Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Loss could come back
to haunt UH

TODAY'S column is brought to you by the letter B.

As in, that Bracket Buster just got bigger.

OK, I guess the kidding around is pretty much over now. A loss at Boise? In the dead of winter, those kinds of things happen. A loss at San Jose State?

How does that happen?

These Rainbows are running out of mulligans.

No need to panic yet. An 11-3 record still looks pretty good. But those losses don't. These opponents don't. This troubling trend of crumbling on the road doesn't.

Maybe it is time to panic.

No, no. Just kidding. This is basketball, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The problem is, this team doesn't have that luxury. Expectations can be cold and cruel, and those set for this team are plenty high. Unfairly high, yes. But that's what happens when you've been to the dance two years straight and anything less is no longer acceptable.

This team is that good. This team can do it all again. These Rainbows are much better than this.

Hawaii has four games to go before the big Bracket Buster pairings are set. Hawaii has to get a good matchup now, for the Feb. 22 ESPN showcase. Hawaii has to get that game with Creighton now. And Hawaii needs to win, or at least leave the audience thinking that it did, ala Aaron Baddeley at the Sony Open.

(Creighton. Top 10! When I was writing about the Bluejays, that Kyle Korver guy was a nice catch of a freshman. Now he's Larry Bird. The home atmosphere then, even with NCAA Tournament teams, was mostly negligible. On Sunday, they had their biggest crowd since 1974, students in line, singing, rushing the doors. This is a bandwagon that has gone from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. And in another week, Dickie V will be driving, bay-bee!!!)

Crunch time has come early. But then, Riley Wallace knew this before the season started. He said then that this team can't afford to lose. And now it already has.

Four games until the Bracket Buster is set. Four games, including two showdowns. One of the rumblings has Fresno State making the trip to play Creighton. UH can take care of that Thursday night. And then, Tulsa, at home, two days before the pairings are announced. Just a little something to think about in the smoke-filled room.

That's the key, said WAC commissioner Karl Benson, who sits on the NCAA selection committee. Bury these losses.

"You probably lose games in January that won't affect you as much as if you lose them down the stretch," Benson said in his weekly teleconference. "And one of the components the committee looks at is that last 10-game (stretch), how well is a team playing going into selections and going into conference tournaments. So I think that if you're going to have a, quote, bad loss, it's better to have it in January than February or early March."

Hawaii has had them. Now it's time to impress another selection committee, in this four-game stretch. It's mini-March, and it's time for UH to show which it is going to be: Bracket Buster, or bracket, busted.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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