The early success for the Rainbow Warriors has been fun and dramatic to watch, but despite some national headlines, they aren’t receiving much credit for their quick start.
I wrote last week, after the three-point loss at the hands of unbeaten Oklahoma, that if Hawaii could beat Auburn decisively in their final Diamond Head Classic matchup that they’d be on the cusp of Top 25 consideration. Well, UH took care of business and used a late flurry for a 79-67 win over the Tigers.
But when the new rankings came out this weekend, Hawaii was still being overlooked. Making the actual Top 25 was a long shot, but I assumed they’d begin to gain some traction with the voters and inch their way into the collective consciousness.
Not a single voter had Hawaii in their rankings. That’s very surprising considering that Hawaii’s only two losses to date were a road game at Texas Tech and the narrow loss to Oklahoma. The Red Raiders are off to a 9-1 start and sit seventh in the nation in the RPI rankings. The Sooners are even higher at fourth in the RPI.
One of the issues for UH is that a pair of its wins came against UH-Hilo and Hawaii Pacific, meaning that only seven of the nine victories are really against Division I teams. In fairness, 7-2 doesn’t look nearly as impressive as 9-2. But if Hawaii doesn’t stumble against lesser competition, they’re setting themselves up nicely. They’re currently somewhere between 45 and 55 in the RPI rankings, depending upon which site you frequent. While they had success last year, they were never even close to that figure, topping out at about 130th in the country.
While the numbers are starting to look impressive, it’s really the eye test that has been Hawaii’s best argument. Point guard Roderick Bobbitt has been the engine since he arrived on campus, but he’s taken his game and his leadership to greater heights. He commands his teammates’ trust and is becoming much tougher on opposing defenses. After averaging 8.9 points per game last season, he’s put up at least 30 in the past two contests against Oklahoma and Auburn and now has the ability to absolutely take over games on both ends. Seeing that confidence develop has immeasurably raised this team’s ceiling.
Stefan Jankovic is also putting all of his pieces together into a complete package. He was brilliant in those two games and has been creating his own shot in various ways. Jankovic is scoring more than 15 points per game and his effective filed goal percentage is over 59 percent, which is awesome considering how dynamic his game has become.
There’s nothing the team lacks. You never watch them and think they don’t have a certain piece that could propel them further. They have ball handlers (Bobbitt, Isaac Fleming, Quincy Smith), slashers (Aaron Valdes, Smith), rebounders (Stefan Jovanovic, Mike Thomas) and everyone defends. One knock could be that they’d be doomed if Bobbitt ever had to miss extended time with foul trouble or injury, but just about any college team with an all-conference point guard would have the same issue.
The ‘Bows are a complete basketball team and are playing at a very high level.
After Tuesday’s home game against Mississippi Valley State (results unavailable at press time), just a Saturday matchup against Howard (7-7) remains before Big West action starts on Jan. 6. If the Diamond Head performance didn’t get the job done, it doesn’t seem like anything they do in the near future will move the ‘Bows into the polls.
But I’m okay with keeping this team our little secret. Like a small up-and-coming band, we can enjoy them before the masses descend and claim discovery. Even if they hit it big, we retain hipster status.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.