayo play for him. ... Only four players have played in all nine games ... Transfer point guard Mike Gerrity lifted USC to a resounding 77-55 win over No. 9 Tennessee on Saturday with 12 points and 10 assists in his Trojans debut.
O'Neill: ”;We don't have a ton of depth, and we've been fighting through this whole investigation thing, losing players and all that. It was a big win (over Tennessee) and I would hope our team continues to play hard. We've tried hard all year, we just haven't had enough.”;



; Conference: Mid-American
Coach: Steve Hawkins (seventh year)
Top players: G David Kool (21.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), F Flenard Whitfield (12.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), G/F Martelle McLemore (12.0 ppg)
Notes: WMU appeared in the 2005 Rainbow Classic, going 1-2. ... Kool is 16th in the country in scoring and received his second straight MAC player of the week award this week. ... Broncos have alternated a win and loss in every game this season, with the four losses to teams of a combined 32-11 record. ... Poor 3-point shooting (24.0 percent) hasn't stopped WMU from hoisting nearly 21 treys per game. ... Hawkins' first win at WMU came against USC in 2003.
Hawkins: “;We need to reach a level of consistency, and we're getting closer and closer to it. We're just not quite there yet. We've been fine-tuning, fine-tuning ... coming out of this, we want to be the team that we're going to be. We're close.”;