Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, March 22, 1999

If Buckeyes can
do it, why not
the Rainbows?

TWO words for Rainbow basketball fans: Ohio State. The Buckeyes are celebrating their first trip to the Final Four in 31 years following Saturday's stunning upset of Connecticut. It comes just 12 months after OSU went 8-22, tying a school record for losses in a season.

Last season, the Buckeyes finished 1-15, last in the Big Ten. They lost a record 17 straight games at one point.

Think about it. Ohio State went from being the doormat of the 1997 Rainbow Classic to the red carpet of the NCAA Tournament.

It's got to be going through the mind of Hawaii coach Riley Wallace. He'll be in St. Petersburg later this week to watch the Final Four. On the court at Tropicana Field, he's going to see a Savovic (Slobodan, the younger brother of Rainbow redshirt Pedrag) as the reserve guard for the Buckeyes.

If OSU guard Scoonie Penn can make his wildest dreams come true after a red-shirt year, why not the older Savovic? And why not the 'Bows?

Wallace has done it before. In his first season (1987-88), Hawaii went 4-25. The number of fans at the Blaisdell Arena would have fit into Klum Gym ... easily.

The next year, the Rainbows were the "NCAA Turnaround Team of the Year." They went 17-13 and 25-10 the next two seasons, finishing both with NIT appearances.

My feeling is the Rainbow coaching staff got a little complacent after the back-to-back 21-win seasons of 1996-98. Things had gone so smoothly with Anthony Carter and Alika Smith running the show that winning had become an automatic response.

This season was like a sticky clutch that never got out of first gear. Sometimes it felt more like it was stuck in reverse.

There were a dozen games that Hawaii lost after leading at halftime. If the Rainbows had won even half of those, 12-14 would sure look a heck of a lot better than 6-20.

Look at it from another perspective. Hawaii's schedule this past year included six preseason games against teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament and three more that were invited to the NIT. California, which opened Hawaii'sseason, is in the NIT semifinals.

It's all relative: how bad were the Rainbows versus how good was the competition.

This time next season, Hawaii may not be celebrating its first trip to the Final Four. But one never knows. Just think Ohio State.

FROM Zag-nificent to Gone-zaga. The Bulldogs will be missed. They brought a lot of excitement to the NCAA Tournament.

The question is: When Gonzaga comes to the Rainbow Classic nine months from now, will the Bulldogs be bringing their current coach, Dan Monson, along?

The 37-year-old coach is being courted for some vacantjobs. While the Iowa opening appears to be going to Southwest Missouri State's Steve Alford, Washington and San Diego State are mentioned as possibilities for Monson's change-of-address forms.

It's doubtful that Monson will seriously consider San Diego State, an under-funded, struggling program that hasn't seen success since Tony Gwynn played in the backcourt. It's even more surprising that the Aztec administration thinks they have a serious shot at Utah's Rick Majerus.

If Majerus leaves the Utes, it will be for Notre Dame.

You read it here first.

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

E-mail to Sports Editor

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