Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, March 1, 1999

UH basketball has so
much to overcome

MARCH Madness didn't happen for the Hawaii men's basketball team this year. The Rainbows didn't even make it to March, with their season finishing much like most of their games ... a little short.

For the first time since 1969-70, Hawaii is pau in February. Today, coach Riley Wallace was beginning a new month as well as a new season, ironically pausing in Las Vegas -- site of the WAC Tournament -- en route to several recruiting stops.

Wallace showed a lot of class last Saturday night, thanking the fans at the Sheriff Center. He then apologized to them for a disappointing season.

After consecutive 21-win seasons, an all-too-short stay in the Top 25 and flirtations with NCAA Tournament bids, this 20-loss season took the air out the green-and-white basketball.

Last Saturday night was such a contrast to the Rainbows' regular-season finale last Feb. 28. I watched Hawaii destroy Fresno State in Selland Arena, 92-78.

It was a loss that provided plenty of anti-Jerry Tarkanian fodder for a three-hour postgame sports talk call-in show. The radio signal was loud and clear for almost my entire drive from Fresno to San Francisco International.

A year ago today, the Rainbows were in Las Vegas, planning to roar into March like lions. Instead, they finished the same way as they did Saturday night -- with a loss to Tark's Bulldogs.

There is so much working against Rainbow basketball: the lack of national exposure, the time difference, the disintegrating WAC.

And then there's TV. Fans who might have once gone to a game would rather sit home, watch two national powerhouses for free instead of fighting traffic, paying $3 for parking before spending more money on tickets and refreshments.

It's a tough sell, even when the team is doing well.

March Madness is too enjoyable not to have the Rainbows in the mix. Here's hoping the insanity returns next season.


OF all the teams that will receive NCAA Tournament bids this coming Sunday, I hope that Iowa is in there. Not because of any special affinity for the Hawkeyes, but because of their coach.

Tom Davis, the winningest coach in Iowa basketball history, did not have his contract renewed past this season. It will be a loss to college basketball if he retires.

Talk about class. Davis plays above the rim in that category.

I can remember when he brought his Stanford team to the 1984 HPU Invitational on Maui. The Cardinal lost to Maryland in overtime for the championship, a game Stanford would have won in regulation had it not been for a questionable officiating call.

The few who watched that game at War Memorial Gym in Wailuku will remember Maryland's Lenny Bias ducking his head to exit the gym, carrying the MVP trophy.

They also remember Davis and the Cardinal holding their heads high as they left with the runner-up award.

Three years later, Davis returned to Maui, this time to Lahaina, this time with Iowa. This time, Davis left with the championship trophy after winning the Chaminade Invitational.

The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes had a mixed plate of a week. They gave Davis a victory over Northwestern last Tuesday in the coach's final home game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. On Saturday, they saw their five-game winning streak against Indiana snapped in Bloomington.

Iowa should make the NCAA Tournament. Davis deserves to be at the Big Dance one more time.

I also hope that UTEP digs deep this week to give coach Don Haskins a good ride at the WAC Tournament. This could be the Bear's last season; he deserves to go out a winner as well.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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