There's nothing like a breath of crisp mountain air to wash away the cares of the world.
Bows look for answers
atop the mountain
By Jason Kaneshiro
For the Hawaii basketball team, those cares include the aftermath of a stunning loss to San Jose State on Saturday.
The Rainbows took a break from basketball by having lunch among the redwoods in Kings Canyon National Park yesterday before getting to the task of preparing for the rest of their critical Western Athletic Conference road trip.
"The guys enjoyed it, they had a little snowball fight," UH coach Riley Wallace said. "You go see the trees, have some fun and relax, get out of the hotel. Now we'll get down to business."
Hawaii is still very much in the title hunt at 11-3 overall and 4-2 in the WAC, good for second place behind Fresno State (13-3, 6-1). The Rainbows face the Bulldogs in Fresno on Thursday and take on Nevada on Saturday.
The worry is that the loss to San Jose State could come back to bite the Rainbows should they need an at-large berth to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Hawaii dropped from 58 to 64 in the Rating Percentage Index after the loss. The index rates teams based on winning percentage, schedule strength and opponents' schedule strength and is a tool used by the NCAA selection committee in determining at-large selections.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson is a member of the tournament's selection committee and said the loss may not be as damaging as it would have been later in the season.
"One of the components the committee looks at is the last 10 games, how well a team is playing going into conference tournaments," Benson said. "If you're going to have a 'bad loss', it's better to have it in January than February or early March."
Hawaii overcame a loss at San Jose State last season to win the WAC regular-season and tournament championships.
The Rainbows weren't alone in suffering the sting of an upset on the road on Saturday. Tulsa missed out on a chance to leapfrog Hawaii in the standings by losing at Boise State 78-74.
"There are very few gimme wins any place out there," Benson said. "So what we're seeing in the WAC is indeed typical of what's going on throughout college basketball."
Fond farewell: Hawaii will play its final game at Fresno's Selland Arena on Thursday.
Fresno State is set to move into its new on-campus facility, the Save Mart Center, in November after playing in Selland since 1968.
The Bulldogs have a winning percentage of .749 in Selland and are 10-0 this season. Hawaii is 2-8 in games at Fresno State.
Rough road: UH guard Carl English saw his streak of double-digit scoring performances end at 13 games with a six-point outing at San Jose State.
His previous low this season was 15 points against Arkansas-Little Rock in the Rainbows' opener. The last time he failed to score at least 10 points came in last season's NCAA Tournament loss to Xavier when he finished with nine.
English played a season-low 24 minutes due to foul trouble and fell to second in the WAC in scoring with 19.4 points per game. SMU's Quinton Ross is first at 19.5.
Mance nets WAC honor: Omar-Seli Mance was named WAC player of the week yesterday.
Mance, a 6-foot-2 senior, averaged 21.5 points and 3.5 assists in road wins over Boise State and UTEP. He hit 8 of 17 3-pointers and committed just one turnover in two games as the Owls earned their first road sweep since joining the conference.
Rumor busters: Benson quelled rumors during yesterday's WAC teleconference that the Feb. 22 Bracket Busters matchup between Tulsa and Gonzaga is in jeopardy.
Benson and the commissioners of the other five leagues involved in the 18-team event highlighting mid-major conferences met for the first time last week in Anaheim, Calif.
The only confirmed matchup was Tulsa playing at Gonzaga. The rest of the games will be revealed on Feb. 3.
"There is a remote possibility that if it's in the best interest of the series we might try to do some juggling. But right now I think the Tulsa-Gonzaga game is still a very important game and a game that is going to continue to have national interest," Benson said.
Hawaii is one of the designated road teams for the event. The rumors regarding the Rainbows' possible opponents have included UC Santa Barbara and Creighton. Word spread last week that should the Tulsa-Gonzaga game fall through, Hawaii might end up playing at Gonzaga.
"The idea was to try to create the nine best possible matchups," Benson said. "I think it's a remote possibility and premature to speculate."