By Ferd Lewis
When his team was passed over by the NCAA selection committee in March, University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine basketball coach Vince Goo had a lot to say.
Yesterday, with the release of his tentative non-conference schedule, he said it even more eloquently.
With an out-of-conference tournament lineup that features both national championship finalists, Connecticut and Oklahoma, the message is that the Wahine can't wait for their lagging Western Athletic Conference brethren to beef up schedules and power ratings.
With a holiday tournament schedules that include six NCAA Tournament teams from the past season, the point was made that the Wahine are tired of being Women's National Invitation Tournament regulars.
Four consecutive seasons without an NCAA Tournament berth the longest drought since Goo took over in 1987-88 can be a strong motivator.
When it comes to frustration, the just-completed season provided a career's worth. The Rainbow Wahine went 23-7 and finished runnerup in the WAC Tournament to Louisiana Tech but couldn't crack the list of 34 at-large invitees to the NCAA bash.
So schedule planning that was already under way got even more serious and the guest list more exclusive. "We needed to really get our tournaments as tough as we could," Goo said.
There is no doubting where the Rainbow Wahine's weakest link has been: their conference schedule. Entering the conference last season, UH had a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 14. When the WAC season ended, they dropped to 44th.
Since the Wahine can't do anything about who they play in the conference where they might otherwise like to vaporize Texas-El Paso (RPI of 302), Fresno State (250) or Boise State (220) from the schedule they can and need to make it up on the non-conference side.
Enter UConn, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Nevada-Las Vegas, Texas Tech and Tennessee-Chattanooga, NCAA Tournament teams all, plus "name" schools UCLA and Kentucky.
Booking them for the four tournaments i the Nov. 23-25 Marriott Resort Classic, the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 Rainbow Wahine Classic, the Dec. 14-15 Hawai'i Invitational and Dec. 20-21 Ala Moana Hotel Paradise Classic gets UH only a third of the way to where it needs to go.
Now, Goo needs to arrange it so that the tournament draws and a little luck allow UH to play as many of them as possible. Then, unlike last season when UH was without a victory over a Top 25 team, the Rainbow Wahine must win a fair share, too.
But pumping up the quality of the schedule is a promising first step for the Rainbow Wahine.